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8 Top Reasons Why Quilters Don't Need to Prewash

Jackie Vujcich art quilt BOM fabric bleeding fabric panels fabric shrinking panels prewash fabric

8 Top Reasons Why Quilters Don't Need to Prewash Fabric by Colorado Creations Quilting
A blog series on pre-washing quilt fabric:

Reasons why not to prewash

  1. You don't want your precuts' size to change.  Precuts (jelly rolls, charm packs, layer cakes, fabric panels etc.) will unravel or get distorted and no longer be the standard size due to shrinking if the fabric is prewashed. (If you’re a “prewasher” I suggest hand washing in the sink.  I didn't and now this 42-piece charm pack now measures 4 3/4" x 5".)

    Prewashed precuts shrunk after washing by Colorado Creations Quilting 

    FREEBIE-  BTW, I am giving this (prewashed) charm pack.  I'll choose a person from the 1st 50 people that sign up for my newsletter and mention that you saw this in the post!
  2. You want to be able to use the kit you purchased.  Kits, including block-of-the-months (BOMs),               

      Colorful Columbine Quilt Kit by Colorado Creations Quilting 

    generally do not have much more fabric than what is required to complete the pattern (yes, even mine-they will be on soon).  So, if you pre-wash, the pieces might shrink enough so that you won’t be able to cut that 4 ½” square called for in the quilt pattern.
  3. You want to keep the sizing in the fabric to aid with cutting and sewing the fabric. (This is my one personal exception to prewashing fabric.  I don’t prewash fabric when I am making or teaching a One Block Wonder or Stack N’ Whack-type quilt or class where I need that crispness to make fussy cuts.)  If you don’t know what a fussy cut is, check out my upcoming tutorial to investigate “Fussy cut, Messy cut, Confetti cut - What’s the Difference?” 
  4. You don’t want to deal with fabric that frays with prewashing.  If you find that you do end up having to wash, to minimize the fraying you can treat the fabric’s edges with one of these methods: use pinking shears, serge or zigzag the raw edges prior to prewashing the fabric.
  5. You want your “rag quilt” to fray, you will need to make the quilt and then wash the completed project to get the soft rag quilt look.  Generally, if your project isn’t intended to be a rag quilt, I’d definitely suggest to prewash flannel because of the fact that flannel does fray / shrink excessively.
  6. You don't want to wash your art quilts or wall hangings. These types of quilts generally don’t get "wear and tear" and therefore don’t need pre-washing.  Yes, but read step 3 under the Reasons to Prewash section first.

    Art Quilt picturing a group of aspen trees in the woods by Colorado Creations Quilting

  7. You don't want to wait to start that next quilt or craft project.  Just too eager to start  and don't have time to prewash!  OK, I get this one.
  8. You don't want to spend time ironing after prewashing the fabric. For those that hate to iron - Get a MANGLE!  (I really love this thing!)

                                  Image of a Mangle ironing machine by Colorado Creations Quilting  

    See Part 1 of this blog series to find out more about mangles.

    Quilty Quote:          Quote: “No day in which you learn something is a complete loss.”  by  David Eddings

    Well that's my two cents’ worth and I'm sticking to it!

    Tune in to my next blog post to discover solutions like Retayne and Synthrapol and a helpful colorfast test.  Also, if you missed the other side of the debate check out part 1 of this blog series.  

    Let me know if you prewash fabric or not and why. Do you have a compelling reason to either wash or not that I haven’t addressed here?  Comment below and feel free to share this blog post (or my web site) with others

    Until next time, Happy Quilting,

    Jackie V (‘cuz my computer hasn’t learned how to spell Vujcich)

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  • MaryAnn Mindbender on

    Just want to say how many memories from my childhood jumped up when I saw the quilt with the
    quaking aspens hanging on the fence. reminds me of all the summers I spent on Pinion Mesa in Mesa County, Colorado.
    It is beautiful. And I learned something regarding prewashing at the same time .

  • Jackie on

    I HEAR you Linda about pre-cuts bleeding. If you can’t tell by now my blog posts (3 in all) about pre-washing fabric before quilting-I lean toward being in the pre-wash camp. Thing is that when you wash pre-cuts in addition to helping the bleeding problem you also get shrinkage and possibly distortion of the pre-cut. I have 5" charm squares that shrunk to 4 1/2" after washing and usually my 2 1/2" jelly roll strips shrink to 2" by the time you have to clean up all the edges. Now if you can find a way to make a pattern work with the small pre-cut pieces all is good. I guess if that isn’t satisfying for you, maybe stay away from pre-cuts and cut your own-I do (most of the time)! Jackie

  • Jackie on

    Hi Marie,
    Replying to your question about wether pre-washing gets rid of chemicals in the fabric. It sure does. Did you know that many people are allergic to those chemicals (or at least have an intollerance to them). By pre-washing, it insures that having a newly-made quilt won’t be problematic for people like this. It may be a good idea to pre-wash before starting a quilt if you are gifting the quilt (friends, charity, etc.) as you may not know if they have allergies or intollerances to these chemicals. It may be clear from my comment that I pre-wash fabric. You can read more in one of my related blog posts “8 Top Reasons Why Quilters Should Prewash”,

  • Linda Owen on

    I’ve bought lots of pre-cut fabric from Missouri Star… beautiful stuff! However, I am mystified by message after message saying that modern fabrics don’t bleed. I always like to have a lot of white or cream colored in the background of my patterns. When I washed the quilt I made for my grandson, the purple bled so much, I thought it was ruined. I used color catchers…they caught a lot of color, but there was just so much left.
    I soaked it overnight in Dawn liquid and rinsed it about eight or 10 times and it got better and better…most of the bleeding was gone, but a faint shadow remained.
    I have made five quilts using those strips, and four of them bled, although some of them were mild, and none as bad as the first one. I buy fabric, pre-wash it and cut it now but I wish I could buy the strips…they are so beautiful and so convenient!

  • Marie on

    Doesn’t pre-washing get rid of chemicals used in making fabric?

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