Preparing your fabric for sewing

You have purchased your fabric carefully and naturally you are excited and eager to start your new garment, however take time with your fabric preparation before commencing.


Make sure that your fabric is not off grain as a fabric that is not square or grain perfect will not hang correctly in the finished garment. Remember that all woven fabrics are constructed on looms that are straight, they are then rolled onto tubes or double folded onto boards. This can cause the fabric to appear off grain. To rectify this problem follow this easy set of rules.


can at times be a problem as the print can be off grain to the woven base cloth. In this case you have to make a decision whether to follow the design or to use the grain straight. If the design is not to far off grain (less than 20mm) then it will most probably be okay but if the design is to much off the grain (more than 20mm) then you must TRUE the fabric.

  • If the fabric has a cross wise design, fold it so that the design matches across the width.
  • If the fabric does not have a crosswise design draw a line at one end of the fabric at right angles to the selvedge. The crosswise line will function as your crosswise grain.
  • Fold the fabric so that this line matches at the selvedge. The selvedge’s will not match along the length of the fabric so use the fold as your reference point when laying the pattern pieces.

Made from natural fibres such as wool, linen and cotton do not have a permanent memory and normally can and must be straightened. Tear across the grain both ends or pull a thread and cut across the open space left by the missing thread, do not be alarmed if the fabric appears to be off grain at this point. Fold the fabric in half across the width, you will see that the ends do not meet perfectly. Take the two short ends and pull on the cross, this will bring the fabric back level. You will have to pull a little towards the centre and you will need to check to ensure that the fabric has recovered. When you have the ends level press your fabric to make sure that it will stay in shape.


*Truing fabric with a crosswise design 

Many plain synthetics have a memory and the TRUING method is advised, however you can try the pull and press method first as often the fabric will recover.

YARN DYED FABRICS: are easy as all you have to do is cut across on the check or stripe and pull them into shape.

KNITTED FABRICS: must be trued, as there is no grain to follow.


If you intend to wash your garment then you should ensure that it is washable from the CARE LABEL. As many fabrics are labelled dry clean only, you should follow the manufacturers instructions and take the fabric to the dry cleaner.

However if you want to take the risk and wash it, first test a small sample piece, cut a piece of paper the same size as the sample, then wash, dry and iron the sample. By comparing the sample to the piece of paper (place on over the other) you will see the rate of shrinkage and the condition of the sample and so can then make your decision whether to wash or not.

If you decide to continue and wash the fabric then you should immerse the fabric in cold or tepid water so that the finish in the fabric will not be removed, make sure the fabric is thoroughly wet, gently spin dry, spreading the fabric around in the washing machine , with as few creases as possible, then fold the fabric over a rack to dry, again with as few creases as possible. Always keep the drying fabric away from direct sunlight, and iron the fabric before you cut your pattern.

PLEASE NOTE: It is necessary to pre wash all other fabrics used in the garment including the lining, interfacing, zipper, bias binding, etc. to be sure that the rate of shrinkage is controlled. It a great idea to pre shrink your fabric before you put it away, so that it is ready when you have the urge to sew.


Pressing is as important as accurate stitching. In fact if you want a professional finish you can not do one without the other.

  1. Pressing means to raise and lower the iron in an overlapping pattern as you move it across the fabric.
  2. Ironing means to glide the iron back and forth across the fabric. Ironing can distort the shape pressing will not.
  3. Press as you sew, you must never cross one seam with another without pressing first.
  4. Meld the threads. Immediately after machine stitching a seam, press the stitching line flat. First on one side, then the other, then press the seam open or to one side as indicated in the pattern instructions. When pressing a seam open, only the stiching line needs to be pressed. The seam will then lay flat.
  5. Press in the same direction as you stitched. Press the seam or detail area from the right side. If necessary, protect the fabric with a press cloth.
  6. Use light pressure, without resting the full weight of the iron on the fabric. Delicate fabrics with a pile or brushed surface can be finger pressed. Simply hold the iron above the fabric and apply a generous amount of steam. Then use your fingers to iron the seams, darts and edges. Use your hands to iron the fabric.
  7. Let your work cool before moving it from the pressing surface.


