Fabric Preparation


Before laying out the pattern, it is necessary to prepare the fabric by preshrinking, straightening fabric ends, and checking for grain perfection. If the fabric is natural, such as cotton, wool, silk, or linen, it will require preshrinking. It the fabric is synthetic, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, acetate modacrylic, spandex, or metallic, it has been heat set at the factory; therefore it will not require preshrinking. It is advisable to preshrink knits whether natural or synthetic, because this allows the knit to relax and removes sizing which may cause skipped stitches.


  1. Methods of preshrinking

    The method you choose will depend on the fibre content of your fabric.

    1. Cotton and linen — wash and dry at temperatures that will be used for later cleaning.

    2. Silk and rayon — wash gently by hand, squeeze out excess water, lay fabric on a table allowing it to partially dry, then press dry on the wrong side.

    3. Wool and other dry-cleanable fabrics — place folded fabric on one side of a wet sheet, covering it with the remainder of the wet sheet. Leave the fabric covered for two hours, then uncover, leaving the fabric on the table, untouched, to dry completely.

    Note: Another way to preshrink wool is to steam press followed by thoroughly drying on a flat surface.


  2. Straightening fabric ends of wovens

    Choose the most suitable method for your fabric.

    1. Clip the selvage and tear across to the other selvage. (e.g. cotton, cotton blends)

    2. Clip the selvage and pull a crosswise thread. Cut along the pulled thread continuing from selvage to selvage or until end is straightened. (e.g. wool, velvet, silks, satins, more delicate fabrics)

    3. Cut on a noticeable crosswise thread of true plaids, checks, or stripes from selvage to selvage. Avoid this method on roller printed plaids, checks, or stripes.


    Avoid purchasing roller plaids, checks, or stripes.

  3. Straightening fabric ends of knits

    Carefully cut on one crosswise course from one finished edge or selvage to the other finished edge or selvage.


  4. Straightening fabric grain

    Lay the folded fabric on a table, matching the two straightened edges together and the two selvages together. The selvages and straightened edges will line up with the table edges and the fabric will lay flat if the fabric is on-grain.

    If the fabric does not appear on-grain, pull the fabric corners in the bias direction until the fabric is on-grain.


    This fabric is off-grain. It does not line up with the table edge. Note the uneven fabric ends.

In addition to this information, consider the following when choosing a successful fabric:

  • Will the fabric be durable for its specific function?
  • Will the fabric shrink?
  • How will the project be cleaned?
  • If you have chosen to do a home accessory consider fibre content, number of yarns per square centimetre, fabric construction, and the fabric finish. Fabrics used for home decorating are subject to greater environmental stresses than fabrics used for apparel. Sunlight, heat, smog, gases, and oil are all stresses to the fabric. Special finishes are important in improving appearance, durability, and the fabric's resistance to these environmental elements.


Things to consider when purchasing fabric for home decorating:

  • Natural colours will retain original appearance longer than dyed or treated fabrics.
  • Colours vary from one dye lot to another, you should purchase all fabric for a project at one time, all from the same bolt.
  • Colourfast describes fabric which retains its colour with no fading or running.
  • Mildew resistant describes fabric which will not allow mold growth.
  • Soil release describes fabric which has a finish that allows water to be absorbed easier, which is a plus when making tablecloths, napkins and placemats.
  • ScotchguardTM is a finish applied to fabric which discourages liquid penetration, allowing time to remove the unwanted liquid with an absorbent cloth.
  • Tighter weaves and higher thread counts make fabric more durable.
  • Plain or twill woven fabrics are more durable than satin or jacquard woven fabrics.
  • Fibre content affects durability and appearance.

    1. Cotton is a strong all-purpose fabric often used for home furnishing fabric because it wears well, dyes well, and is often blended with other fabrics.
    2. Linen is strong but does wrinkle easily.
    3. Rayon and acetate are rich and silky in appearance, but may stretch and spot; these fabrics also seem to be less durable.
    4. Synthetics are heat sensitive; a flame or ash will quickly melt the fabric.
    5. Garment fabric often is not suitable for home furnishings because of differences in weight, feel, and fabric finish.


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