I have noticed that some people always pre-wash quilt fabric, but others refuse to pre-wash. What do you prefer to do? Haven’t made up your mind yet? I’ll explore the pros and cons of each, and then walk you through steps of pre-washing your quilt fabric.

Pre-washed quilt fabric

Pros of Pre-Washing Quilt Fabric

Pre-washing will:

  • Pre-shrink the fabric (so it doesn’t shrink later, after your quilt is finished)
  • Set the fabric dyes (so the colors don’t run after your quilt is finished)
  • Prevent a crinkly look on your finished quilt

Note: Some charity quilt organizations, such as Quilts of Valor, request that you pre-wash your quilt fabric. If you’re making a quilt for a charity organization, remember to pre-wash all of your quilt fabric.

Cons of Pre-Washing Quilt Fabric

You won’t want to pre-wash fabric if:

  • You’re using a combination of yardage and pre-cuts (layer cakes, jelly rolls, etc.). Pre-cuts were not pre-washed, so if you make a quilt with a combination pre-shrunk and not-pre-shrunk fabric, in the end, you’ll get a half-shrunken look that you will not like.
  • You like the crinkly look – this look only happens when quilt fabric is not washed until the quilt is finished.

Materials Needed to Pre-Wash Quilt Fabric:

  • Washer & dryer
  • Color catcher
  • Mesh laundry bag (for color catcher, if you’re using a top-load washer)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric you’re pre-washing

Steps to Pre-Wash Quilt Fabric:

  1. Wash several pieces of fabric at a time, if you can.
  2. Separate fabric into colors if you have a lot (reds should be washed separately, though the color catcher helps prevent bleeding).
  3. Open each piece of fabric and place in the washing machine.
  4. Put them in the washing machine loosely.
  5. Add the color catcher (in a mesh laundry bag if it’s a top-load washer – this is because the color catcher is small enough to get caught in the washer’s corners and cause problems).
  6. Add detergent.
  7. Run the washer on a normal, warm cotton load.
  8. When the washer is done, remove the fabric one at a time.
  9. Shake each piece of fabric open (break strings if you have to).
  10. Place each piece of fabric in the dryer, loosely.
  11. If there aren’t many pieces of fabric (1 or 2), put another item (like a clean T-shirt) into the dryer to make sure the fabric tumbles like it should.
  12. When the dryer is done, remove from dryer.
  13. Trim strings from the edges of the fabric and fold.
  14. Iron the fabric (with starch, if you want) before cutting for quilting.