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No apparel entrepreneur wants the garments they sell to shrink.

Garment shrinkage is one of the biggest and most obvious consumer indicators of poor quality in garments, so it’s no wonder that we want to eliminate it.


But, is SOME shrinkage actually OK? And if so, how much shrinkage is too much?

Listen below as I recap a call I had with apparel entrepreneur “Eric” as he faced that VERY SAME question!


Hi, everyone. Michelle Roberts here with Technical Textile Solutions. I hope you’re well. I just wanted to hop on today to talk with you about the topic of fabric shrinkage. I know that this is a big topic for you. It impacts everything that you do material-wise when you run an apparel business. I’m going to give you some background on a conversation I had with a gentleman about shrinkage last week. I’ll share with you what I told him, how I guided him through his questions, and how the answers apply to you as well.
I spoke with a gentleman last week named Eric and he has a pretty successful startup venture in the apparel space and he was reaching out to me because he had some questions about shrinkage. In the course of the conversation with Eric, we talked about the shrinkage that he was encountering on his product using 100% percent cotton plain woven fabric.
Quality is obviously extremely important to him and he also said he’s been through a lot of issues with his line. He’s had a lot of the “school of hard knocks” lessons learned in the first year of operations, but he’s gearing up for another production run and he’s doing really well. He said-from a quintessential, type-A perspective, he said, “You know, I want the best quality product available to my customers that’s out there, that’s possible and I want … ” He said, “I want to know how to reduce my fabric shrinkage. I want zero percent shrinkage. I don’t want any shrinkage at all. How do I guarantee that?”
I took a step back and I said, “You know, let’s talk about some other things first. Question number one, Eric that I have for you is what’s the current level of shrinkage that you’re experiencing now in your fabric?” Eric said, “You know, I’ve got some test reports I could pull from and I think I’m seeing between three and five percent, probably closer to three percent.”
I said, “Okay. All right, so you’ve got a hundred percent cotton woven fabric, plain woven, hundred percent cotton, you’re seeing about three, five percent shrinkage, Okay. Second question, what are your customers complaining about in terms of, in regards to shrinkage?” Eric said none. He had no complaints from his current customers about his products shrinking. Everybody was happy with it and so I said, “Look, here’s the bottom line on shrinkage, you have a natural woven fabric, hundred percent cotton fabric, you have a product your customers are loving. You’re not having an issue, a customer issue with shrinkage and a three percent to a five percent shrinkage on a natural woven fabric like cotton is pretty darn good, so let’s talk about this.”
I said, “Eric, if you pursue a lower percentage of shrinkage, you can get it, right? You can get anything you want in this industry if you’re willing to pay for it, but if you like the price you’re paying now and you like the profit margin of your product and your customers aren’t complaining, you are leaving money on the table if you pursue this perfection that you feel should exist but that doesn’t really matter.”
What do I mean by that? I mean that first of all, natural woven fabrics are almost impossible to get down to zero percent shrinkage. You may get zero percent shrinkage on a polyester plain woven or a hundred percent polyester plain woven fabric would give you the best possibility for that because your synthetics would shrink less than your natural woven fabrics will, but three percent is pretty good. Considering that you’re dealing with 100% percent cotton plain woven fabric in this example.
That’s the case with natural woven fabrics, and with natural knit fabrics even that are chief value cotton, meaning they’ve got more cotton in them than synthetic. Natural fibers contain a lot of variables, guys. They have a lot of characteristics in them that we cannot control. That means that no matter how well your fabric finishing is controlled, no matter how well your garment finishing is controlled, you will never be able to completely eliminate shrinkage from your fabric. You just can’t and you don’t want to. It’s a tree you don’t want to bark up.
It’s almost like saying, “I want to be sure that every single one of my buttons is the same diameter down to a ten thousandth of an inch.” It’s something that your customers don’t care about, okay? You should be surveying your customers. You should understand why they like your product. What draws them to it? If you’re barking up a tree that’s not going to pay you dividends, or it doesn’t address a customer issue, leave it alone. That was what I told Eric and that’s what I would tell you as well.
Now, three percent shrinkage on a natural woven cotton fabric, that’s where you want to be. If you like the quality of it, the other test results are fine. If you like the profit margin that you get, meaning, you like what you’re paying for the fabric, then leave it alone because you can get zero percent shrinkage, but here’s what’s going to happen. You pay for a thousand yards of fabric and you’ll have to have your fabric manufacturer test every yard or test every ten yards or whatever to guarantee 0% shrinkage. Then you may end up with ten or fifteen yards of fabric that you paid the thousand-yard price for. You see what I mean? You can get anything you want, but you shouldn’t worry about some things.
For natural wovens, three to five percent is normal. The heavier the cotton fabric, the more shrinkage you should expect. Just means simply there’s more to shrink, there’s more material there to be different, there’s more there to change. When you are preshrinking fabric, you can get some reduction in shrinkage when you ask for preshrunk fabric, but do understand that all woven fabrics are processed in an open width form. They’re processed under tension. That means that even if you asked for preshrunk fabric, you’re not giving that fabric the ability to completely relax, which is what pre-shrinking does.
Your preshrink fabric will still have some shrinkage in it, which I’m sure all of you guys are nodding your head saying, “Yes, Michelle. Yes, it does.” That’s why when you have garments that you’re shrinking, you know, if you take a garment and then you’re shrinking it after the fact, it’s definitely going to shrink more.
I hope that helps. I know that that helped Eric and I thought, “You know what, if Eric’s got this question, you guys will too.”
If you’ve got any other questions about shrinkage or comments about shrinkage that you’ve encountered, let me know by just commenting below. Thanks so much. I appreciate your time. Take care. Bye.”

So, I know YOU also have questions in your business…

The “holy crap, I gotta fix this issue with fabric/trims/forecasting/ordering/testing/samples before I can sell ANYTHING” kind of questions.

And I’m here to help.

I help you answer the tough questions like this and a whole lot more in a custom 1-on-1 “Pick my Brain Session”.

For $97, you get instant clarity on material sourcing, testing, or supply issues that are plaguing your business. Stop spinning your wheels and get specific answers and resources that will get you back on track today!

Interested in what a “Pick my Brain Session” looks like, and what you get for that $97?

Click here for more information on the types of questions, clarity, and resources you can gain when you Pick my Brain!