Ponte Knit Warning

Now we all love ponte knits…they are easy to cut, easy to sew and conform to our bodies and normally the fabric is easy care depending on the content.

Well during my little January break from the brides I bought 3 knits from a famous supplier and pre-shrunk them in cool water and cool dryer. I have been doing this since polyester double knits came out in the late 60’s but never had such a result.

My order was for one yard of each color, two being 59 inches wide and one being 55 inches wide which is just enough to make the leggings I made last year after I added the side panels. So with my knit ironed and flattened out and stacked with the folded edges together I measured length and width.


The grey rayon/nylon/elastane shrunk from 55 inches wide to 52 and from 36 inches in length to 34. The magenta rayon/nylon/spandex shrunk from 36 inches in length to 32 and no shrinkage in width. The hot pink rayon/nylon/spandex shrunk from 36 inches in length to 30 and nothing in the width.

OK, so is this a big deal? How about if you place the paper pattern on top and check out the length for the legs?


Can you see that the pink and magenta leggings will be way shorter? Next time I have a remedy for this but in the meantime I wrote to the owner to point out the shortened fabrics. I did not ask for replacement fabrics or a refund or anything, just that she be aware that this happened from her cutting table or the pre-shrinking. Maybe I never was given the full 36 inches since I did not measure right out of the package (lesson learned!)

Her response was quick:

Thank you for letting us know about the difficulty you’re having with your knit fabrics. Our policy when cutting all of our fabrics, but especially the knits, is to cut an inch more than the yardage ordered to allow the fabric to relax after being unrolled. Our cutting room staff works with the knits very carefully, measuring along both sides at the selvedge to ensure an even cut.We do not have any additional yardage available to send you, and you haven’t asked for that. We have created a gift certificate for you to use on your next order, for $10 off your purchase. 

And my response was: I did rinse them in cold water and dry on low setting but it is normal for the pink and/or magenta to shrink 6 inches in 1 yard? If this is a factor maybe this should be stated as a warning so we can buy a little extra allowing for that? If someone ordered say 2 yards for a dress, then it would also shrink 6 inches per yard and you would end up with 12 inches too short…scary isn’t it?
Thank you for the $10 off certificate, you never know what the future holds.

So dear readers, I am warning you about this fabric content:

Rayon/Nylon/Spandex and you may want to order more if you are making something that requires a specific amount and 17% shrinkage is not your bag. Imagine if I had cut the leggings first and then washed them…HOLY WEDGIE! HOLY CAMEL TOE!

Before I go I wanted to share a photo of my client Nancy’s latest scarf…on her body you could not get the full effect of the design:scarf

Isn’t it wonderful?

Next time I have the completed Katherine Tilton jacket for Nancy ready for her, all lined and looking pretty darn wonderful with over 100 photos taken in the process on my Pinterest page.

With the sewing room back up and running and 15 brides already booked in it feels like another busy season! Happy sewing everyone and remember to measure first and then pre-shrink!

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55 Responses to Ponte Knit Warning

  1. Laura says:

    First, I’m thrilled that ponte now comes in something other than polyester, which makes me feel smothered and ill. Second: Rayon shrinks. Always has. My mother tells of the time she rinsed a rayon suit in cold water and it shrank drastically, but she steam pressed it and wore it again. It shrank more the 2nd time. I’m pretty sure that had she continued washing it, she would have had doll clothes.

    • mrsmole says:

      Doll clothes…good one, Laura! The old rayons were prone to shrinking both lengthwise and width wise and it was funny that the rayon knits that shrunk the most lengthwise did not really reduce width wise…once they become leggings they will get a workout in the sewing room and time will tell.

  2. Angela says:

    1) Eyes popping out of my head… wow! I kid you not, I read not that long ago that one did not need to bother prewashing knits because they don’t shrink like woven fabric. I had no idea that knits could shrink that much. Lesson well-learned after reading your post.
    2) Definitely laughed out loud at the thought of the resulting camel toe…. but if you want to laugh, I had no idea what that term even meant until a few months ago.
    3) What a unique scarf – quite delightful!
    4) Again, love reading your blog.

