Do YOU Pre-Wash Before Quilting?

Good Morning, Quilters!

Do YOU pre-wash your fabrics or your batting before quilting?

While preparing for my upcoming Craftsy video (for release in November 2017), I made several samples-and compared washed versus unwashed. 

I was very surprised to see the amount of shrinkage on every type of batting when the fabric was not pre-washed.

The photo above shows two samples stitched with the same batting, backing and fabrics.  In this small sample-14-1/2 inches–the shrinkage was about 3/8-1/2 of an inch!

In addition to the overall shrinkage–and because of it–the quilting motifs look different.  Shrinkage is neither a good or a bad thing–but it is important to understand so you won’t be disappointed with the finished look of your quilt.

I still have more samples to make:

My next sample will be to pre-wash all of the fabrics and not the batting.

And then another sample, pre-wash the fabrics and pre-wash the batting. (Washing the batting can be a challenge.)

What about YOU?

Do YOU pre-wash your fabric?

Do YOU pre-wash your batting?

Do YOU make samples?

Have YOU ever been disappointed in a quilt after it was washed?

We’d LOVE to hear!

Still investigating….

Lori Poirot  (say that five times fast!)

PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thanks!

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121 thoughts on “Do YOU Pre-Wash Before Quilting?

  1. I do! Every piece of fabric is washed, dried and pressed. I hate the chemicals, but even more, I found that it is just about impossible to find grain when the fabric isn’t washed….and my quilting has improved bucketloads since I began washing.

  2. I do prewash all my fabric. Then I have no surprise of shrinking or dye running after making my quilts. I do not wash my batting, but when I wash my quilts I put in dryer for a few minutes to fluff then drape over the bed to dry. The batting will still shrink a little.

  3. I do not prewash unless I find fabric at an estate sale or thrift store. My favorite thing after I finish a quilt is taking that freshly washed quilt out of the dryer and seeing all those vintage looking crinkles! I love the way it shrinks up some.

  4. I do not pre-wash – love the very crinkly look to my quilts when I don’t. So far, I haven’t had any problems with color run (I use a color catcher or two in the wash).

  5. I serge and prewash all my fabric. I never prewash my batting. I love washing my quilt after it has been quilted. I love to see the quilting pop.

  6. Putting the batting in the dryer to get out the wrinkles is all I have done before putting it together with the quilt top and backing. Usually I don’t wash my fabrics, however it depends on the style of the quilt. If I want the quilt to have a more vintage look nothing gets washed, if I want the look to be more modern, yes, then I wash fabrics and that usually works for me. Sure have me thinking, Lori, how do you wash batting?

  7. Every piece of fabric that comes into my house gets washed and ironed before it gets used. Some suspect fabrics get washed in individual bowls with Dawn dishwashing liquid. I recently made a couple of quilts with deep, saturated purples. I was shocked that even the commercially dyed fabrics bled. Thank goodness I washed those in individual bowls! I washed and washed until the water ran clear. I’ve never pre-washed batting, and even though I often use wool, I’ve never had a problem. I wash a finished quilt with several Color Catchers as extra insurance. I’ve often wondered if the water in any given area makes a difference in bleeding/fading/shrinkage.

  8. I am a prewasher and I am starching all my fabrics since I joined Anita Grossman-Solomon’s craftsy class. After I tried it and had to admit this makes such a great difference there are always zipper bags with fabrics in my refrigerator…. A few months ago I made a quilt with Liberty Tana Lawns an used Hobbs Silk Batting and I wanted to have as little shrinkage as possible. That was the first time ever I washed batting and it came out quite well. I used the silk/Dessous program in my washing machine and dried it flat. The batting wasn’t really square after that but that wasn’t an issue… the quilt was square in the end and looks very nice and unwrinkled 😊

  9. I prewash all my fabric. Then, I starch and iron it before cutting. It helps me to avoid any distortion of the block and also seems to do away with a lot of the threads that come off the fabric. I’ve never washed batting, but have thought about it several times. I have made samples and put them thru the washer and dryer, just to see how they come out.

  10. I do not prewash my quilting fabric. I wash every quilt after I finish the binding. I love the look that the shrinkage gives! I machine piece so I starch my fabric three times before cutting. Not prewashing only adds stability. I do believe if I were hand piecing I would probably prewash. I did prewash every fabric when I was garment sewing. No piece of fabric ever made it to my sewing room without being prewashed!! I do agree with Kathy, if I purchased fabric at thrift store I would wash it simply becuase you do not know the environment from which it came.

