I'm excited to get a little nerdy today and chat about the importance of test-washing and pre-washing fabrics. Designing a clothing line is so much more than just sketching and sourcing pretty fabrics, but also testing these fabrics for shrinkage, fading, pilling, etc; something that is not so glamourous.
When I first mentioned the idea of pre-washing all of fabrics to my manufacturer, she shared that many brands don't take this extra step. WHAT?!
I did some research on this and found that pre-washing garments, or the fabric, is not only time consuming but difficult to do if you don't have adequate space (i.e. a washer/dryer to fit 50+ yards of fabric). I want my customers to receive the best final product possible, so I test wash my fabrics and then determine if pre-washing is necessary.
What is Test-Washing?
Test-washing is when you take a piece of fabric and wash it using the best method possible, to test for dimensional stability. I try to use fabrics that are machine washable but every once in a while I fall for a specialty fabric that is dry clean only. When I test wash a fabric, I wash the swatch in cold water and hang it to dry. This is one of the safest methods for cleaning clothes because the cold water won't cause shrinkage or fading, and the dryer won't cause excess shrinkage as well. It also saves energy and a few dollars, yay! Once the swatch is dry, I see if it has shrunk at all and calculate the percentage of shrinkage-this is the most complicated math I ever do. If it is less than 3% shrinkage, which is about equivalent to 1/4", then I won't prewash it because it has good dimensional stability. However if it is over 3%, then it must be pre-washed.
What is Pre-Washing?
Pre-washing is when a fabric is washed and dried before or after production, to ensure that any shrinkage or fading is removed before the customer receives it. When I pre-wash my fabrics, I choose to wash it before it is cut and sewn into garments. I prewash my fabrics using hot water and then dry it using high heat. Why? Because this removes as much shrinkage as possible. I'm not sure about you, but I hate when I buy a new piece of clothing and go to wash it, only to find that the seams are off center and look funny. Why does this happen? Because the fabric/garment wasn't pre-washed! Pre-washing ensures that the customer doesn't have to deal with shrinkage and wonky seam lines.
What are your thoughts on test-washing/pre-washing? Would you continue to shop with a brand that doesn't pre-wash their fabrics or shop with one that does? Let us know below!