How To Prepare Your Fabric Before Sewing A Project (Video)
I did a series of videos with west-coast fabric store Fabricana, and this is one I especially love because it talks about such an important parts of sewing: fabric prep! Even before you start cutting and sewing, how you deal with your fabric plays a critical role in what your finished garment will look like.
In this video, I talk about the importance of pre-treating and pressing your fabric, and how and why you MUST put your fabric on-grain before you sew ANY project!
Prepping your fabric before cutting is especially important when you’re sewing a garment. There are three things you need to do.
The first is pre-treating your fabric. You’re going to wash and dry your fabric exactly as you plan to wash and dry your finished garment. This will pre-shrink the fabric and will remove any excess dyes.
The second thing you’re going to do is press your fabric. Iron out any wrinkles and make sure you’re using a temperature that is suitable for your fabric. Cottons and wools can withstand a higher temperature, whereas synthetic fabrics and silks require a lower temperature.
The third thing you should do – and the most important – is put your fabric on-grain. On-grain means your lengthwise grain and your crosswise grain are exactly at a ninety-degree angle. And this is especially important that it’s done before you cut out your fabric. So some fabrics, when they’ve been rolled on a bolt, may have shifted out of place, and we need to put them back on-grain before we cut everything out. There are four ways of putting your fabric on-grain.
The first way, which is the easiest thing to do, is to cut across your selvage and tear from one selvage all the way to the next. Now to ensure that your fabric is torn across the crosswise grain, you’re going to take out one or two threads and pull them from the top all the way to the bottom. As long as they go all the way down, you know that it’s exactly on the crosswise grain. If your thread pulls out a little bit earlier, then you shift over a few inches, clip again, and tear again.
If you’re fabric doesn’t tear, the second way of putting your fabric on-grain is to clip across the selvage – clip across the selvage, pull the fabric out, and hold on to one or two of the crosswise grains. While holding onto that, gently push your fabric along the crosswise grain. You’ll see a little gather and a line. And once you’ve done that, from one selvage all the way to the other, you’ll just cut on that line with your scissors. So if your fabric doesn’t tear, you’re going to cut across the selvage and push across the crosswise grain.
If you’re working with a fabric that has a visible crosswise grain, such as this plaid, you can cut along the visible grain. However, you have to make sure that the grain has been woven in. So this plaid is actually made from cream and navy and red threads. You want to make sure that you’re not doing this on a fabric where the pattern has just been printed in place – in which case, it could have been printed off grain.
And the fourth and final way of putting your fabric on-grain – if all three of these ways don’t work – is to just drape it and do it by eye. Now this is the least accurate way of putting your fabric on grain, but if you’ve tried the three previous methods and they don’t work for your type of fabric, this is the method that you’ll have to use. You’re going to line up your selvages with your right sides together, hold up your fabric, and drape it until it drapes straight up and down. Now you may need to shift one selvage over so that you don’t get those waves in the bottom, but that’s what you want to do.
All of this is especially important when you’re sewing garments, because fabric tends to shift to its natural state over time with wash and with wear. If you haven’t pre-treated your fabric or if you haven’t put it on grain, your seams will shift over time. So that’s when you notice the sides of your shirt or the sides of your garments twisting around to the front, and we don’t want that.