Shrinkage During Dyeing Process

I am making a costume out of cotton flannel. I want to dye it another color using Rit in hot water. I believe I bought enough fabric for the pattern. I had to recalculate it since it did not come in 60″ width. However I am concerned that I will have a mess on my hands. So I am at 44″ and worried that the fabric will get even narrower and I won’t have enough. I did think of folding the fabric crosswise for laying out the pattern. Do pattern companies take shrinkage into consideration and allow extra yardage? Did they do this 20 years ago? The pattern is that old. If the pattern companies do allow for shrinkage I am still afraid that I will come up short since I am “messing with it” so much. Short of laying the pattern pieces out (I need to twice for some pieces since it is lined) and seeing, is there an easy answer? Should I be worried?

Dear Becky,
Well, you have worked yourself up into frenzy over this! But I think it is simpler than all that. In general, cotton fabric does not shrink much in width. It is in the lengthwise that shrinkage will occur. So you will end up with less yardage – probably about 10% less at the most. (I work a fair amount with cotton bubble gauze, which is notorious for shrinkage. I allow 15% shrinkage for dyeing with this stuff. It is loosely woven – your flannel is more tightly woven and probably won’t shrink that much.)
Another thing you can do to minimize shrinkage is to hang the fabric to dry. Even though you may be processing it with hot water, the dryer is still a big shrinkage influencer.
Here’s another idea: if you use the reactive dyes you can dye with warm (not hot) water. You’ll also get a much more vivid color. You will need ordinary table salt and soda ash, in addition to the dye. Look at the instructions for vat dyeing at www.dharmatrading.com. Everything that you need (except the salt) is available there. Send me a note if you have any questions. It’s really easy.
If you are really worried, wash the stuff in warm water and do a rough layout of the pattern pieces to see what you have. It won’t shrink much more than that in the hot water process.
Have fun and send me a photo of the costume!!

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