Fabric care – looking after your fabric
Once you’ve finished your garment you’ll want to make sure you can keep it in the best possible condition. Here are some fabric care guidelines for you to follow, based on the type of yarn used to create your cloth.
Please note that fabrics available for sale on the site have not usually been test washed, however we will be delighted to run a test wash for you on request. We can normally do this within 24 hours – please just contact us to ask.
These fabric care guidelines are fairly general. If you have specific concerns about the use or care of a particular fabric then please check with us and we’ll be happy to advise. Similarly, we haven’t included information on what to do if you have a disaster with your fabric (e.g. red wine, semi-digested baby food etc.) Again, just drop us a line and we’ll be happy to advise as best we can…
Fabric care for different fibres
We would expect most cottons to be machine-washable at 40°. It’s always advisable to separate light and dark colours in order to minimise the impact of any loss of colour. Vibrant or hand-dyed cottons may lose colour on initial washes; these are best hand-washed separately until the remaining colour is fast.
Fine cottons (e.g. cotton lawns) are best hand-washed or machine washed on a hand-wash setting, in order to reduce the likelihood of damaging the fabric.
Cottons can be tumble-dried if necessary, although we always recommend keeping the time in the drier as well as the drier temperature, as low as possible.
Cottons can be pressed using a medium steam iron, using the wrong side of the fabric if there are any surface embellishments.
Linens are particularly prone to shrinkage (see Fabric care – preparing your fabric) but tend to be fairly robust fabrics, although they will naturally soften over time. They are often mixed with other fibres, particularly viscose (rayon) and cotton. They are usually machine-washable to 40°, although if the linen is a particularly fine weave then we would recommend hand washing. As with any fibre, avoid wringing linen fabrics to remove excess moisture – using a lower-speed spin cycle on your machine would be a safer option. For finer linens, just gently squeeze dry and lay flat to drip.
Linen dries relatively quickly. We suggest air drying and recommend avoiding tumble drying if possible in order to reduce the risk of shrinkage. If you have to tumble dry, then keep the temperature as low as possible and remove to press before completely dry.
Linens can be pressed when slightly damp, using a reasonably hot steam iron. Reduce the temperature accordingly if your linen is mixed with another fibre.
Like linens, wools can be prone to shrinkage (see Fabric care – preparing your fabric) but again, tend to be fairly robust fibres. However the weave or finish on a wool cloth can vary considerably and can be damaged if treated roughly. For these reasons, once you have made your garment we would always advise dry cleaning in order to preserve the shape and fit. The same applies to wool-blended fabrics. If your wool garment is unlined then you can hand-wash it carefully in lukewarm water with a gentle hand-wash detergent and ensure that you rinse really well. However we’d recommend doing a wash-test first. Again, avoid wringing and rubbing.
If you need to freshen up a wool item then one solution is to hang it in a steamy bathroom for a little while. You can also spot-clean when necessary by using warm water and a tiny bit of mild detergent, although we wouldn’t recommend this on pale, delicate or highly-finished wools.
Wool can be pressed with a cool steam iron, preferably on the wrong side in order to preserve the finish of the fabric. If you have to press on the right side (e.g. to freshen up a lined garment) then it’s advisable to use a piece of protective fabric (e.g. a slightly damp-but-clean cotton tea towel) between the iron plate and the wool fabric. Press your wool with up-and-down motions of the iron – don’t slide it around or your wool will become shiny.
If you need to dry a wool garment, then hang or lay it to be air dried. Don’t use a tumble drier or you’ll end up with a piece of felt. Really, you will.
Some silks are prone to initial shrinkage so again, we’d refer you to Fabric care – preparing your fabric before cutting. Silk is a surprisingly resilient fibre but as with other fabrics, it can be prone to damage if treated roughly when wet – so if you do wash a silk garment then avoid rubbing and wringing.
If your silk is a plain finish and is a shirt weight, then it’s usually fine to either hand wash it in lukewarm water with a gentle (non-biological) detergent, or to put it in a machine wash on the ‘Delicates’ setting at 30°. However to be safe, we’d usually recommend doing a test wash on a piece of fabric first.
We recommend avoiding tumble-drying for silk fabrics. Lay your garment out carefully to air-dry flat, or on an appropriately-shaped hanger.
If your silk has an ornate finish, or if you’ve made a closely-fitted, tailored or lined garment, then dry-cleaning is the way to go. Some silks may still shrink and therefore may respond differently to the lining fabric. Even an unlined garment with tailored elements or with top-stitching for instance, may be spoiled if it shrinks only a little.
