Jun 16, 2014

Taking care of DIY

There comes a moment in every DIYer's life when she/he must make a decision: how to wash your me-made garments?

Every load is a risk
Because even if you take pains to pre-wash and shrink your fabric, there's still plenty that could go wrong in the spin cycle:

• Seams could unravel
• Fusible interfacing could unfuse itself and create ripples on collars and cuffs
• Painstakingly pounded-on snaps could pop off (or buttons can go MIA)
• Jersey could pill
• The lining could shrink while the rest remains the same

And though all of these issues could come up with ready-to-wear, when you made it yourself you know the true cost in time and effort — which makes suffering any of these laundry room indignities that much more painful.

Handwashing or spotcleaning can preclude some of these issues, and avoiding the dryer is enough for others. Of course, that means you can't always rely on your dryer to get the wrinkles out:

Knowing your fabrics and how to wash them can help avoid some of the pitfalls of washing DIY. I try to avoid machine-washing anything that is lightweight or combines fabrics — and never put anything that might melt into the dryer, like this Scout tee with a pleather pocket:

Luckily, it matches the shower curtain

However, even that level of care has not been enough to avoid pilling:

Handwashing stretch fabrics does not always produce nice results:

 Particularly with stretch fabrics that don't have good recovery (bounce back), a good wash and dry can actually make your me-made Tee look better again. And I find that after a few wears even pants I've made from pricier fabrics need a wash to restore their shape.

I know what you're thinking: dryclean, dummy. But most drycleaners still use carcinogenic solvents, which are bad for public health and the environment. Also, I need my money for fabric, so I'm not spending it on cleaning.

How do you care for your DIY garments? Spotcleaning until it's absolutely necessary? Or throw it all in the washer and say a little prayer?


  1. I don't do laundry so my poor husband tries to sort it all out. I only dry clean lined jackets because who wants that potential headache??

    And yes, I've lost a couple of garments to the wash...even though the fabric was pretreated. I tend to blame it on "bad fabric" and keep pushing forward.

    1. I think it's true that bad fabric is to blame for many of my laundry blunders over the years. So while I will use cheap fabric for easy things like tanks and tees, I feel like spending more on pants or jacket fabric is worthwhile because I'm so sad when something I worked hard on is destroyed in the wash

  2. I wash everything in the machine except silk. I use a hand wash cold cycle for all my me made woven garments, except for my bengaline Elle work pants and work knit tops. They just go in with the normal wash, but also cold - always cold water! I firmly believe using hot water damages fabric in the long run, and whilst I understand dryers are a necessary evil in apartment life I'm certain they shorten garment lifespans too. I'm fortunate to not need a dryer, plenty of sun, space and central heating in winter. I always use eucalyptus based enviro- friendly detergents and so far have had good success with me made laundry efforts. As I don't have a serger my woven garments are french seamed whenever possible, so this helps with seam longevity. And like you have observed, cheap fabrics wash up as expected - badly! I've stopped buying viscose knit fabric - it pills like a bitch and makes me angry. I'm trying to force myself to only buy cotton with Lycra, or wool jersey when it comes to knits.

    Goodness! Who knew I had such opinions in me? But it works for me - cold water, line drying, gentle detergent and buying the best quality fabric I can in the first place! Thanks for bringing up a little-discussed aspect of self sewing!

  3. Line-drying would be so nice — and much cheaper! Alas, cannot happen in NYC (though I have seen laundry hung out on air conditioners; I'm not willing to risk losing my finest me-mades to a gust of wind!).

  4. Phin does our laundry and, to be honest, he is so much more meticulous about it than I would be. He'll remember how a fabric was originally pre-treated and go with that. That said, I try to spot treat before washing.

  5. I pretreat fabric by washing and drying twice on hot. Anything that survives will survive a cold wash and medium dry, no problem.

