April 15, 2019

What Was I Thinking?

What was I thinking? Seriously.

I don't usually prewash my fabric. I know there are many of you out there that do and I tip my hat to you for being that motivated. It's not a task for the feint of heart. Unless you diligently prewash every single thing you bring home each and every time you buy fabric. Otherwise it can be a big confusing mess.

Having heard stories of bleeding solids and ruined quilts, I decided to prewash the solids I plan to use for my BoulderMQG color study quilt. A project I have yet to start but I do still plan on making it so bear with me. The color study will return . . .

That led to deciding to prewash ALL my solids. I have several modern quilt ideas that will use all solids so why not be prepared?

Well . . . it took FOREVER. And technically I'm still not done as I haven't done the grays yet. I used color catchers in every load and there was very very very little bleeding. Seriously. That bit of aqua was the worst it ever got after loads of washing in all colors. Was it really worth all this effort?

The bigger problem I encountered was fading along the fold lines. My fabric is stored on open shelving but it never gets any direct sunlight so I was quite disappointed to see just how many cuts had faded along the fold. Nothing to be done about that but it does make me less likely to stash solids until I know how to avoid the fading. For now I'm storing them in tubs behind closed doors.

I have four tubs of freshly washed solids now. If only I had the motivation for those modern all solid quilts right now. Hopefully later this year . . .

At this point, I'm wondering why I got myself into this mess. And where does it end? What if I find other solids stashed away for a particular project like I did last week? Now I need to wash those because I've washed all the others. And what about projects that might mix solids with unwashed prints. Oy!!!

I'm not telling you this to start up a debate on prewashing. To each their own when it comes to that decision.

But I am curious about something. If you are a prewasher what is your process?

  • Do you wash everything first before adding it to your stash? 
  • Do you worry about mixing prewashed fabric with unwashed fabrics? 
  • Do you worry about using precuts (unwashed) with prewashed fabrics?
  • Do you have problems with fabrics fading along fold lines?

It feels like I've opened a HUGE can of worms and I am regretting my decisions. Where does it end?



  1. I prewash fabric I think might bleed. I do not wash all my fabric. I mix them up when I sew and haven't noticed a big problem with mixing them. I do like the crinkled look of a washed quilt. Love your bright fabric.

  2. I wash everything except precuts like jelly rolls, layer cakes and such but I don't use a lot of precuts. Typically I stash unwashed fabric separately until I have a few yards and then wash in cold water with a few color catchers. I dry them on "low spin" and I get far fewer thread tangles than on regular spin. I have a lot of allergies and I wash all fabrics to remove as many of the chemicals as possible in addition to any excess dye. I tried to work with a charity group that used a lot donated fabrics that were typically unwashed and I developed headaches and respiratory congestion so severe that I couldn't continue. I haven't had a problem with the fading that you mentioned but all of my fabric is stored in bins in the closet somthey don't get a lot of light.

    Your solid colors are beautiful! Good luck. 🙂

  3. For 20 years I prewashed everything. A few years ago I quit.

    I mix prewash and new without a thought.

    I haven't noticed fade lines. My stash does not get direct sunlight but it does get light daily.

    I use precuts with prewashed and with new.

    I haven't seen a problem with any of the above. I will say though, it was very hard to let go. My LQS owner convinced me to stop!

  4. Question 1: Yes, absolutely! For dozens of years I have pre-washed fabrics before they go into my sewing room, and have no plans to change that habit.
    Question 2: No, I don't worry about mixing washed and unwashed fabrics because I so very rarely mix them. If I mix any, it's solid white fabric that comes off the bolt. I haven't yet figured out how to wash a whole 15 yard bolt of white fabric all at one time!
    Question 3: No worries about precuts as I only buy yardage. Though I've been given mini-charm packs and do, very rarely, use those without prewashing.
    Question 4: No problem with fading at fold lines because all my fabrics are stored in a dark closet or a closed dark cabinet. They only see the light of day when I open doors.

    Seems I'm no help for you whatsoever as I have completely different fabric-related habits than you do. I don't think you wasted time washing those fabrics though. If nothing else, you removed the sizing and pre-shrunk any potential shrinkage problems you might have after making a quilt. Washing fabric isn't only about preventing bleeding. I hope you find a satisfying solution to making it all work for you. Thanks for raising a very interesting topic!

  5. I don't prewash my fabrics. However, since I buy almost everything used on eBay, I know I have a mix of both washed and unwashed fabrics in my stash. In over 150 quilts, I've had bleeding problems exactly twice, and both times were fixed with more washing, color catchers, and Dawn dishwashing soap. The differences in shrinkage among my fabrics has not been a problem, but I like my finished quilts super crinkly.

