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How To: Calculate Fabric Shrinkage in 3 Easy Steps

January 29, 2017 3 min read 9 Comments

How To: Calculate  Fabric Shrinkage  in 3 Easy Steps

First, Let's talk about what causes shrinkage on fabrics. Shrinkage on fabric is mainly due to yarn swelling and the result crimp increase during washing in the case of cotton fabrics. Yarn swelling percentage is more in polyester cotton blending yarn. There are different types of shrinkage that make a fabric shrink among them we have: the relaxation shrinkage, felting shrinkage, compressive shrinkage  and residual shrinkage.

So, with no further interruptions lets move on and calculate the shrinkage of a piece of fabric that has been washed and has shrunk after wash. I must mention before I start calculating the shrinkage for this piece of fabric that this is only one method of many existing methods to test fabric shrinkage. Shrinking results might vary according to the fabric shrinkage method you use and by no means the result of any method used should constitute or govern as final shrinkage result to be apply to production patterns.

Shrinkage results from a calculation will give us a good start to know how much shrinkage we should apply to a pattern not forgetting other factors that modify or alter the shrinkage applied to a garment and therefore we take into account all other factors and adjust shrinkage on a pattern accordingly. Some of the factors that could contribute that a garment does not reflect  the shrinkage calculation applied to a pattern are: washing temperatures, types of seams used on a garment, fusible fabrics on waistbands, quality of fabric used, recovery factor etc..

Let's Get Started:

Step 1). Cut a square of fabric from a roll and Draw a square 18"x18" on the fabric. Make sure you are using a fabric marker and that your square is at least 2" away from salvage.
Measure Square Before Wash
18"x18" square block before shrinking
Length wise measurement =18"
Width wise measurement = 18"

Step 2). Wash your fabric sample following your standard washing method to find the shrinkage percentage to washing then let dry. Measure square after wash.
18"x18" square block after shrinking results
Length wise measurement =17"
Width wise measurement = 15"

Step 3). Apply Fabric Shrinkage Formula:
[Width of square block before shrinking] - [width of square block after shrinking] / width of square block before shrinking x 100
Length wise total shrinkage percent Formula: [(18 - 17) / 18] x 100 = 5.55% = 6%
Width wise total shrinkage percent Formula:   [(18 - 15) / 18] x 100 = 16.66% = 17%


Can you measure my square test blocks?
Yes, We can measure and calculate fabric shrinkage for all your square test blocks before applying shrinkage to your patterns.

To what address do I sent my blocks?
Please send your square test blocks to our shipping address here

What is the cost to measure my blocks?
The cost to measure and calculate shrinkage is $10 dollars per block measured.

What Pattern file formats can I upload?
You can upload Gerber ZIP files and DXF/AAMA files.

What wash process shrinks fabric? Any [Wet Wash Process/Chemical Process] will shrink the fabric. So prior to cutting fabric for bulk production, you must check its shrinkage percentage in washing. 

What Patterns Need shrinkage Applied? Any pattern that is cut on a fabric that contains Natural fibers—such as Cotton, Linen, Silk, Denim, Corduroy, Flannels and any other fabrics containing natural Cotton fibers will need to have a pattern with shrinkage added as these fabrics are more susceptible to the shrinkage process than synthetics.

What is Selvedge? The selvedge (sometimes spelled selvage) is the tightly woven edge of your fabric which is cut off to prevent it from appearing on your sewn pieces on your design. The term 'usable width of fabric', means the width of your fabric minus its selvages.

About the Author
Founder @ smartpatternmaking.com Architect of fashion products, business strategist, consultant, pattern maker, CEO...and a coach.
He has the ability to work with small entrepreneurial companies’ private label customers and large organizations.
He has over 25 years of apparel garment industry experience and is part of Expert Ezine Articles Authors community since December 25, 2008
All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be copy or used without written Permission from Alejandro Esparza the Author.

Ready to start adding shrinkage to all of your patterns? If so, calculate and apply fabric shrinkage percentages for any type of fabric then let us apply your fabric shrinkage results to all your patterns.

Do not want to calculate fabric shrinkage yourself? Let us measure your square test blocks and calculate fabric shrinkage for all your square blocks simple as that!


Alejandro Esparza
Alejandro Esparza

9 Responses

Habibur Rahman
Habibur Rahman

March 24, 2020

Valuable lesson

Md Mahmudul Hasan
Md Mahmudul Hasan

October 18, 2019

carry on!!

Kheng Vanneth
Kheng Vanneth

October 18, 2019

Many thanks for your shared feature document regarded with garment.


August 08, 2018

Shrinkage Template & Ruler, suitable for all shrinkage testing standards. With high transparent plexiglass plate and the unique design on appearance, it combines the different test standards in one template.

Alejandro Esparza
Alejandro Esparza

December 13, 2017

Hello Stafford Heppenstall ,

Please see info. I typed below hope it gives a clear understanding of what fabric length and fabric width is.

What is fabric length ? Answer: Fabric length if referred as the total amount of yards contained in a roll of fabric. Example: when purchasing fabric from a fabric vendor they might sale you bulk fabric by the bolt or roll. Bolt (is a unit of measurement used for different types of materials including fabric that are stored in roll.)

How much is a yard of fabric? Answer: In inches a yard of fabric is = (36 inches or 3 feet). In centimeters a yard of fabric is a little over ( 90cm.)

What is fabric width? Answer: fabric width is the width of a roll of fabric from edge to edge or (salvage to salvage) The width of a bolt of fabric usually comes in this popular widths of 36, 45,58, 60 and 70 inches. Now when purchasing fabric to cut your designs or markers you must know what are your rolls of fabric usable widths as some fabrics have borders. Cuttable fabric widths are usually 1-2 inches less than the full width of your fabric depending on how your fabric salvage is finished and if any border or stripe is present at both sides of your roll of fabric.

Stafford Heppenstall
Stafford Heppenstall

December 12, 2017

I’m sorry I have a rudimentary question and I just want a definitive answer, When calculating shrinkage is which way is width and which way is length?

Alejandro Esparza
Alejandro Esparza

October 28, 2017

Thank you Jakir,
Do you mean how torquing was calculated on article: HOW TO: CALCULATE PANTS SPIRALITY PERCENTAGE IN 5 SIMPLE STEPS? [ https://www.smartpatternmaking.com/blogs/pattern-making-news-articles-and-tips-smart-pattern-making-1/how-to-calculate-pants-spirality-percentage-in-5-simple-steps ] if so, what is your question?


October 15, 2017

this is important subject


October 15, 2017

need help from your end Fabric twisting calculation.

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