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Wash fabric for handmade items to sell
Do or don't
Andys Mom
Andys Mom
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Colorado USA
Member since 6/22/08
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Date: 4/9/12 11:30 AM

I have been making my engineering husband unique shirts for years. He wears them to work and everyone knows him by these outrageous shirts. A local boutique has now gotten in touch with me and would like to order a dozen for them to sell plus several of my handbags. Because the various fabrics I use do shrink, fade or bleed, I always wash them before making the shirts or handbags. My worry is that if the fabric should shrink after the customer washes the item, the collars, pockets or just about any part will look funny. The other problem is the fabrics from Africa or South America are heavily dyed and just rubbing these fabrics can make a mess. Any suggestions out there? Do or don't on washing the fabric before construction? Thank you.
-- Edited on 4/9/12 11:33 AM --

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Sometimes it is just too hot and you want to sew.

marjoriekh
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marjoriekh
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In reply to Andys Mom <<


Date: 4/9/12 11:51 AM

How do you launder/clean the shirts you make for your husband? This is probably how you want your customers to launder them, too.

Seems to me you have two options --

Prewash and then instruct buyers to launder them according to your instructions, OR

Don't prewash, and mark them 'dry clean only.' (Unless dry cleaning would also be a problem.) This option doesn't solve the problem with dye rubbing off, though.

Another problem with the 'dry clean only' option is that most people will probably not be expecting to have to dry clean an item like this (a casual men's shirt), and may just wash at home anyway.

I think you're safer pre-washing. Then you know how the fabric behaves with washing and can instruct accordingly, and you won't have the potential shrinkage problem.

Frankly, I would be happier if casual/washable RTW were prewashed, as a rule. I expect it's a cost issue, for the most part. Prewashing and pressing fabric takes time and money.

Maybe someone who has already sold clothing in this way will respond with a more authoritative answer.

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marjoriekh

a7yrstitch
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a7yrstitch  Friend of PR
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In reply to Andys Mom <<
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Date: 4/9/12 1:06 PM

I would prewash the fabric before constructing as you always have for several reasons.

Excess dye can rub onto the skin when wearing a garment. This would not be good with a shirt and could be disastrous with a handbag that is worn tight to the body in the summer months. Think fresh white summer shirt with an unwashed handbag worn over the shoulder and gripped tightly between the upper arm and the body. I bet a customer would be screaming mad when they returned it to the store along with requesting compensation for a ruined blouse.

You'll want to maintain your reputation and offer the same product that you have been complimented for.

Even if you do put in a dry clean only label, there are times when someone needs to quickly rinse out a spot even on a handbag.

In the long run, it may be better for your health to have the excess dyes removed before you start working with the fabric.

Have you ever seen one of the tags with the explanation that the fabric is hand dyed or hand woven and that one should expect variations in color, etc. And that one should expect some loss of color? They are always worded to make it sound like the garment is an exotic treasure. You may want to consider including similar statements on your hang tag.

So, yes, I would prewash the fabric and treat it exactly as if I were making it for myself. And, I would include an educational blip on the hang tag in the hopes the customer would be cautious.

There is a business only 'forum' on PR. I think you have to be invited to be able to participate. With this venture, you may want to get yourself invited and explore the question of tagging your merchandise to provide the customer with appropriate information and to protect your interests.

Best wishes, sounds like a great enterprise.

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CM_Sews
CM_Sews
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California USA
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Date: 4/9/12 1:19 PM

I would suggest that you consider using fragrance-free laundry products to prewash. Because my husband is allergic to scents in laundry products, I have not used them for years. The scents are VERY noticeable to me. I wouldn't purchase anything that smelled of scented detergent or fabric softener. I realize that I am probably in the minority, but it's something for you to consider.

I suspect that people who use scented laundry products are accustomed to the scents and don't notice them.

Also, the scents do NOT wash out easily. One might think that a single washing would remove the smells, but it does not. It takes multiple passes through the laundry to remove the scents -- especially liquid fabric softeners. LFS is very "stinky" and makes everything feel greasy, to boot.

I use All Free and Clear and I substitute plain white vinegar for liquid fabric softener.

YMMV, of course.

CMC

kath210
kath210
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In reply to Andys Mom <<


Date: 4/9/12 1:27 PM

If you decide to wash first, you might try one of those solutions that will "set" fabric color like Retayne.

Andys Mom
Andys Mom
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Colorado USA
Member since 6/22/08
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Date: 4/9/12 5:11 PM

Thank you for all your advice. I use Shaklee unscented detergent to wash the fabric that may have a chemical type scent. At times, some of the rustic foreign fabric can be musty. If the fabric is just an ordinary cotton I usually just rinse it in vinegar water and hang or tumble dry. For the fabrics from Africa that are so heavily dyed that it gets all over, I do use Retayne. I am going to care for the fabric before making the garment and then on the hang tag fill in the information of how to care for the garment and what I did before construction to control bleeding or shrinking. I agree with the post that most people do not want a casual shirt that is dry clean only. Thank you all again for your advice. I appreciate hearing what others thought about my dilemma.

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Sometimes it is just too hot and you want to sew.

Kayabunga
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Illinois USA
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Date: 4/10/12 8:01 AM

First of all ... CONGRATULATIONS!! You want to respect the time and effort it will take you to make the shirts and protect your reputation (you never know where life will lead you) so my recommendation is also to prewash with fragrance free detergent and rinsing in white vinegar. Some fabrics do not actually shrink or give up their excess dye with only rinsing so the detergent is important and the vinegar will help set the dye. The scent free is important for the reasons listed by the others plus the shirts smelling like laundry will scream "home made" and that's not what you want. Equally important ... be sure to factor in not only the cost of the prewashing but also for the quality it adds to the garment ... a tag explaining that would be a nice touch. This is a "handmade work of art" you are offering the customer so make sure you price it as such and this is a rewarding venture for you.

cocosloft
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Date: 4/10/12 10:00 AM

Good for you! I sell handmade 100% cotton items in charity fairs. As suggested by others, I pre-wash my fabrics with fragrance-free detergent and tumble dry. I also offer acrylic yarn knit items, which I machine wash and dry after they are finished to get all my hand soil out of the yarn. I mention this in my tag info - and it's amazing how many folks comment. They really appreciate knowing their purchase is easy-care and is not going to shrink or irritate or smell!

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Coco

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