How to Test for Fabric Shrinkage


Fabric shrinkage is a phenomena that occurs when fabric is exposed to heat and/or steam. I have seen it wreak havoc on designers that are unaware of its costly repercussions.

Imagine you have invested all of your time and money developing your styles, your sizing and grading.  Your so excited when you get an order and swiftly put it into production so you can impress the buyers with your quick turn around time.  Just as you get ready to ship your order, you notice your garments can’t be shipped and the horror sets in.  I can’t even begin to express how many times we have seen inexperienced designers innocently walk into fashion disasters. Either the garment is shorter, it doesn’t fit, its puckering or the lining is hanging out.  Sometimes its an easy fix and sometimes its NOT!

So always test your fabrics, especially before production.  The following is a quick test we use:

1. Grab a sheet of paper from your printer.  (Some people make a pattern of a square anywhere from 4in x 4in up to 12in x 12in.  It’s up to you…I just grab a sheet which is 8.5 x 11in.  I don’t really have much time during the day doing things that are unnecessary  so for me this does the trick.)

2. Place it on top of your fabric and cut it. (Notice how I cut one side along the selvedge edge of the fabric. This way I can tell if the shrinkage is along the grain line or the cross grain.)


Pattern on top of fabric test for fabric shrinkage


3. Go over to the iron and heat and steam the heck out of it.  (Make sure you don’t just briefly move the iron around.  Sometimes its steam and sometimes its heat that cause the shrinkage so make sure to give plenty of both.)

As you can see this fabric has shrunk in both directions.  About a 1/4 inch along the cross grain and almost 1/2 inch along the grain.  Thats a lot!  So what to do?


A piece of fabric that has shrunk due to heat and steam


You have two options:

1.  If you are cutting a small quantity you can press the fabric yourself before you cut it.  It might help to cut your fabric into blocks first so you are not handling a long roll of fabric.

2. If you are cutting a lot of fabric you can send it to us and we can do it for you by the roll.  Give us a call and we can quote you a price based on your yardage.






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George K

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