Emery Dress Sew-Along: Preparing Your Fabrics & Notions


Welcome to part three of the Emery Dress Sew-Along! Sorry for the day late post today! I thought I could get this up before leaving for Quilt Market, but alas, I just couldn't do it. But I'm home now from another exciting market and ready to move on with our Emery Dress Sew-Along!

Today we're going to talk about pre-washing and caring for your fabrics and notions, which for the most part is your interfacing. This is a very important step so do not ignore the importance of pre-washing and pre-shrinking your goods! Okay, here we go!


I only recommend using woven interfacing for sewing garments, which means that it is actual fabric, not a polyester composite, and since fabric can shrink, you need to consider pre-shrinking your interfacing along with your dress fabric. What happens if you don't pre-shrink your interfacing? It will pucker and make your collar or bow all rippled and puckered because it will have shrunk inside the item, which is now sewn to your pretty new dress. Not good!

For my pattern, we're using a "lightweight woven fusible" interfacing. This should be made of 100% cotton, with a series of tiny glue dots on one side. Glue melts when in contact with heat (irons, hot water, dryers, etc) so you need to handle this with care when pre-washing.

Here's how to do it: Soak your interfacing in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. If you're not sure what lukewarm is, err on the cooler side, because we really don't want to mess with the glue on the interfacing. After about 15 minutes of soaking, pull it out and try to get as much water out WITHOUT wringing it. Remember, you cannot iron your interfacing, so if you wad it up and wring it, it will forever be wrinkled and the threads might get stretched and warped.

After you sheet off the water as best you can, lay your interfacing down on a thick dry towel. Roll the towel with the interfacing inside it and pull out as much water as you can into the towel. Afterwards, hang the interfacing on a pant hanger in a place that it can drip until completely dry. That's it! Do not iron it or try to smooth the fabric with heat, simply carry on with the pinning and cutting!


If you sew you understand the importance of pre-washing your fabric. Most sewers know this to be important for one key reason: shrinkage. I am sure we have all learned this lesson the hard way, spending hours carefully making a new garment, only to have it shrink in the wash afterwards rendering it unwearable. Oof! Yes, all fabrics, both high-quality and low-quality, will shrink. How much it will shrink is largely based on where it was milled, the quality of the threads, and the content of the fabric.

Fabrics that have blends of rayon and linen or linen and cotton tend to shrink a good deal. Of course, 100% cotton fabric will shrink, some more than others. In addition to shrinkage, all fabric comes with starch on it and chemical finishes. I like to wash all of these off so I have an honest feel and weave of the finished fabric. With fabrics like double gauze the threads will sometimes become more dense and the result is tighter and fluffier after washing. This is a more honest account of what you'll be wearing.

How should you care for your fabric? The age-old standard answer is that you should wash your fabric how you plan to wash it when it is finished. But personally, I use pre-washing to hit my fabric with a bit of heat to maximize my shrinkage right off the bat in case something accidentally happens and your finished dress gets dried unexpectedly.

I wash my finished dresses in cold water and hang dry them, followed by a fresh pressing. But I pre-wash my fabrics by washing them in cold water, and then tossing them in a dryer on medium. This is best for cotton, linen, and blends. Rayon does not like the dryer, so be careful when drying rayon blends and consider only hang drying. If you're using something like silk and plan to dry clean it, think about dry cleaning the yardage as your pre-wash treatment. But if it is a washable silk, you could machine wash it in cold and hang it to dry, then use that same method with the finished garment as well.

If you are at all unsure of the care and content of your fabric, please ask the retailer where it was purchased so you know how to properly care for it. If you have specific questions about your fabric, let me know in the comments below! Happy washing and we'll meet up here tomorrow to discuss making your muslin!

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