  11. Have always washed – even charms and mini charms, although they frayed – so I’m rather into yardage apart from fat quarters. Since then I found Laura on Sew Very Easy on Youtube and she shows you how to wash precuts without fraying but I haven’t put that into practice yet. My first quilt had been on our bed for an awful long time and it was yelling “clean me NOW!” So I was a bit apprehensive about the look as I know the batting does shrink. But it only puckered a little and I don’t think it would bother me now if it were more so. I’ve since read that you can pop batting in the tumble drier to freshen it for sandwiching.
    As long as the quilts don’t shrink to handkerchief size from king size then that that’s OK by me.

  12. Yes and yes, I prewash fabrics and batting. Washing the batting can make it difficult to get it flat and smooth again, but it’s worth it to me to try to minimize the distortion on my quilting as much as possible. I have found also that washing and drying a (prewashed) quilt after it is finished will still produce some crinkling, but not nearly as much as a non-prewashed quilt. I started washing everything after I had a quilt shrink about 5 inches – it had a lot of difficult piecing plus applique on borders, as well as free motion quilting. It was a distorted mess that looked like a 2-year-old’s scribbles. Just another note about prewashing fabric – I dry in the dryer and then iron before folding. I starch right before cutting. So far in my quilting journey I like this process the best, but it may just be me and my personal preferences, combined with my current skill levels. I do not enter into shows. I’m sure others do things differently and are happy with their outcomes. Great question, Lori!

  13. I didn’t pre-wash anything for my first 100+ quilts and never had a colour running issue with them, although I did have a block distortion issue on one. Then I did a test on some various coloured solids I wanted to use together and thought it was a good time to do a before and after check. Glad I did because even thought it was good Moda fabric, some colours ran and I was able to avoid ruining a whole quilt! As well, I agree with a previous comment that mentioned grain. It is very obvious once fabric comes out of the wash how off grain it can be, and once it’s laundered and straightened out, I know there won’t be any distortions in the quilt. I don’t pre-wash batting so I still get the shrinkage that gives me the crinkled look I love after washing 🙂

  14. I do not pre-wash fabrics or batting. However, when my quilt is completely finished I wash in cold water with 2 cups of vinegar to prevent bleeding, and I’ve never had an issue. I then dry in the dryer on medium heat. I LOVE the end result, which is a soft, crinkly quilt. I find that washing after the quilt is done totally transforms my quilts and I love the end result.

  15. I prewash my fabrics to safeguard against bleeding and shrinkage. I don’t like the crinkled look because I’m all about the quilting and you can lose some of the design with crinkling. My favorite quilt style leans toward the modern and art quilt so crinkling interfers with that. I have thought about washing batting to minimize the crinkling, but I was worried about washing large cotton or wool batts and ruining them. I often will quilt with polyester when the quilt is not a bed quilt, to skirt the crinkling issue. Polyester can provide that loft that shows off your quilting, at less expense than wool.

  16. I prewash all my fabrics as they can shrink in varying amounts, so prewashing makes sure they will all react evenly after the quilt is made. I do not prewash batting. Having said that, I rarely wash the completed quilt. Only a couple of them are used to the point of needing washing. The others are gently vacuumed if they are on a bed or wall.

  17. I prewash everything to eliminate bleeding and shrinkage problems. I also have a problem with the chemicals in the unwashed fabric causing skin problems on my hands. I used to prewash and iron all fabrics but I’ve found that I have to iron again anyway prior to using the prewashed fabric, so I no longer iron until I am going to use the fabric.
    I don’t prewash batting because it is such a pain, but I do use Warm and White batting which has the smallest amount of shrinkage that I can find.

  18. I don’t prewash anything. In 7 years, I’ve only had one fabric bleed. I decided long ago that if I had to wash and press every piece of fabric before starting, it would suck the joy out of quilting. Besides, I love the fresh crisp look of a newly quilted quilt AND the crinkly softness of a washed quilt.

  19. I prewash all fabric unless it’s a kit (and sometimes I do then if it looks as if the colors will bleed). Many of my quilts are gifts, so I want to make sure they can be used and washed with no fabric bleed. I like the look you get with prewashed fabric and not prewashed batting. A little shrinking of the batt for that vintage look, but not the slight distortion you can get if the fabric is also shrinking in its own way/direction.

  20. I don’t prewash, but I do put my fabric in the dryer on a steam setting for 20 minutes and then press. If the pieces are small (pre-cuts), I press with steam and skip the dryer. The only time i prewash is when i get fabrics from unknown origins. So far I haven’t had a problem with shrinkage. I’m always in such a hurry to get going on a new project!

  21. I prewash every fabric that I buy. Sure the fabric looks and feel nicer as it comes off the bolt, but sizing or starch puts the firmness back in again.

    I looked into washing batting, but have opted not to try it. I do check the shrinkage on the batting label to make sure it does not have a high shrinkage.

  22. Yes, I prewash all fabrics, and I include a color catcher in the wash using normal laundry soap. I do not prewash batting, just open the package a day ahead of using to relax the folds.