  3. Jacqui Hooper says:

    Oh dear but a very timely warning for those of us that get a little casual about pre-washing- camel toe indeedy. I have been reluctant to sew anything with ponte as the pilling that some produce after one or two wearings after all that time sewing it is frustrating.

  4. stella says:

    Where oh where can I find a scarf like that?

  5. Miss Celie says:

    I bought two knits recently. I normally don’t bother with poly knits. But, these were two beefy cotton knits. I am so very glad I washed and dried them twice. Whew.

    • mrsmole says:

      Cotton is a killer and it continues to shrink throughout its lifetime…after all it too is a vegetable fiber like rayon. Your last knit top was so pretty!

  6. Tia Dia says:

    Hmmmm… I’ve never had rayon knits shrink a full six inches. That is extremely suspicious, in my mind. Good grief. Love the bright colours, btw, and that crocodile scarf is gorgeous.

  7. BeaJay says:

    Oh Mrs Mole. Thank you for the kick up the rear. When I started sewing 3 years ago I ALWAYS pre-washed / shrunk my fabric. I have become very lazy the last year and haven’t pre-washed – I have been lucky so far but haven’t yet washed the ponte dress I just sewed….. Oops.

  8. mrsmole says:

    My advice is always to treat your fabric BEFORE cutting like you will treat it AFTER. So glad I did it this time. I sometimes think Poly knit is safe to cut but you never know what is lurking in with it…ha ha! Makes you wonder how when you buy RTW rayon tops, they are fine after washing…they must wash the devil out of them beforehand?

  9. Janee Connor says:

    This is exactly why I never put any rayon in the dryer, no matter the temperature setting. I feel it’s safe to line dry, and if it’s a knit, to lay it flat if possible – or at least draped over a drying rack. Too bad this happened, but thanks for sharing your experience.

    • mrsmole says:

      Living in the Pacific Northwest line drying all my rayon clothes is just not possible nor lying flat…where does one find that kind of space for multiple garments? It would have to look like a food dehydrator…ha ha… with airing racks and even then the knit would have marks on it from the hard surfaces. If a knit cannot hold up in a low setting dryer, it certainly cannot hold up when our summer temps go over 100…plants and pants have to be tough here and after days and days of bending and sitting on the floor pinning up hems…neither the pants nor my butt is a pretty sight!

  10. fabrickated says:

    Hmm. Rayon is in a class of its own. I have found with knit it shrinks loads when wet, but does stretch back again after gentle drying and during wear.

    I am not a great ponte lover in any event, but this story is pretty shocking. I often measure what I have been sold and generally find the cutting is generous just to be sure that they don’t sell a short measure, but I am not a religious wash-before-you- cut. Naughty I know. But not as naughty as Mrs Mole with a camel toe….

  11. mrsmole says:

    OK Kate…we are not going there….erase that vision from your mind! I was hoping the nylon in the fabric would act as shape wear and hold in the fat bits…fingers crossed!

  12. Graca says:

    After my experience with ponte you couldn’t get me to take it for free. I found it pilled a crazy amount shortly after wearing it. Never again. I basically avoid rayon at all costs. Beautiful colours though.

    • mrsmole says:

      So sorry to hear that Graca, there are different fiber combinations that probably pill more easily. If I had the time and desire I would cut up small squares of different ponte and wash them, dry them and measure and then rub them to see which looks the best and worst after some wearing. But as I have 15 brides waiting in the wings, I will pass on this experiment…anyone else may choose to try this out though? The prices vary a lot too from some at a crazy price of $5 up to $49…and does price reflect performance??? Does anyone know? Maybe Carolyn knows more as she uses it so much for her work wear. Hey Carolyn…are you there?

      • Carolyn says:

        I do wash and dry my pontes before using them, however, and this is what I remind everyone of, my wears are so infrequent because I own a lot of clothes. I’ve only had one piece in the last year that came out of the prewash looking worse than going in. Although it did photograph beautifully, The Bubble Dress. My suggestion is to refrain from using ponte if you know the garment is going to get a lot of wear.

  13. robindrush says:

    Another reminder for me to pre-wash my fabric as soon as I get it. #1 to check for flaws (I ordered 5 yards of fabric once and didn’t find out it was flawed until 2 years later when I went to use it); #2 to check the yardage; #3 to allow for shrinkage. I rarely order exact amounts, but if I get shrinkage, it might change my sewing plan. Sorry for your mishap, Mrs. Mole. This is a teachable moment for all of us.

