Where Do You Stand?

To Michelle,

It seems that the question about pre-washing comes up a lot when discussing quilting. Just a few months ago, I was talking with my offline friend Cathy who was interested in quilting and we got together so she could get some questions answered to get her started. Of course one of those questions was whether I pre-wash fabrics or not.

When I first started quilting, about 20 years ago, I took advice from my local quilt shop and pre-washed everything. Even if the fabric was cut for a kit. My friends and I would get together for a sew day and we would boil those little pieces of fabric in a pot on the stove. Well that got old pretty fast. So I decided to gamble and try a quilt without pre-washing. The gamble paid off, no color ran and I liked the pucker that happened from the small amount of shrinkage.

But my conversation with Cathy got me thinking, what are the differences in the process of making a quilt when you pre-wash fabric vs. not pre-washing fabric. Quilters are well aware of the shrinkage that occurs when you don’t pre-wash fabric, but does it affect how the fabric cuts or comes together when piecing, or even the quilting process?

So my plan is to make two identical mini quilts, use the same fabric, thread and batting. I am going to pre-wash the fabric for one mini quilt and not the other. I am going to compare each step of the process and the final outcome. Maybe my mind will be changed on the subject. Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Where Do You Stand?

  1. You may also want to check how much lint is inside your sewing machine after each quilt, though with mini quilts it might not be visually significant. When I make a lap quilt with charm squares & the backing is unwashed fabric too, I have a lot more lint inside (& outside) my machine after the quilt is complete. And, yes, I’m a pre-washer – prefer to wash the chemicals away before, not after. Thanks.

  2. Stef….can’t wait to see what happens in this experiment. I am curious as to what you will find and most importantly decide! HAPPY QUILTING!!!

  3. This is going to be a neat experiment. When it’s complete, I would like to add a post on my blog linking to your finding, if that is OK with you. I personally pre-wash all my fabric and the reason is because I hand quilt the majority of my work. Pre-washing makes it easier to hand quilt and (perhaps most importantly) it prevents me from absorbing all the chemicals from the fabric dyes and sizing. Great topic, I look forward to seeing your results!

  4. Hi. This is a topic I have been interested in for some time. I wrote a blog post about it about a month ago. An experiment is a good idea. I discuss in my blog how different fabrics sometimes shrink at different rates, even when the same brand, as well as the color bleed issue. So I am a prewasher. I suppose that would not be an issue in a wholecloth, but I will be interested to see what you conclude. Cheers.

  5. Coming from a dressmaking background I would never make a quilt without first pre-washing the fabric. I don’t use pre-cuts because I can’t pre-wash those. I have made a few quilts for others using pre-cuts because they have bought the fabric and have wanted the variety pre-cuts provide but I have warned against bleeding and have been proved right on more than one occasion. Looking forward to reading how you get along

  6. I’m so interested in your results. I love to pre-wash but pre-cuts are always an issue. Usually I don’t wash those. Just got burnt on a quilt where I thought I would get more out of fat eighths.

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