Fabric and Pattern Preparation

It’s all in the preparation – how many times have we heard that? Do the groundwork and get your fabric and pattern ready by following this short guide.

The case for preparation

Sewing is rarely a rushed job. You need to take your time and get the fabric and dimensions spot on. If you don’t you will see the difference in the finished article.


So you have got hold of some fabric and you think that it is ready for the job. However, there are a few simple steps you should follow before you start cutting and sewing it into the desired shape.

Preshrinking the fabric

Before you get started pre-shrink your fabric and straighten the grain, the direction in which the threads runs. This sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. The payoff is well hanging fabric that will be easier to work with.

If your fabric has care instructions, follow them. These are normally printed on the edge of the fabric. If it states that it is washable, place it in the washer and dryer as appropriate – if it’s a strong colour, make sure you don’t mix it with any whites!

For all other fabrics, fill a sink with hot water and soak. You don’t have to rigorously clean or scrub – this is not about cleaning but more about dunking and shrinking!

Air dry all fabrics on a radiator or in natural air then gently press to get rid of creases or wrinkles that distort the overall look and feel of the garment. Try and press out the manufacturer’s fold – the stubborn central crease. This can sometimes be a tricky business and one that might take some time. If you really cannot get rid of it by ironing, simply work around it when cutting out your pattern.

Straightening the grain

This may not have been something you have done before, but if you are serious about making a top-quality item, you must straighten the grain after washing and before you start your project.

What does it mean? Basically, it means that the horizontal and vertical threads should meet at right angles when you fold the fabric. Why does this matter? The answer is simple – get it right and your garment will hang beautifully. Get it wrong and you will be looking at a slightly twisted piece of work. Straightening the grain is an important part of the preparation ritual if you are making a fashion garment – after all, who wants a mangled skirt or skirt as their end result?

Getting the pattern ready

Your pattern may have specific preparation requirements, so check this before you start your own. What we would always say is to prepare the space that you will be working in. No distractions, plenty of floor space that you can spread out on and all the kit you need to hand. There are also some other general rules though that you must make sure you adhere to:

  • Allow yourself enough space on the actual fabric – you must cut your pattern pieces generously; that means enough space around the tissue and always leave yourself some excess fabric in case you make a mistake.
  • Use an iron – before you get sewing, press the pattern and tissue gently with a medium heat iron. This will make sure that you are using the right amount of fabric for the proportions you will be working with.

Getting your fabric ready isn’t a piece of cake. If you want to do it properly there is some work involved but the end result is definitely worth the effort.

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