Pre-washing Canvas and Shrinking

You just got your brand new canvas and it is so smooth and nicely packaged. The last thing you want to do is throw it in the washing machine! In my slip cover video I used preshrunk 10 oz canvas, so I was happy to skip the washing and dive right in to cutting and sewing. When working with the standard 10 oz canvas in natural I expect it to shrink 12-15% after it’s washed and dried. The dyed canvas shrinks a little less, usually about 8%. It is crucial always factor that in when calculating yardage.

So, here you have somewhere in the ballpark of 10 yards or so, give or take depending on your project that needs to go in the washing machine. I usually coil the yardage around evenly in the washer and run TWO wash cycles with warm water, so that the washing fully penetrates the cotton fibers. If you are using our Army Duck, first of all congratulations it makes amazing slipcovers, secondly it will take two cycles just to get the fabric wet! I prefer to dry my canvas on a high heat. I think some people disagree and prefer air dry, but allowing the canvas to dry on high heat should shrink the fabric as much as it will ever shrink. That is a good feeling to have before investing hours of time into a sewing project.

Removing the canvas from the dryer you will notice a tighter weave and softer texture than before. If you choose another drying method your fabric will be more wrinkled and you will require the use of a high pressure steamer iron. It is always great to have a nice iron handy during sewing projects anyway! If you have figured out a great way to handle pre-washing we would love to hear about it.

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13 comments on “Pre-washing Cotton Canvas Yardage Before Sewing

  • Christie Jennings

    I’d love to speak with you about your canvas and paint applications. Please email me. Thanks so much, I really appreciate the plain, logical advice you provide.

  • Susan Paradis

    I bought white duck to slip cover a chair two years ago, forgot whatever it might have said about washing, and recently found someone to make the slip covers. She took the fabric, made the slipcover, and was fitting it to my chair, when she casually said, “It’s a little big, but it will fit better after you wash it and it shrinks”. That struck terror in my heart, because I had forgotten all about the idea of pre-washing, and I had made a small slip cover once for a hassock, and it shrunk so much on the first washing, that I couldn’t use it anymore. Do I dare to wash this now that it’s all sewn? Being white, it will get dirty faster (and show it) than other colors. Should I dry clean it instead? It seems to me that it fits pretty snugly NOW.

    • Big Duck Canvas

      If you love the way it fits right now, I would dry clean it. If it wasnt prewashed or preshrunk it could shrink 8-10%. White duck shrinks less than natural unbleached duck. Good luck!!

    • Susan Tucker

      The best you can do now is wash it in cold water and air dry to damp dry and install so it can stretch a little if need be. While damp and installed, stretch out wrinkles as best you can. Normally I cut to ten yard increments and serge the raw ends and then do the following: wash in hot water and dry in hot dryer a couple times. I usually take my yardage to a laundromat and use their largest washer and dryer and do it twice. The fabric gets softer and irons easier to roll. I also spritz with water as I iron. After installing on furniture I spritz it with water again and hand stretch out remaining wrinkles.

  • Bobby Riddick

    Hi. I am considering ordering cotton canvas for a slipcover project. A lot of it considering it is for a sectional. Will there be anymore shrinkage with a preshrunk cotton canvas? Or is it better just to order the regular and pre shrink it myself? Thank you.

    • Big Duck Canvas

      Preshrunk Canvas will shrink very little. We suggest to expect 3-5% at the most. Many of our customers do pre shrink the canvas themselves by washing large cut pieces in batches and are pleased with the results. I hope this helps! thank you!

  • Ruhani Amin

    Hi, what do you recommend using to iron cotton duck fabric after it has been washed?

    • Big Duck Canvas

      Hi Ruhani, to iron wrinkles out of cotton duck fabric after washing, we recommend not drying it all the way. Or, if it’s already dry, use a spray bottle to dampen the fabric first. Allow that to thoroughly soak in before ironing. Since the fabric is cotton, use a high heat setting on your iron. We’ve had good success using this method. As always, testing first on a small section is best. Good luck with your project!

  • Matti Prevost-Hart

    I find that long lengths tangle less and ravel less in washing and drying when I sew (I usually serge) the two cut ends together.

  • Lisa

    How much shrinkage can I expect from #10 regular (not preshrunk) cotton duck? My pattern calls for 28 yards and I’m trying to figure out how much extra to buy. I want to be able to machine wash it.

    • Big Duck Canvas

      Hi Lisa, with our #10 cotton duck, you should see around 8-10% shrinkage, though it’s not a bad idea to test with a 1-yard sample.

  • Virginia Young

    Will duck cloth shrink twice? I have washed my duck cloth curtains once with major shrinkages. Should I expect further shrinkage after a second machine wash?

  • Carolyn K

    I have purchased 14 yards of 12 oz cotton Bull Denim for slipcovers that will be made by someone else. I had it cut in 2 – 7 yard lengths and rolled on to one core. I could hardly believe how heavy the whole thing weighed. I have a fairly large capacity home washer and dryer but am having doubts that it will fit! I’ve got instructions on washing the fabric in hot water with an extra measure of fabric softener. And rolling it back on the core as soon as it’s out of the dryer. I did get another cardboard core from Joann’s (they are glad to give them away) so at least I won’t have to put it all on the same core. But please tell me that this is doable! I am frankly terrified I’ll mess this up somehow.

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