Preparing the Fabric Before the Cut

Last week, during the days when I and many others were without electricity (or heat or hot water or internet or phone), I was fortunate to be able to create. In the light of day, I managed to machine knit several fabrics for upcoming projects or for eventual sale.

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
Eucalan     or Soak

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:
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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  1. This is Awesome & the fabrics are so beautiful!!!! Congrats on being able to be productive during a VERY trying time! Grateful for CREATIVITY :-)

  2. These are beautiful! I wish this were an area I was skilled in so I could try it, too!

    1. Thanks! Do you sew? FYI I'll be offering my knit fabrics for sale in the near future. :)

  3. Educational - and timely. {wry grin} Good to know I was on the right track with my recent round of knitted baby-wear washing. Although, I didn't know why. Thanks for the "why" and more!!
    Can't wait to see the projects these will be made into!

  4. What kind of machine do you use? I have a manual hobby machine and I really want to upgrade. :)

    1. My primary machine is a vintage Passap DM-80. If you'd like more info on machine knitting (as opposed to sewing knit fabrics), please check out my other blog Knitting in the Fastlane. :)


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