Prewashing Fabric

With your design and fabric chosen, prewashing fabric is going to be the next decision you need to make.


To prewash or not to prewash? This question has been much debated over the years. There are many people who never prewash fabric, and there are just as many people that always prewash fabric. It is such a debated topic that some quilters become very passionate about their view & are super keen to pass on their opinions.


I personally don't prewash my fabrics. Instead I only buy quality fabrics from reputable suppliers. Most high quality fabrics are also less likely to have colour bleeding because of manufacturing advances.


My advice is to do whatever you are most comfortable doing. You'll develop your own preferences for prewashing as you work with fabrics and construct your quilts. Ask other quilters for their opinions on fabric care, listen to what they say, then experiment to determine which techniques work best for you. I hope the following information helps you to make an educated decision.


Photo courtesy of Tony Hisgett

Reasons to Prewash

  1.  to avoid a lot of worry regarding colour bleeding, fading, and uneven shrinkage
  2. to control shrinkage especially if your quilt uses fabrics from different manufacturers
  3. to minimize color bleeding
  4. to remove potential irritants such as sizing and other chemical coatings that might cause allergic reactions in chemically sensitive people

Reasons Not to Prewash

  1. to save time
  2. to skip a lot of ironing after the fabric comes out of the drier
  3. to make preparation easier as unwashed fabric is easier to fold, mark, and cut accurately
  4. to avoid puckering from the fabrics being softer
  5. to maintain colour brightness


Golden Rule - (prewashing fabric or not)

The Golden Rule whether you decide to prewash or not prewash all your fabrics, is to be consistent. Either prewash all your fabrics, or don't prewash at all. Now that is what all the research says but I'm going to throw a wee spanner in the works here.


I have at times used a mix of pre-washed and not pre-washed fabrics in the same quilt and have been very pleasantly surprised by the outcome. In fact I totally forgot about this as being an issue long ago. But that is my personal view and not one that I am recommending you take on without first experimenting for yourself!


Great! With that decision made you are now ready to stabilize backing fabric for your applique project.



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