Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To wash or not to wash fabrics, that is the question

To wash, or not to wash, that is the question. Whether it be nobler. . . .
I was recently asked if we should wash our fabrics before we start to make the quilt or not. While my shop was opened, that was probably the most discussed subject that came up. This was my answer:

"I never pre-wash my fabric. It changes it. I learned to be a seamstress with clothes before quilting. We always pre-washed the fabric, because you did not want the item to shrink after it was made.

I understand most people pre-wash quilt fabric to keep it from running and to take out the sizing, which used to be done with formaldehyde. Now it is not done with that chemical. Granted the fabric does have chemicals in it when it is new. Most people turn around and put the chemicals back in with sizing after washing. So you are adding a step that is not needed, plus it never looks the same. As far as running goes, most good quality quilt shop fabric does not run. There are several color fast sheets you can put in when you do wash the quilt that will capture any runs if there is a need.

When you wash small pieces like what you are getting in BOM cuts, you wind up with warped fabric and hard to make it fit the needed dimensions. I cannot tell you exactly what to do. I will tell you I do not pre-wash it. But again, I do not pre-wash any fabric for quilts.

So after answering the question, I decided to see what others have said on this subject. Here are a few links where you can read more about the subject:


The link above does make a good point. Many people wash their quilts after making them and before they are sent to that loved one. When washing after their are quilted, it makes the quilt look totally different - more used looking. Many people love that look and do not pre-wash, but post-wash instead. Again personal preference.

Connecting Threads makes the point that all must be aware of. That is to not share pre-washed and not pre-washed fabrics in the same quilt. It will make for some unusal looks after the quilt is washed again. So if you are going to pre-wash your fabrics, pre-wash all of them for the same quilt.

I like the above site. It says pretty much what the others say, but then it goes on to say how to check to see if it will run first. It also tells you how to pre-wash your fabric. It emphasizes what I said above, DO NOT USE BOTH IN ONE QUILT.

There are many other sites you can go to by typing in "wash quilt fabric vs not wash" into your search engine [I used Google]. I would be willing to guess they all say the same thing: It is a personal preference on the quilter's part.

My one suggestion would be not to wash BOM [block of the month] cuts. The cuts usually are just barely enough to make the block you need. The shrinkage would take it down to where you might not have enough fabric to make the desired size.

I hope this helps with the question on whether to wash or not to wash. No right answer to that question.

Keep on Quilting


  1. I used to wash fabric to shrink it and to make sure the color is not running. Now I only wash dark reds and blues that I know might have colors running. I starched my fabric before sewing and if you moisten it well with starch this will shrink the fabric, I read somewhere. So I am happy not to wash most fabrics nowadays

  2. I recently made pieced/quilted placemats using 6 black and white fabrics. I do not wash fabric before quilting. I did cut a piece of each fabric and soaked in water to check for running. They were all fine. Well, when I was pressing the completed mats with a little mist of water, one of the blk/white combo fabric turned pink in several areas - not the entire piece. It is an Alexander Henry fabric, which as you know is a quality fabric. Is there anything I can do after the fact to remove the pinkish tint? Thank you, lola

  3. Yipes! I am not sure how just misting your mats would cause a pinkish tint to come upon it. Is there any chance you used red thread to sew it together? Or something was on your iron or ironing board that soaked through?

    I am not sure what to tell you to do. I know one time I was using tap water to set computerized pictures onto the photo fabric that I always used. We had just moved into this house. It is a very old house. The pictures came out with a very light pink tint on these pictures. I was devastated because I was working on a tight schedule to finish the quilt.

    I kept going. When I was all done with the pictures, I actually liked them. They were all black and white and very old shots. The pink added a little extra sepia look to them. The quilt turned out beautifully. Yes.

    I figured it was the water coming through the old pipes. I am still concerned about what it is doing to my body when I shower and my teeth when I brush, but I figured out what to do with quilt photograph pictures now.

    I used distilled water to rinse/set them.

    Sorry I could not be any more help than that. Perhaps if you use a bleach pen? I hope you can work it out. How disappointing!


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