I was also able to prep the fabric that I'm using for my current project. My goal, when preparing my knit fabric for sewing, is to bring the fabric to its "finished" state. Whether a fabric has been recently knitted or has been sitting on a bolt for months, the first cleaning will usually change the look and feel of the fabric, especially a natural one. The fabric may shrink or the fibers may full. It's best that this happens before cutting and sewing the piece! If I were one to have my my fabrics dry cleaned, I suppose I could simply bring them to a trusty dry cleaner before cutting. My preferred method, however, is to prepare the fabric by hand, since eventually the finished sewn item will be handwashed.
First, I soak the fabric in water with a special wool wash like
following the directions on the bottle. (Caution: Do not use Woolite. It contains "optical brighteners" which can remove any natural oils in the wool and "dry-out" the fabric.) When removing the fabric from the water, I don't wring it. I gently squeeze and roll the fabric in an old towel to the remove as much moisture as possible. Then, being careful not to stretch the fabric, I lay it flat to dry. I try to make sure that the fabric is square, but I don't pin it into position. Instead, I allow it to find its own size as it dries. Fortunately, this method requires no electricity and no hot water.
There are other approaches to preparing a fabric for cutting and sewing. Although some of the methods described in the links below are for woven fabrics, they can work quite well with certain sweater knit fabrics.
Links to other methods of prepping fabrics:
- The very excellent Emma One Sock Sewing Guides by the late Shannon Gifford
- Gertie's Step #1 in "Coat Sew-Along: Pre-treating and Cutting Fabric"
- "Pre-shrinking Wool" from Off the Cuff
- Peparing Fabric for Sewing (.pdf) from the University of Kentucky
Remember there are many varieties of fibers used in knits; be sure to test first on a small piece of fabric before committing any preparation method to the full fabric!
Edited for clarity 07Nov2012
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