Pre-Washing – Prepping To Sew…

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Pre-Washing – Prepping To Sew…

To Michelle,

Last week I talked about conducting an experiment comparing the whole process of making a quilt with pre-washed fabric and fabric that has not been pre-washed. Historically I am not a pre-washer, but the question always comes up when talking with quilters and it really got me wondering so I decided to conduct an experiment where I make two mini quilts with the same fabrics and compare the experience with fabric that has been pre-washed and fabric that has not been pre-washed. Today’s post is all about prepping the fabrics for sewing.


The pattern I’ve chosen for the mini quilts is this one here. It should be pretty simple as the most complicated thing is the half-square triangles.


I pulled my fabrics for both of the minis. Again they will be identical so all the fabrics came from my stash, and are by Lori Holt for Riley Blake, the are a mix from Bee Basics and Sew Cherry 2. The only difference is the fabric I will use for the binding, for the pre-washed mini the fabric will be red and for the other mini the binding fabric is aqua, but they are the same print (this is mainly due to limitations of my stash and I didn’t want to buy fabric).

IMG_5897Next up I washed one of the bundles of fabric. To do this, I placed the print fabrics in a lingerie bag so I wouldn’t have to deal with threads catching around the machine agitator, I did the same for the solid white fabric but washed it separately. I washed everything in cold water with the standard, unscented detergent for those of us who have sensitive skin. After washing I also dried the fabrics in the dryer still in the lingerie bag.

IMG_5899I will say, that using the lingerie bag kept the fabrics from getting tangled up with each other so that was a win! Once everything was out of the dryer, I sprayed the pre-washed fabric thoroughly with Best Press and let them all air dry before I ironed them. For the fabrics that were not pre-washed I did the same thing.


For each of the fabrics I lined up the selvage edges to compare shrinkage.

I won’t show you all the fabrics, but the results were pretty consistent. On the warp side (parallel to the selvedge), the fabric shrunk 7/8″ to 1″ and on the weft side (perpendicular to the selvedge), the fabric shrunk 1/4″ to 1/2″. This resulted in no more than a 5% shrinkage rate. Which I thought was pretty fair as I’ve read that cotton can shrink up to 10%. It will be interesting to see if there is more shrinkage at the end of the experiment when I wash the finished project which I intend to do.

At this stage of the process the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the pre-washed fabrics are much easier to iron and the folds and creases that occur from fabrics being on the bolt are gone. I’ll be honest, I really liked that as ironing did not feel like a chore for the pre-washed fabrics. With the fabrics that were not pre-washed I felt like I was fighting the iron and the fabric.

In an effort to keep this from being too long I will post soon about how the cutting process is impacted by pre-washing. Stay tuned!

In other business… the winner of the Alpine Ice Bundle from Island Batik Fabrics is Beth T. who said… As a quilter, I love to quilt for rainy season, when we snuggle under quilts. As a Pacific Northwesterner, that is all yearlong except for about six weeks in summertime.

Congratulations Beth… enjoy your new fabric!



8 thoughts on “Pre-Washing – Prepping To Sew…

  1. Sis

    Did you use a colour catcher in the wash? Did you have any bleeding? There are a couple of red fabrics in your bundle so I am interested to hear if they bled. I always pre-wash my fabrics and have found that some reds and blues (red based) can be troublesome as can black. Love your pattern – looks very much like one I drafted as a centre for a frame quilt some years ago. The Friendship Star block is great for intertwining. Looking forward to the next step in your experiment. Thanks for sharing

  2. Kathleen McCormick

    Great job on this. I recently washed fat eighths in the sink and did the same – dryer and starch. I was counting on 4 – 5” squares. Well, I had to use the selvedge on some and on others I stretched a bit as I ironed. I do think you have to “change” your idea of how much you get on both length and width and depending on who did the cutting with pre-cuts (the shop I worked at cut fat quarters, etc 1” wider (19 rather than 18). I always forget others are not so generous. I do prewash as I had a quilt run and was not happy with that after all my work on it.

  3. Tish

    I am typically not a pre-washer, so I’m following along on your journey. I have to say I’m kind of shocked at how much it as shrank already.

  4. Jen

    Remember when we boiled fabric!? 🤣🤣 I haven’t pre-washed fabric in a really long time. Looking forward to seeing how your experiment turns out.

  5. Cathy

    Thanks Step….very informative and I can’t wait for the next round of results!!!

  6. sue7oaks

    I am a confirmed prewasher. I’ve gotten the same sort of results from washing a layer cake. It goes from 10×10 to 9.5×10 which is 5% along one side only. Also, like someone else said, I’ve started using a color catcher for bright or dark fabric. It’s quite a surprise sometimes!

  7. Pre-Washing… Cutting and Marking… | quilt'n party

    […] right, now that I’ve walked you through how I prepped the fabrics both the pre-washed fabrics and the fabrics that were not pre-washed, I want to talk about the cutting process. Because I […]

  8. The Pre-Washing Saga Continues… | quilt'n party

    […] next step in the Pre-Washing series is piecing the quilt tops. I have previously discussed the washing process and the cutting process. Now I want to touch on piecing the quilt tops with fabric that has been […]

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