How Do You Test Shrinkage for Fabric

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Fabric Shrinkage: How Do You Test Shrinkage for Fabric so that you can ensure that your dress is not one or two sizes shorter after the first wash.

You must agree that it is essential to know that your dress may shrink if you do not shrink the fabric before taking it to the tailor or laying it on the cutting table.

Even when you purchase a ready to wear dress, you need to know certain things about fabric shrinkage.

That would save you from headache later on.

Nothing feels worse when you spend a lot of time and money to get a perfect fit or fabric for your dress and just after a wash, the size is not what you had bought. 

You can save yourself from this frustrating situation if only you know these things about fabric shrinkage.

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First of all, understand why some of your dresses may shrink but some may not.

Understanding this point will help you differentiate between fabrics. It’ll also help you while shopping for fabrics or for ready-to-wear dresses.

#2. What causes fabrics to shrink

While weaving a fabric on loom, one side is tied tightly and other side has filling threads,weaved loosely.

This fabric making process decides the grain line of a fabric.

Fabrics shrink length wise but if a dress is made width wise, it may shrink width wise as well.

The reason that the filling threads are loosely woven,they shrink to come closer during a wash.

Whereas, the fiber which is held under tension never shrinks.

Shrinking of fabric makes your fabric smaller hence your dress also gets to be smaller if it is not shrunk before putting on the cutting table.

#3. Do all fabrics shrink

Natural fabrics shrink and synthetics do not shrink. Moreover, fabric shrinks in wet process. When you wash it with water, it may lose some of its length.

Synthetic fabrics like rayon, nylon,polyester and mixed synthetic fabrics do not shrink because their properties are different than the natural fabrics.

For instance, you may note that synthetic fabrics do not soak as much water as natural fabrics do.Natural fabrics like cotton, silk and wool are plants or animal fibers.

These fabrics do absorb water and their weaves are also loosely spread.

Apart from these fabrics, mixed fabrics which consist of any percentage of cotton, silk or wool should also be shrunk.

#4. How will you know fabric shrinkage percentage

Not all fabrics would shrink the same. If cottons would shrink more, cotton – polyester blend fabric may shrink only a small percentage.

How do we purchase our fabric or dress so that even after shrinkage we don’t run the risk of a shorter dress?

Tightly woven, heavy and synthetic fabrics do not shrink much whereas Fiberglass, Kevlar and Carbon fiber shrink very little.

To know the percentage of shrinkage, we should measure a piece of fabric before dipping in water. 

Once, it’s dried, we should measure it again. Thus, we’ll get to know how much our fabric shrinks.


#5. How to know fabric type of your dress to ascertain shrinkage

Check the label on your dress, it would be pretty clear on blend of the fabric type.

If label is not there, you can ask the salesperson about the fabric type of the dress and it’s shrinkage.

Know the fabric qualities by checking out fabric texture. You can tell that by touching and feeling your fabric against your skin.

If you are buying online, read all the fabric details / properties before making the purchase. Ask the seller questions about fabric shrinkage, if in doubt.

Another method is – Check similar type of dresses online and find out what they say about the fabric type and how to handle it for shrinkage / wash care.

#6. Why fabrics do not shrink when dry cleaned

I often come across sales people, who insist that cotton would not shrink. 

What’s the truth behind it,as we all know that cotton has the highest percentage of shrinkage?

It’s true that “dry” cleaning does not shrink fabrics.

Fabrics shrink when there is moisture in them or when they come in contact with water and then they are dried up.

Whereas in the process of dry cleaning, they use some kind of solvent to clean the fabrics not water.

But still, if dry cleaning machine is not working properly or there is some kind of manufacturing defect in fabric or dress, there may be some shrinkage!

Six proven tips to minimize shrinkage of your dress

  1. 1
    If you use front loading washing machine instead of top loading machine, you can ensure that you would cause less shrinkage to your dress. Reason is that a front loading washing circle is gentler on your clothes.
  2. 2
    Follow the label instructions to the dot. Do as mentioned on the label to prevent shrinkage.
  3. 3
    Use cold water for washing the fabric instead of hot water.
  4. 4
    Don’t cause tension to the fabric. Use a gentle / delicate wash circle. Your dress would thank you for that by shrinking less.
  5. 5
    Use the organic method of washing your dress. Hand wash your delicate clothes and air dry to avoid machine spinning.
  6. 6
    Wash your dress less frequently to avoid it’s contact with water.

14 tips for shrinking fabric for sewing

  1. 1
    Most of the cotton fabrics more or less shrink. There is an exception of mixed fabrics but to be sure,it’s safer to shrink fabric before cutting.
  2. 2
    The fabric must be soaked in enough water for at least eight hours. Then, the fabric must be taken out, without squeezing,folding or making it shapeless by pulling in any direction.This dripping fabric must be spread to dry.
  3. 3
    Spreading on a iron wire or hangers may spoil the fabric by rust staining.
  4. 4
    While soaking the fabric, instead of iron vessels or containers, it’s better to use plastic tub or bucket to avoid rust stains.
  5. 5
    Open the whole fabric loose while soaking. Don’t soak in layers folded.
  6. 6
    When the fabric is slightly dry but still moist, iron it to cut.
  7. 7
    Some fabrics of coats, shirts, denim, raw cotton and some silks may shrink 1″ to 2″ per meter. So, they must be shrunk.
  8. 8
    Sturdy fabrics like coating (material used for making coats), Denim etc. should be soaked in soapy water and thoroughly washed. Thereafter, they should be pressed with hot iron. It makes the rough and hard fabric soft to cut and stitching becomes easier.
  9. 9
    Woolens are not soaked to shrink. Keep a thin wet cotton cloth on semi wet woolens to iron.
  10. 10
    Muslin need not be shrunk and similarly pre-treated fabrics like bandhej, tie & dye,pre-washed fabrics need not be shrunk.
  11. 11
    While shrinking cotton lining : Lining is an extra layer of thin fabric of mostly same color to increase life, appearance or thickness of a dress.
  12. 12
    The same steps must be followed to soak and dry the lining but before pressing it must be pulled from all directions to get the grain even.
  13. 13
    Otherwise, there will be wastage of fabric and the grain line will not be straight to give your dress a smart appearance.
  14. 14
    If label of a dress mentions DRY CLEAN ONLY then wash your dress in water at your own risk. As it clearly mentioned that there could be considerable shrinkage.

The tips I shared are not only useful for the ones who love to sew but these tips are more important for people who know not much about the fabrics and end up with smaller dress after the very first wash.

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