Join Date: Aug 2010
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This is an age-old debate so what I thought would be good is to keep this thread open and compile a list of pros and cons, and other tips related to pre-washing your quilting fabric.
I'll keep this post updated with your replies.
When You Should / Benefits of PreWashing (the pro's)
- You are concerned about color bleeding.
- You could perform a bleed test on your fabrics in advanced.
- Today's modern fabrics bleed a lot less than fabrics of year's past, so color bleeding may not be as much of a concern when using a modern fabric.
- Synthetic fabrics are a lot more likely to bleed than cotton, though darker cotton colors in general are always a potential risk of bleeding.
- Vintage fabrics also use a different dye system than modern fabrics.
- You can use dye magnets to minimize risk of bleeding (whether you are pre-washing or washing the finished quilt).
- You are concerned about fabric shrinking.
- You could perform a shrink test.
- Some projects are more sensitive to shrinking such as clothes or pillows where you don't want even a small amount of shrinkage.
- When using different types of fabric, from different manufacturers, or fabric with different thread counts, the fabrics will shrink unevenly. So even though your project can withstand some shrinkage, uneven shrinkage is not desirable.
- You are sensitive to chemicals and sizings used in fabric production.
- Some people have allergies to chemicals in new fabric used to make the fabric stiff, smooth, and easy to cut. Some fabrics can even contain pesticides to deter bugs (imagine if you saw bugs in the fabric store!)
- Ironing the fabric can release these chemicals or just close proximity to it while cutting, folding, and sewing.
- You plan on storing your fabric for a long period of time.
- Fabric chemicals may not be archival and can discolor and damage the fabrics over time.
- You want to soften the fabric if you plan on doing any quilting or sewing by hand.
- You want to test for any color fading that may occur.
- If you have a bleeding fabric that will lose color after every wash, you can treat it with Retayne to set color after the first wash. It may take a leap of faith to wash your fabric in HOT water when using Retayne for the first time.
When You Should Not / Benefits of NOT PreWashing (the con's)
- You want peace of mind and no surprises with your fabric before embarking on a long project (and investing money in buying fabric).
- Save time and more convenience.
- Wash, dry, iron... so much hassle!
- Time to pre-wash is relative, of course. If you are working on a 100-hour project, pre-washing only takes up a small amount of the total project time.
- You want the puckering look when your finished quilt shrinks after all the fabrics and patting are bounded together.
- Most pre-washers wash the fabric but not the batting, so you'll still get some puckering but not as much.
- Some pre-cut fabrics cannot be washed easily, such as charm squares.
Other Thoughts On PreWashing
- You don't want ravels and tangled fabric.
- Snipping off the corners of the selvedges before washing can prevent this, but not always (i.e. click a small triangle from the corners of the fabric, then trim the threads after washing and after drying).
- Washing fabric in a mesh lingerie bag (or a pillow case if you don't have a mesh bag) to prevent ravels and tangles.
- Air drying can prevent raveling.
- Flannels can shrink again after the first washing, so if you are using flannel and are planning to prewash, consider pre-washing at least two times.
- Batting is fragile, so if you are pre-washing it, hand wash the batting and air dry.