A cool iron can be used to press a silk garment, again, using the reverse side in order to preserve any finish.
(Also known as Rayon in the US). Manufactured from organic fibres, viscose is therefore breathable and usually drapes beautifully. Finer viscose fabrics can be delicate and most viscose fabrics can be damaged easily when wet. If your viscose fabric is a fairly robust weave then it can be washed to 40° but we’d advise washing the finer viscose fabrics either to 30° in a ‘Delicates’ wash or by hand. Avoid wringing and rubbing if you’re hand washing.
We’d recommend avoiding a tumble dryer since some types of viscose fabric will not tolerate it as well as others; we won’t usually know which type of cloth our viscose fabrics are. We don’t offer a tumble dry test but advise that you use a piece of offcut fabric to test tumble drying yourself. If you do use a tumble dryer, keep the temperature away from the highest setting and remove while still damp in order to iron.
Use a ‘Synthetic’ or cooler setting on your iron to press your viscose garment. Repeated rubbing with an iron may cause your fabric to become shiny, so consider pressing on the wrong side, or underneath a clean-but-damp teatowel.
Unless your fabric is a particularly fine or embellished polyester, then it will be machine-washable to 40°. The exception will be if your garment has used another type of fabric with the polyester (e.g. a lining) in which case see the ‘Fabric care for tailored garments’ section below.
You can tumble dry a polyester garment however keep the heat setting low. Equally, press your polyester fabric with a cool iron. If you tumble dry or press at too high a heat, the fabric will melt.
As for Polyester.
If your fabric is not too fine then you can machine wash it to 30°. However your acetate fabric is most likely to have been used as a lining, in which case you will need to dry clean your garment as the acetate (which won’t shrink) is likely to respond differently to the outer layer of fabric. See ‘Fabric care for tailored garments’ below.
We recommend not tumble-drying acetate garments as the heat settings will be too high. Likewise, we recommend using a cool iron to press.
Fabric care for tailored garments or fabrics comprising two or more types of cloth
If you have constructed a garment from two or more different types of fabric then with very few exceptions we would recommend dry-cleaning. The reason for this is that the outer layer of fabric (e.g. a wool) is likely to respond differently to being washed than other elements (e.g. a trim or lining). Even a very slight shrinkage in the outer layer will result in an ill-fitting lining. Similarly, garments that have been tailored often comprise multiple layers of interfacing and interlining as well as techniques such as top-stitching. They are also likely to be closely-fitted. Any of these elements can be disrupted by even a little shrinkage in the wool outer layer – meaning that the fit and look of your painstakingly-created garment will be compromised.
Sometimes you simply want to ‘freshen up’ your garment and for this purpose there are various options open to you. Our favourite is to hang the garment in a steamy bathroom while you shower or have a bath (well away from any direct water). You can then press with a cool iron – preferably on the wrong side and/or with a clean-but-dry teatowel between the garment and the iron. (Check the ironing guidance for the relevant fabric type above). If necessary you can also spot-clean as described for individual fibres above – but for anything particularly visible, widespread or for delicate fabrics – again we recommend your local dry cleaner.
It’s also worth remembering that most dry cleaners will offer a ‘freshen-up’ option for garments which may be even kinder to the garment (and your purse!) than a full dry clean.
Fabric care for knitted fabrics
The fabric care guidelines here apply primarily to woven fabrics. If you have a knitted fabric (e.g. jersey) then it should be fine to observe the same advice based on the fibre content. However knitted fabrics can often be more delicate than woven fabrics. Perversely, they can be more prone to shrinkage and stretching or losing their shape due to the complexity of the fabric construction.
We recommend avoiding tumble drying and suggest that you dry these fabrics by laying them flat on an airer. The exception is cotton jersey which can be dried in a tumble drier – but not at too high a temperature or for any longer than required to remove excess water and the worst creases.
In addition to the guidance for specific fibres, here are some more general hints and tips for fabric care. Do you have more advice? Let us know – we’d love to share!
– If you have hand washed a delicate item and want to avoid wringing out the excess moisture, lay it out on a towel, roll it up and press gently along its length. Repeat as necessary before laying out to air dry.
– If you’re spot-cleaning a garment, place a wad of towel underneath the area to be cleaned in order to soak up excess water. Adjust to a dry area of the towel as required. Use a patting motion to blot the stain, with plenty of water. Don’t rub!