Prewashing Fabric in a Drought


By now, you have very likely read stories about California’s drought. It’s been going on for FOUR years. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered historic mandatory water restrictions. This is a big deal because the state has never required any water restrictions, just voluntary reductions. It’s a huge political and bureaucratic issue, which you can read about in this San Jose Mercury News article.

I’ve become used to sunny skies and no rain but it’s not normal. I confess that when it comes to water conservation, I haven’t done much more than take shorter and fewer showers and be careful of water usage when I’m cooking or washing dishes. If you’re in California, what are you doing to conserve water?

I was appalled to read about how groundwater reserves in the Central Valley are being depleted to the point that farmers could be turning huge swaths of land into a dust bowl similar to what happened during the Great Depression. Scary…

Wind erosion carries topsoil from farmland during the Dust Bowl, circa 1930s (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

Last week as I was about to prewash some fabrics, I thought, “Uh-oh, I should’t use the washing machine to prewash just a few yards of fabric, that would be a waste of water.” Our apartment has a high-efficiency washer, which uses less water than older washers, which can use up to 40 gallons (!) a load (that’s roughly 151 liters). I’m not sure how many gallons ours uses but according to my quick Google search, high-efficiency washing machines use 14 to 25 gallons (about 53 to 95 liters).

A couple of months ago I bought this 15.25 quart (14.43 liter) dishpan at my local hardware store because I didn’t want to keep using the bathroom sink to pre-soak my interfacing. (Plus the hubby was getting annoyed.)

Rubbermaid dishpan for prewashing fabric -

It’s not very big – about the size of a bathroom sink. I photographed it in my bathtub, which is white so it’s a little hard to see.  Here’s what it looks like when you look down on it. The black thing covers a drainage hole, which is rather small and not really useful. It’s faster to just tip the water out.

Rubbermaid dishpan -

I got this gorgeous imported rayon knit at Britex Fabrics in March after a Bay Area Sewists meetup there. If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember seeing it on my feed (@csews). I thought about steaming rather than prewashing but as some helpful folks on IG reminded me, rayon knit shrinks so I should prewash. Rayon knit doesn’t necessarily wear well either – it can pill, so I decided it would be better to hand wash cold.

Rayon knit from Britex Fabrics -

I put the fabric in my tub and turned on the cold water faucet. Once the fabric was soaked, I put a little shampoo in the water, swished it around, and let it soak.

Prewashing rayon knit by hand -

Then I dumped out the water, filled the container about halfway with fresh water and rinsed out the fabric. Next, I gently squeezed it and then rolled the fabric with a large beach towel to get rid of the excess water.

It was only a little over a meter so I thought it would be OK to hang dry. It wasn’t heavy so I didn’t think it would get stretched out hanging on the shower curtain rod. There’s very little humidity in the air in California so I knew this lightweight knit wouldn’t take long to dry. If it were a heavier knit, I would lay it flat to dry.

It’s going to be an Asymmetrical Top from Drape Drape 2. I saw the striped one that MaciNic made for the Japan Sew Along (hosted by Catrin at Tanoshii) and the other striped one she made here. I didn’t find the designs of the first Drape Drape book to be very wearable but I do like a few of the things in the second book so I checked it out of the San Francisco Public Library.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to sewing it. First I need to finish my dress for the Spring for Cotton sewalong hosted by Lucky Lucille. And I’m also working on a couple things from Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants, the English translation by Tuttle Publishing has just been released. What are you working on?

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Hashtag Sew Red October

Sew Red October

I’m participating in Sew Red October (#sewredoctober) – initially called #redoctober but then it was changed when folks realized that it was a hashtag being used for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. The idea is simple –  sew something in red in October.

I first heard about it from Leila of Three Dresses Project in her September post The Sewcialists do it again with Red October. Then you post your photos to the Sewcialists Flickr page. There are some great finished projects up already so check it out!

The great logo was designed by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. I love the periscope, which oh so cleverly evokes the entertaining film (and book) The Hunt for Red October. Thank you Gillian!

Red is one of my favorite colors so I wanted to participate as soon as I heard about it. But first I had to complete my Fall for Cotton project and my Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank. (You can see photos here: My Fall for Cotton 1940s Girl Friday Blouse Is Finished! I haven’t posted about the tank yet.)

We were going through a couple of heat waves in the Bay Area but I knew that wasn’t going to last so I had to get the tank done.

Meanwhile I thought about what I would make for Red October. I had a couple yards of red knit fabric that was ruined in June when I prewashed it with three other knits – black, brown, and blue. For some reason the red was the only fabric that got these blotchy stains on it from the black! I was so disgusted I just put it away. Here’s one splotchy area. Grrrrr!

Stain on my red knit fabric from prewashing

When I heard about Red October I decided to take another look at the fabric. A couple areas didn’t have random dark areas on it so I thought why not see if I could make something from it? So I decided to do my first Sewing Cake Hummingbird pattern hack and make a red tee shirt. (You can buy the Hummingbird pattern in Sewing Cake’s Etsy shop as a printed paper pattern or a PDF.)

I’ve already made three Hummingbird peplum tops and I like the binding on the neckline and armhole so why not make a tee? (Photos of my blue, striped, and red ones are here: More Hummingbird Tops!)

I used the front and back pieces of the Green top and then I drafted a bottom piece 9 inches (22.9 cm) long to attach to the existing Hummingbird top pieces. I really wasn’t sure how much to add to the hip width to accommodate the stretch. Also I wanted it to be a fitted tee, not a loose one. I used my hip curve to draw a line from the waist to the widest hip point. I decided to add about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) – it may not enough but hey, this is essentially a muslin, right?

Cutting around stains

Here’s a closer shot of the bottom piece I drafted and just placed beneath my pattern piece for the Hummingbird front top piece. I drafted another bottom piece (also 9 inches long) for the back.

New bottom piece for Hummingbird hack

My pieces are cut and ready to sew! (Yeah, they’re wrinkly because I folded up the fabric to cut elsewhere and didn’t have an iron on hand.)

Hummingbird hack - cut pieces

Have you hacked any Cake Patterns? What did you do? And if you’re making something for Red October, please share your link in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’re working on!

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