  6. Cheaper fabrics will usually disappoint after washing. I use them for wearable muslins, testing the fit/style/wearability of the garment. If the muslin fits, passes the wearability test, and holds up after washing, triple score. So, a muslin that doesn't wash well is not a total waste. My stash is about 75% wearable muslin fabric. I haven't reached that confidence level yet where I can skip the wearable muslin stage and cut into better fabric. I admire those who do.

  7. My advice is to use the best fabric you can afford to avoid the droops and pills, and pre-wash it. Choose natural fabrics as much as possible. My favorites for knits are wool, cotton, or rayon. I have garments that I made 17 years ago that have withstood wearings and washings and still look good. I keep my dirty garments separate from the rest of the family's because I lost all my good silk garments one day when a certain helper decided to wash and dry everything on hot. That was very, very sad day. So I do a cold delicate wash in the machine (hand wash woolens and silks) and line dry in my bathroom either on hangers on the shower rod or over a wooden drying rack I got for cheap from the dollar store. I can't line dry outside either, the bathroom or a corner in the bedroom works ok. By the way, I love the handwashing product Soak--it doesn't require a rinse and works wonders. Good luck!

  8. I usually pre-treat cottons, rayon and jerseys by hand washing in hot water to avoid any potential future shrinking but sometimes machine wash on cold. Since we don't have easy access to machines, I sort out my me-mades and nicer RTW things and send the rest to the fluff and fold. The things that stay at home get hand washed, unless we go out to the in-laws where I can put in a cold delicate cycle. Then I hang dry everything. If I ever have kids, I am sure this tedious process will go out the window ;)

  9. I have a front loading washer, and I use the delicate cycle. I mostly sew knits, and I've had very few problems. But I do prewash my fabric on the regular cycle once or twice, so if they don't hold up to that, they get given to Goodwill!

  10. I machine wash (front load) everything except my me-made shirts (and coats, naturally). I wash my shirts by hand and allow them to drip dry.

  11. Oh my goodness. This PLAGUES me! I would like to say I "hand-wash" but my university's dorm sink just doesn't cut. Plus who has time for that?!?! I try and wash most things on cold and air dry everything FLAT, which is a luxury afforded to me by my giant drying rack (thank Costco). Sometimes when stretchy things start stretching out though, I'll throw them in the dryer for a round.

  12. I wash everything in the machine but it has a handwash cycle that I like. I hang some of the rayon challis on plastic hangers to dry in my sewing room and then iron. I had a lot of good fabric in my stash, and good fabric gets better with washing rather than falling apart. I blame the fabric stores!!

  13. Good question, I love reading all the answers! Here's mine: if it can't be treated like the rest of my clothes I won't make it. I dryclean (hardly ever, really) only structured wool garments like coats. I handwash only sweaters susceptible to felting. All the rest goes in the washing machine. I don't use a dryer and believe this helps my clothes live longer. All my me-mades survive this regime quite well. Alas, I wouldn't make something chic like your pleather-pocket tee, because then I'd have to treat it specially, and that just wouldn't happen :-) !

  14. I pre-treat on hot and wash on cold with cold-water detergent or soap nuts. Most of my home-sewn garments don't go in the dryer -- I either hang them in the laundry room or on the line in the yard. It does increase your need to iron, though.

    I do dry most of my knits. I am so done with cheapy knits (cheapy meaning low-quality, I still get stuff inexpensively!) because of the pilling problem.

    The only things I dry clean are my (store-bought) Brooks Brother's shirt and my business suit. And only then when I'm going on job interviews.

  15. I wash my me-mades just like I wash my RTW garments -- in the machine, on a regular cycle. (Even silk, it's just water!) If a me-made is well made, it will stand up to as much wearing, washing, and general abuse as a RTW garment. Seams shouldn't ravel, snaps shouldn't pop off, etc.

    That being said, I wash my clothes with white vinegar and baking soda. I find that commercial are too harsh for any garment, me-made or store-bought.



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