Thursday, July 11, 2013

To Wash or Not To Wash...Is Prewashing Fabric Necessary?

Not the most exciting topic in the world; but the other day I got into a rather animated discussion about pre-washing quilt fabric with a quilter friend of mine. This is what I know to be true:

Some do. Some don’t. Me, I do a little of both; but mostly I don’t. The primary reason I don’t pre-wash my cotton quilt fabric is because I find it easier to work with unwashed cotton and I avoid ironing. If you purchase good quality cottons you shouldn’t have to worry too much about shrinkage or colors bleeding from the fabric when it is washed. However, you may want to test for colorfastness (bleeding) when working with deeply saturated reds, blues, or purples.

One quick and easy way to check for color bleeding is to cut a small piece of your fabric (or fabrics) and soak them in a jar filled with lukewarm water. If the water stays clear you shouldn’t have to worry about prewashing; but if the color bleeds into the water, you should prewash the fabric.

My main consideration when deciding whether to prewash fabric is the quilt’s final purpose. If the end result of your labor is to have a decorative piece that hangs on a wall or is artfully draped over an antique chair no one ever sits in, then why bother with pre-washing? It’s a waste of water and time, not to mention the ironing!

On the other hand, if your quilt will end up keeping a little one warm at night or you will use it to snuggle up on the couch with your favorite two or four-legged companion I would recommend pre-washing. Another reason you may want to pre-wash is if you or the person you are making the quilt for has any sensitivity to chemicals. Quilt fabrics are manufactured with sizing and other chemicals to help maintain the bright and crisp feel it has while on the bolt, so if you’re concerned about chemicals – prewash.

If you decide your fabric should take a spin through the washer here are three tips: 1) Finish the raw edges of the fabric before washing; otherwise you will end up with a tangled mess of cotton fiber. (See below) You can finish the edges by using a medium-spaced zigzag stitch. 2) Wash the fabric in cool water, using a delicate cycle and gentle detergent. 3) Do not leave wet fabric sitting in the washer for any length of time; colors may bleed onto wet fabrics. 3) Remove the fabric from the dryer when it is slightly damp and do your ironing then. Wrinkles will come out easier when the fabric is damp.

Mess o' Fabric
The product of not finishing raw edges prior to the washing.


1 comment:

  1. I'm in the pre wash camp. I don't finish the edges, just take my chances that I'll find the fabric all twisted together. It's always an adventure taking it out of the washer!