How to Calculate Shrinkage in Fabric: A Comprehensive Guide

Fabric shrinkage is a common concern when working with textiles. It refers to the percentage of reduction in size that occurs when fabric is exposed to certain conditions, such as washing or heat. Calculating shrinkage is crucial for various industries, including fashion, upholstery, and textile manufacturing. In this article, we will explore the process of calculating shrinkage in fabric, step by step.


Fabric shrinkage is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to various factors, such as the type of fiber, yarn structure, fabric construction, and finishing processes. Understanding how to calculate shrinkage in fabric is essential for ensuring proper fitting garments and maintaining quality in textile products.

Understanding Fabric Shrinkage

Fabric shrinkage refers to the change in dimensions that occurs when fabric is subjected to specific conditions, such as moisture, heat, or mechanical forces. It is expressed as a percentage, representing the reduction in size compared to the original dimensions.

Types of Shrinkage

There are three primary types of fabric shrinkage:

Relaxation Shrinkage

Relaxation shrinkage occurs when fabric is exposed to moisture or heat. It happens due to the release of tension within the fabric’s fibers and yarns. Relaxation shrinkage is commonly observed when washing or steaming fabric.

Felting Shrinkage

Felting shrinkage is typical in fabrics made from animal fibers, such as wool. It occurs when the fibers interlock and bind together, resulting in a reduction in size. Felting shrinkage can be controlled by proper handling and care.

Consolidation Shrinkage

Consolidation shrinkage happens during the manufacturing process of certain fabrics. It occurs when the fabric is subjected to heat and pressure, causing the fibers and yarns to compress and reduce in size.

Tools and Equipment Needed

Before calculating fabric shrinkage, you will need the following tools and equipment:

  • Fabric sample
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Sewing machine or serger (optional)
  • Marking pen or tailor’s chalk
  • Scissors
  • Washing machine or tub
  • Dryer or flat surface for air-drying
  • Iron and ironing board

Preparing the Fabric Sample

To calculate fabric shrinkage accurately, it is crucial to prepare a fabric sample. Follow these steps:

  • Cut a square or rectangular piece of fabric, at least 10 inches by 10 inches.
  • If necessary, finish the fabric edges using a sewing machine or serger to prevent fraying.
  • Mark one corner of the fabric sample for future reference.

Measuring the Original Dimensions

Before subjecting the fabric to shrinkage, measure and record the original dimensions of the fabric sample. Use a ruler or tape measure to measure the length and width of the fabric sample in inches or centimeters. Record these measurements for later use.

Subjecting the Fabric to Shrinkage

Depending on the desired conditions, there are various methods to subject the fabric to shrinkage. The most common methods include washing, steaming, or exposing the fabric to heat.

Measuring the Final Dimensions

After subjecting the fabric to shrinkage, allow it to dry completely. Once dry, measure the length and width of the fabric sample using a ruler or tape measure. Record these measurements.

Calculating Shrinkage Percentage

To calculate the shrinkage percentage, use the following formula:

  • Shrinkage Percentage = ((Original Dimension – Final Dimension) / Original Dimension) * 100
  • Apply this formula to both the length and width measurements separately. The average of these two percentages will give you the overall shrinkage percentage.

Factors Affecting Shrinkage

Several factors can influence fabric shrinkage, including:

  • Fiber type: Different fibers have varying levels of natural or inherent shrinkage.
  • Yarn structure: The way yarns are spun and twisted can affect how much a fabric will shrink.
  • Fabric construction: The weave or knit structure of a fabric can impact shrinkage.
  • Finishing processes: Certain finishes, such as pre-shrinking treatments, can minimize shrinkage.

Preventing Shrinkage

While it may not be possible to eliminate fabric shrinkage entirely, some preventive measures can be taken:

  • Pre-wash and pre-shrink fabric before cutting and sewing.
  • Follow fabric care instructions to avoid excessive shrinkage.
  • Opt for fabrics with minimal inherent shrinkage.
  • Use appropriate interfacings or stabilizers to control shrinkage in specific areas.

Importance of Knowing Shrinkage Percentage

Knowing the shrinkage percentage of fabric is crucial for several reasons:

  • Garment fitting: Understanding shrinkage helps in determining the appropriate size to cut and sew.
  • Quality control: Manufacturers can ensure consistent sizing and avoid production issues.
  • Product development: Shrinkage information assists in designing and developing new textile products.
  • Customer satisfaction: Providing accurate size charts and care instructions improves customer experience.

Applications of Shrinkage Calculations

The calculations of fabric shrinkage find applications in various industries, including:

  • Apparel manufacturing: To ensure consistent sizing and proper garment fit.
  • Upholstery: To estimate fabric requirements and minimize issues after installation.
  • Textile testing: To evaluate the performance and quality of different fabric samples.
  • Research and development: To study the behavior of fabrics under different conditions.


Calculating shrinkage in fabric is an important aspect of working with textiles. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can accurately measure and calculate the shrinkage percentage of fabric samples. Understanding fabric shrinkage helps in achieving better fitting garments, maintaining quality in textile products, and making informed decisions in various industries.

FAQs on Fabric Shrinkage

  1. Can all fabrics shrink?

    Not all fabrics shrink. The degree of shrinkage depends on factors like fiber type, yarn structure, and fabric construction.

  2. Is it necessary to pre-wash fabric before sewing?

    Pre-washing fabric helps to minimize future shrinkage. It is recommended, especially for garments that will be washed frequently.

  3. How can I control shrinkage in my fabric?

    To control shrinkage, follow fabric care instructions, pre-shrink the fabric before sewing, and choose fabrics with minimal inherent shrinkage.

  4. What are the common causes of fabric shrinkage? 

    Fabric shrinkage can be caused by exposure to moisture, heat, or mechanical forces during washing, steaming, or pressing.

  5. Can fabric shrinkage be reversed?

    Once fabric has undergone shrinkage, it is challenging to reverse the process. Prevention is key in minimizing shrinkage

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He is Abu Sayed, the founder of the blog site Textile Apex. He is a Textile Engineer having eight years plus practical experience in the Textile and Clothing industries. With a deep love for fashion and a keen eye for detail, he combines his creative flair with extensive knowledge to offer insightful and engaging content to his readers.
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2 thoughts on “How to Calculate Shrinkage in Fabric: A Comprehensive Guide

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