  14. prttynpnk says:

    ‘We don’t have any additional yardage and you haven’t asked for that-‘ that is some odd verbage!
    I’m very covetous of that scarf….

    • mrsmole says:

      Nice way of saying….don’t even think about asking for a refund either…I didn’t want anything but for them to see the photo and realize that I’m not the only unhappy customer if they don’t put a warning out saying, “may shrink beyond 10%, might want to buy a little more”…That scarf is nice but the whole design is lost when it is wrapped around your neck…it needs to be trailing behind you so all can see!!!!

  15. SJ Kurtz says:

    Rayon is my favorite fabric, and it always shrinks A Lot. I am always shocked when I don’t get a full 10% shrink from it.
    The big surprise recently was the amount of shrink I got on a POLY crepe de chine from Spoonflower. Lost about two inches a yard in length, almost two in width. Not a crepe-y crepe, either.
    I will learn from your misfortune. Thanks for taking one for the team.

    And all happy brides to you this year!

  16. thewallinna says:

    I usually give my knits the harshest treatment possible before sewing: hot wash and hot dry.

    • Carolyn says:

      Me too! If it can’t make it through a tough prewash it will be too delicate for real life!

    • mrsmole says:

      I have done that with others in the past, if you torture them first then there are no surprises later. But this time I was nicer and so glad I was otherwise they might have shrunk so much there was not enough of the yard to make anything but a cover for an iPad!

  17. JustGail says:

    yeeeks! I best be mending my recent ways of putting unlaundered fabric into the stash – unless I’ve zig-zagged or serged the ends, I might not remember what’s been through the wringer, so to speak. I used to wash them right after buying, why did I get lazy? And no special treatment like low dryer temperature, or hang to dry – I’m not always the one who does the laundry, so all the fabrics need to handle whatever it might get put through.

    • mrsmole says:

      All my stash fabrics have been pre-shrunk, and serged on the edges so I know if they are ready…I even attach a scrap of paper with the fiber content and price I paid…call me crazy, but if I need to use any fabrics, like linings for a client, at least i know what to charge. Laundry is laundry…2 settings, warm or hot…they have survive either one! Good for you, Gail!

  18. Summerflies says:

    I love rayon too. I know it shrinks up but the feel, the drape, the way the wrinkles drop out. I haven’t used any rayon knit yet (I did just get some Australian designer stuff about a week ago). I’ll remember to wash it a few times now.

  19. I have only been pre washing my fabrics to get any shrinking out of the way for a few years but it is a habit I am glad to have developed. So sad to see your fabric shrinking so spectacularly Mrs Mole.

  20. June says:

    Welcome back, Mrs Mole! Hope you are feeling well rested.

    I just bought a couple of rayon blend knits. The plan is to machine wash and dry 2 times; after cutting, machine wash and line dry. Fingers crossed that I don’t regret the decision! I tend to buy way more than I need because I do stupid things like cut 2 right sleeves or serge a hole into a bad place. Whatever’s left becomes fabric for test garments.

    • mrsmole says:

      You are a wise woman, June…if it all goes haywire and shrinks too much I know you have some darling girls who would wear the fabrics! Fingers crossed for you!

  21. jay says:

    Can you squeeze a yoke out of the bits at the side of the pattern, or some ankle cuffs? Annoying.

  22. Susie says:

    I am always shocked when I read that someone skips the pretreatment. Even with poly or fleece, because at the very least you want to wash out any sizing or other chemicals that may have been applied. Although I am shocked to hear about ponte shrinking so much. I only buy the rayon ponte, because I can’t stand the feel of poly. One shrunk a bit (and pilled like mad), the others didn’t shrink much and have hardly pillled at all. By the way, I rarely dry my clothes in a dryer, because that increases the chance of pilling, but I’m sure the wearing and the washing does the most damage. I have had rayon wovens shrink a lot, and they do continue to shrink, just like cotton.

