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Preparing Your Fabric for Sewing Success

by Finery Embroidery 12 Jan 2024 0 Comments

With your pattern chosen and fabric selected, it's time to prepare the fabric for your sewing project. Follow these essential steps before diving into the sewing process:


When working with fabrics for clothing, preshrinking is crucial to prevent unwanted surprises later. Consider the following methods:

  • Check fabric-washing instructions on the bolt; some fabrics are preshrunk by the manufacturer.
  • Wash the fabric and notions before starting, mimicking how you would care for the finished project.
  • If the fabric is dry clean only, clean it before cutting, as dry-cleaned items may shrink. Steam pressing is an alternative for dry-clean-only fabrics; steam evenly, let it dry flat, and the released steam will cause the fabric to shrink.
  • Before preshrinking, mark the right side of the fabric to avoid confusion, especially if both sides look similar.

Checking Fabric Grain:

Ensure the fabric is on grain for precise sewing:

  1. Pull on the crosswise or warp threads near the fabric end, causing it to gather; trim along this line for a straight edge.
  2. Fold the fabric lengthwise, aligning selvage edges and crosswise ends. If the fabric lays smoothly, it's on grain; if uneven, it may be off grain.
  3. To fix off-grain fabric, steam press while folded, securing selvage edges and pressing toward the fold.

Regardless of grain alignment, use an iron to remove wrinkles from prewashing, ensuring the fabric lays flat when pinned.

What is a Fat Quarter?

A fat quarter is an 18 x 20- or 18 x 22-inch (45.75 x 51 cm) piece of woven cotton fabric often used for patchwork or appliqué. The standard width of quilting cotton fabric is 44 inches (111.75 cm). To make a fat quarter, the fabric is cut at 1⁄2 yard (45.75 cm), resulting in a piece that measures 18 x 44 inches (45.75 x 111.75 cm). The piece is then cut in half again to create two pieces that are more square than rectangular. A 1⁄4 yard (23 cm) cut off the bolt would measure 9 x 44 inches (23 x 111.75 cm). This gives the user a much more versatile piece to work with.

Fat quarters come individually packaged or in cute bundles of coordinating prints and solids, found in the quilting cotton section at your local fabric store.

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