Fibre Pressure Heat Moisture Special instructions
Acetate Light Very low Dry iron Use Press cloth on right side.
Acrylic Moderate
Cotton Light & Moderate Moderate to High Dry or Steam Press with steam iron. For more moisture, dampen fabric and press with dry iron. to avoid shine on dark colours, press from wrong side or use press cloth on right side.
Linen Light to Heavy High May need press cloth on right side; test first
Nylon Light Low to Moderate Little or no ironing required
Polyester Moderate use press cloth to prevent shine and water spots.
Rayon Light
Silk Press light to medium weights with a dry iron. for heavy weights, use steam iron and dry press cloth to avoid water spots
Wool Light to moderate Moderate Press with steam iron. for more moisture, press with dry iron and slightly dampened press cloth. Use press cloth on right side to prevent shine. press crepe with dry iron.
Blends Press according to requirements of the more delicate fibre ..
Texture ..
Crepe Light Low to Moderate Dry iron Use press cloth on right side.
Deep Pile Finger-press Moderate Steam iron See Pressure, above, for finger pressing.
Glossy Light Low Dry iron Same as crepe.
Nap, Pile Light or finger-press Low to Moderate Dry or steam iron Press fabric over needle board, using light pressure; or finger press.


In addition to your ironing board there are a host of aids to provide pressing surfaces that simulate the curves of the body as well as to allow you to press small detail areas without creasing the rest of the garment.

Don’t think that you have to rush and buy all the equipment listed. Start with a seam roll and a good press cloth. Then add items to your range, as you require them.

  • IRON: You need a good steam iron. Do not buy a cheap one as it will only last a short time and they tend to be unreliable as to the temperature control. The best solution is a steam generator iron, whilst expensive they will last for many years and are the best system of ironing.
  •  IRONING BOARD: Always buy a good quality ironing board.
  •  IRONING BOARD COVER: An ironing board cover should be 100% cotton, avoid Teflon covers as they return to much heat to your work and they cause shine.
  •  IRONING BOARD PAD: Between your ironing board and the cover it is necessary to have a cushion of foam or wool. The perfect pad is a June Taylor Hi Loft Ironing Board Pad. This heavy wool blanket is scorch resistant, prevents shine and provides deep cushioning.
  • SEAM ROLL: A seam roll is an oblong, padded cylinder with a cotton cover on one half and wool on the other.The wool absorbs moisture rapidly preventing it from “returning to the work.”The soft rounded surface prevents a ridge from forming when you press seams open. It is also small enough to fit into sleeves and pant legs.


  •  HAM : Similar to a sleeve roll, a ham is padded and covered in wool on one side and cotton on the other. It is a firmly packed oval, wider at one end than the other, and corresponds to the body curves. Use it to retain a curve when basting, pressing or shaping any curved section, such as darts, curved shoulder seams, princess line seams over the bust and the hip area of side seams. The ham is also useful when setting the roll of a collar and when shaping the cap of a sleeve.


  • PRESSING MITT: A pressing mitt has an inside pocket so you can put your hand inside and support an area whilst steaming the section. The pocket also enables you to slip the mitt over a sleeve board for areas too small for the ham.


  • PRESS CLOTH: A press cloth is a layer of protective material placed between your work and the iron. It can provide moisture or assist in drying. It can allow you to press without leaving marks or shine. The best press cloths are 100% cotton or 100% linen, preferably old and limp. These fabrics hold moisture and can control the amount being put on your work. A RAJAH CLOTH is a great investment. It is a chemically treated cloth ideal for putting in or taking out pleats.  It is wonderful for steam ironing as there is no need to dampen when using the steam iron.                       
  • BROWN PAPER STRIPS: No matter which pressing tool or press cloth you use, some fabrics can cause seams to show on the right side. Cut 50mm strips of brown paper to use under each seam allowance as it is being pressed. Use brown paper as it absorbs more moisture.

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