Prewashing Fabric for Quilting

By Mary Covey

Fabric Pre-wash or Not?

To prewash fabric or not to prewash was the subject of my last post. It’s pretty easy if you decide not to prewash your fabric – you just cut and sew. But what if you decide to prewash? Are there any tips that can make prewashing results better? Here are just a few tips that I have learned that have helped me.

  1. Separate fabrics into lights, mediums, and darks just like your regular laundry.
  2. Before washing a color group, make a few small (1/4″) snips along the selvage edges of each piece of fabric. This will keep the selvage from shrinking up tighter than the rest of the fabric.
  3. Wash fabric in small loads, using a mild detergent that has no bleach additives.
  4. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets. These will make it difficult for the fabric to accept other processes easily such as fusible webbing or fusible interfacing.
  5. If you are worried about a dark-colored fabric bleeding even after you have washed it, it might be wise to do a colorfastness test before using that fabric. To do the test, cut a 2″ square of the dark fabric and place it on a bowl of hot water along with a 2″ square of light-colored fabric and swish. Check the light-colored fabric. If the light fabric picks up the darker color, you will need to wash the dark fabric repeatedly until the water runs clear.
  6. There are professional products that help set the dyes in fabric. They are usually sold at your local quilt shop or fabric store. If a fabric continues to bleed after using one of these products it would be wise not to use it in your project.
  7. Dry fabric on low heat. Neatly fold the fabric immediately out of the dryer. There is no need to press the fabric at this point. Place the fabric in your stash. The fabric can be pressed when you are ready to use.

These are just a few tips that have helped me prewash my fabric. I would enjoy hearing your tips. Happy quilting.

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Fabric Prewash or Not?

Fabric Pre-wash or Not?

By Mary Covey

Should I prewash my fabric or not? Nothing can stir up more heated debates with quilters than this subject. Every quilter has an opinion on the subject. And guess what? They are all correct. The truth is there is no right or wrong answer to the question. It is all up to the individual quilter. Each choice comes with some pros and cons that you will have to consider when deciding which you will do.

Those in favor of prewashing their fabric enjoy the idea that this will maintain the fabrics  colorfastness. Prewashing also preshrinks the fabric. These have certainly been valid concerns in the past. The fabric processing and dying procedures have seen many advancements over the past 10-15 years. So these two concerns are somewhat less valid. The biggest advantage to prewashing is in the pliability and feel of the fabric. Fabrics with heavy sizing and painted designs are difficult to quilt both by hand and machine.  A quick prewash can help eliminate some future problems.

On the other side of the debate are quilters who prefer not to prewash. They enjoy the crisp feel of the fabric fresh from the store. Many of these quilters believe the fabric is easier to cut and stitch with because the sizing helps the fabric retain its shape. The decision may also be based on the desire to have an old fashioned look for the quilt when it is completed. When the fabric and batting are not prewashed before quilting, then the finished quilt is washed, they all shrink together giving the quilt that crinkled old fashioned look.

As a machine quilter, I believe in both points of view. I love the look that a quilt gets when nothing has been prewashed until the quilt is finished. The quilt appears to have been around forever and has a soft, soothing feel.  But not prewashing fabric can cause lots of tension issues and skipped stitches because of heavy sizing or painted designs on the fabric.  When fabric is prewashed it is much easier to quilt both by hand and machine, giving you a nice tight stitch.

Ultimately the choice is yours. Pick the look you want and get busy quilting.

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