When it comes down to it, the choice to pre-wash your fabrics or not is purely a personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer – some of us don’t like to do it, and some of us swear by it. However, when I did a bit of internet research to see what kind of discussion existed out there on the topic, it seemed the overwhelming opinion was to absolutely prewash. When surveying the ladies here at the shop, however, I found a distinctly opposite response. You may already have a “side” in this debate, but here’s our argument to save yourself the effort.
I’m lazy. Pre-washing fabric is a lot of work. It’s suggested that you wash and dry each fabric several times before finally ironing it out and adding it to your stash. Call me impatient, but once I get my fabric home, I’m ready to dive into my projects and I will avoid the washing and waiting at all costs. Not to mention easing up on the washing machine is definitely more eco-friendly.
No more bleeding. If color bleeding is what you’re avoiding, here’s some advice: If you’re making a quilt with a lot of light-colored fabric (white, cream, etc), chances are throwing a tomato red fabric in the mix is gonna turn your whole project a fun shade of pink. In these cases, pre-washing your fabric isn’t the worst idea, but still isn’t absolutely necessary. If you haven’t discovered color catchers yet, get on board! Shout makes a color catcher that you should be able to find in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store. According to the manufacturer, the Shout® Color Catcher is specially designed to work like a sponge. It absorbs and traps loose dyes in the wash, safely locking them away so they can’t redeposit on other clothes, so you can mix colors in the same load; translation, “same quilt!”
Throwing several Color Catchers into the washer with your finished project will keep your whites safe. We’ve tried it and it works. If your quilt doesn’t have a lot of light-colored fabrics, pass on the pre-wash. Your quilt will survive the laundry!
What shrinkage? Some swear that pre-washing will prevent your quilt from shrinking unevenly. However, all fabrics (including batting) shrink at different rates and last I heard, no one was pre-washing their batting! No matter if you pre-wash or don’t, your quilt is going to change size in some ways. Why waste the effort? Once your quilt is quilted, the top-stitches will keep your piecing in place and there’s just no way your quilt will shrink up to a wonky rectangle. Your fabric is just going to shrink up to look how a quilt should — a little bit puckered!
Easier to work with. Della had a lot of good “personal preference” reasons for why she doesn’t pre-wash. Generally, she felt the fabric is a lot easier to work with when it isn’t washed. One reason is because the fabric ravels less when it hasn’t taken a spin in the dryer! The sizing added to the fabric (which washes out) also makes cutting and sewing go more smoothly. Less fuss!
Chemicals. The only pre-wash pro I can’t argue with is washing out the chemicals they add to fabric to make them wrinkle less/repel bugs. For some people, these chemicals are bothersome, so pre-washing is a logical choice. I have never noticed a problem, and I work with fabric all day, but all people are different.
Why don’t you pre-wash? Or why do you? Let us know in a comment.
— Posted by Stacy