  23. mrsmole says:

    The other reason why fabrics should be pre-washed is for the final result. I had some lovely boucle type fabrics a while back that were perfect for fun vests. I pre-soaked them in a sink full of cool water and in the end, whatever glue was used to keep all the fibers together released the yarns, and all I had was a clump of colored yarn at the bottom of the sink…there were 3 different ones and all three released the glue and whoosh…yarn balls. If I had sewn with them can you imagine what that would have looked like with the first hand washing? Sometimes one color will run more than another and if it is a dominant design, you may find the brightness is now gone all dull and would only be good as a lining or dog bed…in the end it is a turkey shoot if you don’t pre-shrink in some way for questionable fabrics.The smell of formaldehyde and sizing is nasty too, Susie and I am glad you mentioned it!!!

  24. symondezyn says:

    That is super interesting to know! I have had experience with rayon shrinking quite a bit, so perhaps it is the amount of rayon in the fabric which makes the difference? In any case, it would definitely be good for them to mention it in the listing, so you could purchase more if needed. After all, who dry-cleans ponte? definitely not me – the whole point of working with knits is easy wear/easy care! LOL

    • mrsmole says:

      They have written back to me and said they will do their own tests and welcomed my suggestions so all is good. It could be the ratio of rayon to nylon…who knows but it is best to be forewarned!

  25. accordion3 says:

    I always pre-wash fabrics too, using more brutal treatment than the finished garment will receive. I wasn’t happy with my only ponte experience. It was a poly & too hot for me to wear at work, plus it piled a bit, and I hated the (trousers) pattern I used. However it did not shrink!

  26. Thank you for the information! And that scarf is quite unique!

  27. Morgan says:

    A fully fledged advocate of fabric torture on warm or hot settings – l lessons learnt the hard way of course.
    On the other hand with RTW I’m nigh on OCD with the care instructions. Occasionally I buy RTW if it’s something a bit different and I’m unlikely to be able to make something similar. I carefully handwashed (remind me that I never buy handwash) a knit dress with with interwoven strips on the front panel made from a knit with rayon content. The distortion from uneven shrinkage across the length and width of the interwoven knitted strips is heartbreaking and to add insult to injury it’s been worn only 4 times and is pilling! Another lesson learnt again – take care if flirting with RTW.

    Making mistakes and discoveries is how we learn, I just wish they were new mistakes.

    Thanks for the timely reminder to launder these fabrics more than once,
    Great Scarf

  28. Rose in SV says:

    Thank you for the alert! Those pictures speak a thousand words.

  29. Anne says:

    Trying to follow you on Pinterest. Can’t find you as Mrs Mole or Fitforaqueen. what to follow?

  30. barb bachmann says:

    HOLY CAMEL TOE MRSMOLE, You crack me up!! Almost makes me want to sew clothing again, think I’ll stick to quilts!

  31. CarmencitaB says:

    I don’t like ponte all that much and this confirms my thoughts. it also doesn’t react well to ironing and my latest ponte make piles like mad, so whenever I’m tempted by that handle and those colours, I try to remember the time spent and the unweareability of the said garment.

  32. EasilyAmewsed says:

    I’m surprised at this shrinkage for I thought having the blend would prevent it. I always ‘cook’ my fabrics before sewing anyway, but dang… Interested in seeing your solution to getting a full legging out of these pieces.
    That is an awesome looking scarf.

  33. mimijackson says:

    It is hard to know if fabric will shrink, or whether I want to make the time/care investment in washing in specific ways to avoid shrinkage… so I always buy PLENTY extra! I have fabric leftovers galore, but they absolutely come in handy when I redesign, fix or change things!

  34. Pingback: Ponte Pants Success | fit for a queen

  35. Laura Marston says:

    Dear Mrs. Mole:
    I have worn and loved Rayon for years because it is very comfortable. 100% Rayon Woven garments I machine wash and hang dry because Rayon is fragile when wet. Rayon Ponte knit are new to me this year and I pre-wash and dry on low. So far no big problems, so I appreciate your warning post.

    Your experience reminds me of a favorite saying. “See this as a creative opportunity! It will be more fun but still a lesson learned.

    I do have a suggestion, how about color blocking some leggings so your end result is a more comfortable length. But I dye or paint my underwear so…

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