How to Test for Fabric Shrinkage

Fabric shrinkage is a phenomenon that occurs when fabric is exposed to heat and/or steam. I have seen it wreak havoc with 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.  You get an order and are so excited to swiftly put it into production. You want to impress the buyers with your quick turn around time.  Just as you get ready to ship your order, you notice your garments have problems and can’t be shipped. Then the horror sets in.  I can’t even begin to express how many times we have seen inexperienced designers produce fashion disasters. Either the garment is too short, it doesn’t fit, it’s puckering or the lining is hanging out.  Sometimes it’s an easy fix and sometimes it’s far from it!

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 ranging in size from 4in x 4in up to 12in x 12in.  It’s up to you…I just grab a sheet which is 8.5in x 11in and 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.

3. Using your iron, heat and steam the heck out of it.  Make sure you don’t just briefly move the iron around.  Go over and over it many times. Sometimes it’s steam and sometimes it’s heat that causes the shrinkage so make sure to give the fabric 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.  That’s a lot!  Now what?


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


There are 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.