20th Century

Pre-washing pretty period prints

Woosh, woosh

I know there is some debate about whether you still need to pre-wash cotton fabrics before you sew them up these days, but I still like to.  For one thing, I have no idea what the conditions on the factory floor were like, or what the fabrics were exposed to in shipping!  And it can’t hurt to make doubly certain that no unwanted shrinkage will occur.

In my machine are a beautiful monochromatic ’50s floral from Nana’s stash that reminds me of charcoal sketching, and a sweet pink and green and yellow ’30sish number and a sassy yellow and grey and white 30ish number, both from reproductionfabrics.com.

I say ’30sish, because (to the best of my knowledge) most prints from reproductionfabrics.com aren’t perfect reproductions, but modern prints that match the aesthetic of the era.  Still lovely, but not exact matches.

Darling little pink flowers with yellow and green leaves - so me!

Cunning bows and flowers in white and grey on daring yellow


  1. That a washing machine filled with potential! I’m with you, wash first.

  2. How beautiful! Love the yellow and grey!
    I always wash too. Fabric is treated with nasty formaldehyde. Ew.


  3. Stella says

    I soak cottons in a tub of boiling water to pre-shrink them. I find it’s also good to soak black viscose blends, because those can leak truly alarming quantities of dye.

  4. Those are so pretty. I even like the yellow one, and I’m not usually drawn to yellow shades.
    I always prewash my fabrics for three reasons: I like to pre-shrink cottons and remove the sizing, I refold them when dry to try to alleviate the factory center fold, and the most important: A couple of dead roaches fell out of some fabric I was having cut once and I really don’t like the idea of introducing viable eggs into my home.

  5. Maire Smith says

    I wash cotton every time, because if I don’t, it definitely shrinks on first washing. If I do, it may or may not shrink significantly. I think it’s like carrying an umbrella to prevent rain.

      • Maire Smith says

        I don’t know. I use them sometimes. Not so good in town, because of all the people, but as long as one’s used to pointing them in the direction of the wind (you know, sideways, not up), and has one that doesn’t turn inside out or break, they can be handy.

  6. Gorgeous prints! And yes, I would be inclined to pre-wash cotton fabrics. Imagine all the work of sewing just to have it shrink…devastating!

  7. It always amazes me how fresh these repoduction prints can look. Generally, how fresh old prints could look if new and sewn into a completely different kind of garment…

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