I spend a lot of time watching DIY clothing videos on YouTube and one thing always just baffles me. Do these people not wash their clothes? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great looking cute in a picture, but if I’m going to spend my time and money making something I want it to last.
This is where my bafflement comes from. I’m not the biggest fan of fabric glue. I realize it comes in handy, and some stuff just plain needs it. However, if I can sew something I pick that 100% of the time. You don’t have to worry about glue spilling, it’s sturdier, and you can fix it easily. Also, fabric glue is never as cheap as a needle and thread. While yes, fabric glue is washable, it still makes me nervous washing it.
As for raw seams, it’s true that some knits don’t need finished edges. When I made my bridesmaid’s dresses I kept the edges raw. I think it really depends on the fabric. If it’s a stockinette knit it will curl and a hem just makes it lie flat- especially after washing. Looser knits will unravel if they’re not hemmed. Woven fabric will just fray like crazy. Sometimes that’s what you want- see every distressed jean ever.
If it’s a t-shirt type upcycle that has no raw hems I’ll throw it in the dryer. Anything else I like to hang dry. If I have a distressed jean I’ll throw it in the machine and hang dry, and if I have a woven with a frayed edge, like my blanket scarf, I’ll handwash it.
Like I mentioned in my post about dyeing jeans, wash stuff with black for the first five or so washes or until you’re 100% sure there’s nothing that’s going to bleed out.
Sewing from Scratch
Prewashing fabric is not optional. Sometimes fabrics can be coated with a stain repellent, wrinkle remover, fade repellent, or really anything. I’m not opposed to the coating of fabric- it’s important to protect the fabric before you buy it, but it can throw the fabric completely off grain. You know when you’re wearing a t-shirt or tank top and the side seam keeps wiggling and migrating? That’s the result of something being off grain. It looks super unprofessional and, most importantly, is really, really annoying to wear. Nothing’s worse than spending hours making something only to have it change completely after its first wash. Also, fabric shops tend not to be immaculately clean places so it’s nice to start with something fresh.
I try to avoid dry cleaning because the chemicals creep me out and it’s expensive, but sometimes it’s inevitable. If your fabric is a dry clean only type of thing, e.g. silk or wool, I find it’s good to cut some squares (I like a 10cm x 10cm) and see what they can do. I’ll hand wash a square, throw a square in the machine for a load, and maybe one in the dryer just to see what happens. Keeping the squares consistent allows me to see the shrink rate and compare the colour fading and how the fabric feels. Most of the time handwashing works just fine and I can prewash like that. If dry cleaning is necessary it’s more than worth the extra cost to bring that big bolt in.
Fabric issues aside I find both quality hand stitching and machine stitching do just fine in a washing machine. I tend to keep hand sewn stuff out of the dryer if I can because the dryer just isn’t good for your clothes.
Honestly, I’m low key disgusting and never really wash my knits. To be fair, I don’t really make sweaters so it’s not a super big deal. When I do need to wash things, it’s always hand wash. I don’t care what the yarn label says about the machine, Knitting takes too long to try anything else.
I think the main thing to remember is that in all cases, the dryer is evil.
Go forth and launder!