Should You Wash Your Fabric Before Quilting?


To pre-wash or not to pre-wash – that is the question of every quilter. It’s a topic of hot debate, and every quilter has their own opinion about whether you should wash your fabric before quilting or sewing.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. It comes down to your personal preferences and goals. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of the debate.

Should You Wash Your Fabric Before Quilting? Maybe

Quilters who prefer to pre-wash their fabrics have their reasons. In fact, there are some very real benefits to washing your fabric first.

Pre-washing can do many things, such as:

Help Prevent Color Bleeding After the Quilt is Finished

Color fastness is a concern for any quilter. Pre-washing helps ensure that the colors in your fabric won’t bleed into other parts the quilt.

The last thing you want is for that pretty red border to leave streaks of pink on your white background.

When working with rich colored fabric, it’s generally better to err on the side of caution and wash your fabric first.

Ensure Your Fabric is Clean and Less Wrinkly

Technically, pressing can take care of the wrinkles, but washing your fabric can also help with this tedious process. Washing will also get rid of embedded folds that can make piecing tricky.

If you purchased fabric that’s been sitting in the factory or warehouse for a while, it might need a good cleaning.

Pre-washing helps you get started with a clean slate, so to speak.

Deals with Shrinkage Now Rather Than Later

Many types of fabric shrink in the wash, especially cotton. Washing your fabric first allows the fabric to shrink now rather than later when you’ve completed your project.

When you wash your quilt in the future, you don’t have to worry about shrinkage potentially changing your design or the overall look and feel of the quilt.

Helps Get Rid of Chemicals

If you or anyone who will use the quilt has sensitive skin, pre-washing is a good idea. Most fabrics are treated with chemicals in the factory, and those chemicals can cause skin irritation.

If skin sensitivity is a concern, pre-wash. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Tips for Pre-Washing Your Quilting Fabric

If you decide that pre-washing is the right choice for you, here are a few tips:

  • Wash with like colors or alone.
  • You can use a mild detergent, but avoid using fabric softener.
  • After washing, use a good pair fabric scissors to clip away frayed threads.
  • Use a medium setting on your dryer and avoid over-drying.
  • Your fabric should be slightly damp when you take it out of the dryer.
  • Iron your fabric immediately after taking it out of the dryer.
  • Finally, consider using starch when pressing to add stiffness and make it easier to make accurate cuts.

Pre-washing is usually a good idea if you have fabric with especially vibrant or rich colors. Yes, it takes time, but it will prevent those rich colors from bleeding into other colors on the quilt.

A Few Things to Consider

Many quilters are in the pre-washing camp, but there are just as many who skip this step. Before you dive in and start pre-washing your quilting fabric, there are a few important things you should know.

You Shouldn’t Wash Pre-Cuts

Pre-cuts, Fat Quarters or any smaller pieces of fabric shouldn’t be washed. Why? Because these pieces are small and delicate, the edges can easily fray and unravel.

Unraveling can change the shape of the fabric, so it’s no longer a perfect square or a Fat Quarter.

If you’re going to pre-wash, stick to larger cuts of fabric.

Color Fastness Isn’t as Big of an Issue with Quilting Cotton

Manufacturers of quilting cotton fabrics are well aware of color fastness concerns and have come a long way in tackling this problem. They check for color fastness several times throughout the manufacturing process to ensure that their dyes are completely set before their fabrics head out the door.

If you’re still worried about color fastness and don’t want to pre-wash your fabric, use a color catcher. You can easily find them in the laundry detergent aisle. If your quilt has saturated colors, then you definitely want to throw in a color catcher sheet just to be on the safe side.

Shrinkage can Give Your Finished Quilt a Crinkly Look

If you’re a fan of the crinkly, cozy look, then you may want to skip the washing stage. When you eventually wash your quilt, the fabric will pull away from the stitching as it shrinks, creating that crinkly look that so many quilters adore.

The crinkly look may not be ideal for art quilts and other purposes. In this case, make sure that you wash your fabric first to shrink the fabric before you start working with it.

Time is a Precious

Time is a valuable resource that you can’t get back. Skipping the pre-washing step will undoubtedly save you time and allow you to dive right into a project.

To pre-wash or not to pre-wash? It’s totally up to you. Consider the purpose of your quilt, your personal preferences and your time. If you love a crinkly, cozy bed quilt and plan to use light colors, you may not need to prewash your fabric. On the other hand, if you prefer a neat, clean and flat quilt, the pre-washing can prevent the fabric from shrinking and crinkling in the process. As for color fastness, it’s up to you whether to take the risk of color stains.

3 thoughts on “Should You Wash Your Fabric Before Quilting?”

  1. Hello nice to meet you. I am wanting to buy a fabric cutting machine. I just need it for fabric , I’m not doing other crafts. Would like to see a demo Very excited to get a cutting machine. Thanks Lynn

  2. I received a gyspy gripper as a gift and I have a wonderful ruler but my gripper won’t grip it. It is exactly like the one at the quilt shop and hers grips perfectly.. what is the problem?

  3. I have a question. I have a quilt I bought from someone 20 years ago. The thread is starting to come out. The top colors match material. The bottom is all white. Can repair this quilt without taking it apart?


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