    I use solids, prints, brand new (2018) fabrics, and well aged (1990 and older!) chunks. So that's been my experience :)

  6. I try to wash everything except precuts like jellyrolls. I usually put them in the wash as soon as they arrive, with a family of 5 there is always washing lol I use a front loader and wash them on cool temps (up to 40degC) and gentle cycles.i tend to dry them on the outside line which has led to interesting results: One of the offwhite Kona solids I used in a shared project with a friend got a fair bit lighter so I ended up washing her and my lot of that fabric ;)
    I've never had much trouble with bleeding even without using colour catchers, but like my 'cotton thread on cotton fabric' habit, I doubt I'll stop pre-washing fabrics any time soon :)

  7. I am not a pre-washer, but I have a project ahead that requires me to pre-wash the fabric. I suppose that means I'll be passing along that fabric after I am done with it. I just toss in a color catcher when I wash a quilt and have so far (knock on wood) done just fine.

  8. I prewash with a small amount of soap, in the dryer 10-18 minutes (very slightly damp), and iron as soon as the piece arrives from the store. When I cut pieces I like that there is less distortion and the final block assembly requires less fiddling because the blocks are accurate. I store on open shelves in a dark room. Any light can be a disadvantage. Any traded scraps or precuts are wet thoroughly with hot water, squeezed out in a towel, and ironed. There is a lot of distortion in five inch charm squares. I washed 8 yards in the machine today on a delicate cycle with an extra rinse. It is ready to use right off the shelf for any project and/or a back.

  9. I prewash (are you sitting down?) by hand in order to avoid the colorful mess in the first picture on your blog. I soak the fabric with a little bit of Dawn dish soap and stir enough to get the stiffness out of it and the extra dyes if any. Rinse. Remove as much water was I can, trying not to wring the fabric too much, hang it outside until slightly damp. Then I iron back into its shape. I get bags of donated fabric that are probably not washed and I don't even think about it. I had one red that bleed all over a quilt. Dawn dish soap in the washing machine rescued it.
    I have donated fabric that have the faded lines. I don't use that part and enjoy the rest. My sewing room is in the basement. It gets light but not direct sun, so I don't worry too much about it.
    This was an interesting post. Enjoy your beautiful solid fabric. ;^)

  10. I don't prewash any of my fabric. I usually work mainly in mediums so if there is a tiny bit of bleed, it probably won't show. In hundreds of quilts, I have only had two quilts bleed. Prewashing is too much work for me!

  11. Yes to all your questions! I prewash, no fabric softener. I started prewashing because I was having trouble using fusibles sometimes, which I assumed was the chemicals. Now I do it because of the shrinkage. I have had quilts shrink as much as 5 inches when not prewashed. I also prewash my batting. I hate that shriveling that happens after quilts are washed. I work hard at that piecing and I think that wavy/warpy shrinking takes away from the piecing. Really great questions. Love reading all the comments.

  12. I always prewash yardage and fat quarters because I am sensitive to the chemical manufacturers use and the dust fabric bolts accumulate. I ask the person cutting my fabric to not flip the fabric as they unwind the bolt. If they refuse, I leave the shop without fabric.

  13. I am a prewasher as I came to quilting years ago as a garment sewer and prewashing when you sew clothes is a MUST! That said my process is when I come home with new fabric it goes in the laundry room and gets added to the stash after it has been washed. If I get scraps at quilting get togethers those also go in the laundry room and get added to the scrap bin after they have been washed. Over the years I have had fabrics that have bled terribly and am so glad that I knew this before I put them in a project. I know there have been times that a few scraps and pieces gotten from other quilters were not prewashed and they got pieced into my quilts and quilted. These quilts were later washed and it was all just fine. I wash all my fabrics on warm and dry in the dryer but I NEVER put any quilts in the dryer.........ever. That motion of tossing around a wet quilt and batting in a dryer can not be good for those threads holding the quilt together. I always dry my quilts flat on a warm dry day.
    If you do not want to continue prewashing your fabrics I am sure that those that are now prewashed will be just fine combined with other projects.

  14. Side note. I am not even concerned with the fading. I think it adds a charm, character.

  15. I prewash garment fabric but not quilting fabric. I never wash fat quarters because of the three raw edges! So one thing I do when I'm prewashing garment fabric is run a zigzag stitch over the cut edges before the piece goes into the washer. This avoids the miles of strings from the raveling. I've heard that clipping the corners off does the same thing but I have never tried that.


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