April 4, 2015


I hate it when this happens. Yes, I know I'm showing you a ugly picture, taken with the aid of a cell phone picture and a dirty mirror but it makes the point.

This is my lovely new orange skirt. Ever since I made it, I've loved the look, the fit everything (except the slightly restricting hemline).
Yesterday, I washed it. I was a bit alarmed when I took it out of the washing machine and hung it on the line to dry. The lining was longer than the skirt. I reassured myself that some fabrics behave weirdly when they're wet. Surely, drying and ironing would fix this?

I ironed the skirt this morning. That helped a bit but, as you can see, not enough. It shrunk. Mostly in length although I think it got a bit tighter as well.

And this time I really think it shouldn't have happened. Three years ago, when I had just bought this fabric, I made a cute little skirt without pre-treating it in any way (I know many of you may pre-wash all fabrics but my pattern making teacher always taught me it's unnecessary for most and sometimes even causes grain line problems). It was lovely but it shrunk to an unwearable degree in its first laundry cycle. 
So, when I made this new orange skirt, I took care to pre-wash the fabric. Twice, at 40 degrees, knowing that I wash normal clothes a 30. And then, I made my new skirt. That should have worked but it didn't.

It's not even the first time this has happened to me this year (although it has hardly ever happened before. Only with two pieces of jersey which hadn't been washed before). My self-drafted green crepe 1930's style dress underwent the same fate....
That fabric was pre-treated as well, but shrunk anyway. About equally in length and width, in that case. I can still get into it but it's snug now. It should still be wearable if I re-set the zipper (which now has a strange bulge because it didn't shrink).  
I hated that little incident because this was one of my 'holy grail' fabrics and I had agonized endlessly over what to make of it. On the other hand, it was less bad because despite all the hard work, I never really loved that dress and didn't wear it a lot. I regret to say this about such a lovely fabric but this dress won't really be missed.
That's why I despise the fate of my skirt even more. This was a much cheaper fabric and a quicker make but I loved that skirt. I kept thinking of new combinations to wear it in. It was all set to be one of my most eye-catching and hard-working separates. 
I haven't decided what to do now. The skirt is still on my ironing board in the sewing room, mocking me. I could just hem that lining a bit shorter, the zipper doesn't look bad and the fit is a bit more snug but not really anything to worry about... BUT this was made to be my perfect-fitting narrow skirt and I loved it as such. I don't think I want an OK parody of it. I think I still have enough fabric left to make it again. I could do that and have it dry-cleaned in the future... 


  1. Last year, I made a pair of stretchy pants, at first the fabric had no stretch then I washed and it became super stretchy (maybe it was coated in glue?) , which made my pants fit really nice but then after like 30 washes it shrunk again! Now it is unwearable, so you will never know what a fabric can do, even if you treat it the proper way.

  2. Oh that's terribly sad. It's a lovely skirt, I hope you can rescue it and dry cleaning works. I do tend to wash my stuff by hand, as cool as I can, the other day I washed a couple of newly made dresses and the colours on them ran a lot so I was glad I had done the hand washing thing. Often I wonder why I need to clean stuff as much as I do, it seems to be a habit rather than always a necessity.

    1. I think you're right. I also wondered why I washed this skirt now. It wasn't actually dirty...

    2. One of the points made in the book "Overdressed" is that we clean, and therefore ruin, our clothes way too much. She illustrates how this just was not done in the past and clothes were "aired out" and put back in the rotation. Since reading that I have tried to put that into practice and I find it works. All that beating around the machines is just not good for nice fabrics. We also work too hard at making our clothing to have it look worn out before its time. The author basically says if it doesn't have a stain and BO, just air it out for a day or so before putting it back in the closet. Hanging things in the shade out on the clothesline freshens them up with the wonderful scent of sunshine and fresh air.

  3. That happened to my favorite wool skirt....twice. I prewashed the fabric. Made it into a bias cut skirt. I loved it so much! First time I washed after wearing, it shrank. I was so mad because it wasn't even dirty! I don't know why I even washed it. I blamed myself for not washing it on "cold" that time.

    I took out the side seams and "stretched" it out with the iron. After that treatment, I can still wear it even though it was tighter, shorter, and twisted (Bias cut skirt, remember?) I still liked it a lot even though it was no longer the favorite.

    Then after wearing it like that several times, I washed it again...this time I remember to put the washer on cold. And this time it shank again...so much that it's unwearable.

    Grrrrr in deed!

    I made that skirt again in a different fabric, but it didn't manage to capture that magic.

  4. That is so not fair! I've had that happen to me once before, after prewashing too. Fortunately it's not a common occurrence. That skirt of yours is so great though. I think you should rehem and rescue it.

  5. thats so strange - is there a viscose in the mix? you could try wearing it around the house for the day to see if the threads relax back which i think it will and then rehem? - something similar happened to me was a crepedress - store bought - which had rayon through it and it shrank a bit in laundry - but afteer wearing for a while and the threads relaxed back but it never went back to its original but was nearly as good. (i never prewash any fabrics - only steam iron them.... )

    1. This is a mystery fibre. The seller claimed it was cotton but I certainly wouldn't have guessed that.

  6. Some fabrics are just evil and unfortunately really do need to be dry cleaned. It's a shame.

  7. This is why I wash every fabric that comes into my home with 60°C (except wools at 30°C)! Also because this kills of moths if they layed eggs in the fabric... Now I'm never surprised with shrinking fabrics... But I had my fair share of that in the early years

  8. There are fabrics that will shrink ad infinitum and it's a risk whenever we buy new fabric. Just think of a pair of jeans that keeps getting shorter and shorter over the years. Many is the time I have had to lengthen jeans twice and then eventually toss good jeans because they are too short and silly looking.

    Fabrics that are really expensive and have the risk of shrinking and that I have made a quality garment with I would dry clean. I think the shrinkage is a fact of life in this age when everything is made fast and cheap overseas. You just don't know what you are getting any more.

  9. Thank you for all your insight Bunny.
    These past years, I have tried not to over-wash my clothes. Especially things which are not worn next to the skin, like coats, jackets and winter skirts. Or things made from fabrics which might be tricky, like certain wools and silk.
    Obviously, I made the wrong choice with this skirt.

  10. i always wash everything in the hottest water available and then toss it in the dryer unless it's wool. why fool around? that doesn't mean that things don't still shrink out of spite, but i know that i did all i could. after the initial wash'n'dry, i'm not apt to use the dryer anymore or anything but cool water, but the fabric has been tamed. for wools i do use a cool wash and hang dry and do it again. i'm very careful to not stretch it out when drying it because then i think you get a false finished length. i lay it over a clothsline the long way to evenly distribute the weight and slightly, gently move the fabric toward it's center instead of toward the ends. the result is a dried piece that is more relaxed and still has spring in the weave. i press lightly, not iron, and
    then cut. when i'm done the wool still has give in both directions. then i don't clean it unless it's really soiled. how i clean it depends on how much i love it / how hard it is to press it / how expensive it would be to have it dry-cleaned and how much time i have. i also do a lot of spot-cleaning instead of over-all cleaning.

    after the first wool wash, i always see dirty water, maybe from chemicals or dyes. does anyone else wash wool more than once for cleaner fabric?