Today’s blog post is about something I’m not generally very good at: following the ‘rules’. Let’s be realistic. When you’re spending $16+ on a yard of fabric, you want as much of that yard as you can possibly get, right? Lucky for you, I’m terrible at measuring – each of our cuts is at least an inch over measurement. ;) Fabric does tend to shrink a bit when it's first laundered so our generous cutting helps when you wash and dry before beginning your project. Well, that got me thinking one day. How much DOES the fabric we carry shrink? I’ve not had any complaints of ‘the yard of fabric you sent me ended up being 2/3 of a yard after I washed it’, and I’ve never had any issues myself, but I wash everything on cold and dry it on medium/hot. So I decided to perform a few experiments.

I took these two fabrics – a 100% cotton poplin from Stenzo Textiles (grey flowers) and one of the 100% organic cotton interlock knits from Birch Organics (PIGGIES!!!) – and put them in the washing machine. Together. Using hot water. With no color catchers. What can I say? I like to live dangerously. The suggested treatment for both of these is pretty much ‘wash cold, tumble dry low/medium or hang to dry’. Yeah, well, they got dried on hot, too! I’m such a rebel.

Stenzo Cotton Poplin
Starting measurement: 75” x 63”
Ending measurement: 75” x 63” – that’s ZERO shrinkage! 
Fraying: minimal, even where I hacked a piece off for color comparison 
Color loss: none visible 
Wrinkling: very minimal. If this was a garment, I’d probably not press it before wearing. 
Feel: very soft and drapey

Birch Organics Interlock
Starting measurement: 73.5” x 46” 
Ending measurement: 67.5” x 44” – almost 10% loss length-wise, minimal loss width-wise 
Fraying: not applicable 
Color loss: none visible. If anything, the colors are brighter and more vibrant after a wash. 
Wrinkling: none 
Feel: amazingly soft and supple. I can’t wait to wash it again!

I was thrilled that there was absolutely NO color bleeding. Although we cannot guarantee that every print will not have minimal color bleeding, this combination of deep grey and white came out incredibly. As if they had been washed separately. It really speaks to the quality of the fabric and the printing/dyeing process!

So, of course, I couldn’t just do this once and say that everything in the shop is amazing and wonderful and you should BUY ALL THE FABRIC!!!!! I had to do another round. This collection is a Stenzo knit (stars), a Stenzo corduroy (brown flowers), a Verhees knit (moustaches/hats), and a Verhees poplin (the pink scrap).

Once again, the rules went out the window, and these got a hot wash followed by a hot dry to see what would happen. Again, I put them all in at once, together, to see whether there would be any bleeding. I figured that if anything was going to wreak havoc, it would be the red stars or the brown cord. But being the daredevil that I am, I passed on the color catchers again and started the cycle… Here’s what happened:

Verhees cotton/lycra jersey knit
Starting measurement: 19” x 58” 
Ending measurement: 17.5” x 56” – pretty minimal loss 
Fraying: well, none – it’s jersey. Not much roll on this one either. 
Color loss: none visible 
Wrinkling: none 
Feel: this is a thicker knit, and it’s really supple and soft

Verhees cotton poplin
Starting measurement: 7.25” x 7.25”
Ending measurement: 6.75” x 7” – some shrinkage on length but not a lot
Fraying: very minimal, especially considering that this was a really small scrap
Color loss: none visible
Wrinkling: besides being folded in half in the dryer, almost none!
Feel: softened up nicely, and feels very sturdy but pliable

Stenzo 21-wale corduroy
Starting measurement: 37” x 57.5”
Ending measurement: 37” x 55” – very minor shrinkage width-wise
Fraying: not much at all. I have washed other cords that leave tons of little shreds of fabric in my washer and clog up my dryer filter, but this didn’t ‘shred’ much
Color loss: none visible; again, the colors actually look brighter after washing
Wrinkling: very little. Pressing cord can be a tricky thing to do, so the less wrinkling, the better!
Feel: nice and soft, good ‘fuzz factor’

And, finally…

Stenzo cotton/lycra jersey knit
Starting measurement: 21” x 58”
Ending measurement: 20.5” x 56” – a bit both ways. Just a bit!
Fraying: none – it’s jersey. This does roll some on the edges, though
Color loss: none visible
Wrinkling: none
Feel: it’s a thinner knit, but excellent quality, and hangs beautifully

So, let’s recap. Everything here was washed in HOT water, and dried on HIGH temperatures in a dryer. This combination is the harshest treatment possible in my home machines. The recommended treatment for these fabrics is to wash in cold water and tumble dry low or hang to dry. I would expect that following those guidelines would minimize shrinkage, but at least now we know what happens when you DON’T follow the rules!

For those who may be curious, I use Charlie’s Soap Powder and white vinegar in place of fabric softener, plus dryer balls.

We’d love to hear about your experiences – tell us about them in the comments, or join us at Mabel Madison Modern Makers on Facebook!