    I have been VERY surprised a few times to see the amount of bleeding. Also I have sensitive skin and prewashing helps remove most of the chemicals from the manufacturing process.

    I LOVE the softness and relaxed look I get after washing a finished quilt.

    Since I give most of my quilts to family and friends, I always include washing instructions, as most would be apprehensive about that process.

  23. I always prewash all fabric except precuts. I think it is worth the effort. I made a quilt from a jelly roll that did bleed even with the color catchers and vinegar.

  24. I always prewash fabric because I know they will shrink at different rates from each other. However, I never prewash batting. I make it a point to buy battings that are advertised to have the least amount of shrinking and then to make sure I wash in cold water and tumble dry on low. Works for me.

  25. Great topic. I will be interested in your test results. I hope my new dryer is a steam type as that seems the easy way to preshrink batting. Perhaps the shrinkage is more due to batting than to the fabric! I may start pre-washing and use the starch prep.

  26. I do pre-wash fabrics; but have never pre-washed the batting. Not sure I want to struggle with that. I pre-wash fabrics to remove the chemicals in the fabrics and the dyes. And, I learned that it’s best to pre-wash with WARM water. Helps wash the dyes out better. I used to pre-wash on cold but then my niece did this and had dyes run after she washed the finished quilt. Any fabrics that I’ve had for a while I wash again on warm water before I use them, and/or wash finished quilts with these fabrics with dye catchers. I don’t like ironing clothes but I do enjoy ironing fabrics! 🙂

  27. I am newer at this than many of you, but almost all my clothes are cotton. I have tried to treat my quilting fabric the same as my clothes and the dryer is the important element…no more than 15 minutes on the coolest heat, then immediately hang or lay flat to finish drying. I always prewash fabric for quilting/sewing, but found that putting the pieces of fabric in the dryer even that length of time dried them out, so now I put them right in a plastic bag out of the washer, and then iron dry them, and then hang them over the drying rack to finish drying. Hoping that equates to drying! And I too use starch just before cutting. Cannot imagine washing the batting! Horrors! I was even afraid to put the batting in the dryer to relax it. Have not done tests…will try washing and drying some of the test samples from recent free motion quilting your little fish, Lori! They have been so fun. I have several quilts from my grandmother that I use on the beds, but try to avoid washing to death. I tumble them in the dryer with no heat to get dust off occasionally. I am scared of red…had prewashed some and it still bled onto white squares next to it. Someone else advised the vinegar method and maybe one day I will try reds again with that! Thanks for an interesting query, and look forward to more of your sleuthing, Lori!!

  28. I know that people come down on different sides of this issues. For me, however, I love the hand of fabric before it is pre-washed, so I don’t pre-wash my fabrics, nor the batting. That noted, I mostly make art quilts that are not going to be washed in their lifetimes (just vacuumed). One exception is when I make a baby quilt because I know that will get washed multiple times. This is a great topic to discuss! I know “celebrity” (like you, Lori!) quilters who never pre-wash their fabrics, so I always figured it was o.k. for me not to do that. Haha.

  29. I always prewash yardage and even larger precuts, dry and press them. If the fabric is a deep shade of almost any color, I’ll prewash with Synthrapol and hot water and so far have been able to avoid dye bleeding issues. I pre-soak cotton or 80/20 cotton battings in the bathtub, then squeeze out as much water as I can, put the batting through the spin-only cycle of my washer, then dry on low heat in the dryer until nearly dry, then finish air drying. It really is only a bit of a hassle, and keeps the entire quilt from shrinking 5% or sometimes more after the initial wash after completion.

    • A lot to learn – Me too!
      However, I agree with the comment above that all of the prewash, ironing and starching will surely take the joy out of my quilting. I would love to know – how much time are all of you spending on all of these tasks?
      I like both of the looks, before and after washing the finished quilt.

  30. I do prewash my fabric. When I wash the quilt I still use color catchers in the wash. I had a wall hanging of batiks that really ran onto the light background. I washed it with color catchers and it took all the excess die out of the wall hanging and it was perfect to give as a gift. I don’t wash my quilts unless they “need” it.

    • I have made samples. I was testing the wearability of hand quilting verses machine quilting and wash abilities. I made several samples and put them in the washer and dryer every time I washed a load of clothes.
      Hand quilting showed no more wear than the machiner quilting and over about 50 washes the samples were still in good shape on all pieces.

  31. Nothing goes into my stash without first being prewashed and ironed. That’s why I’m not a fan of precuts as they distort so much when prewashed. The one and only time I participated in a kitted BOM where a monthly pattern and fabrics were sent to me, I was nervous about the red fabric cuts bleeding. I gave them a good soak and sure enough, the water they were soaked in turned red. And this was high quality fabric from a trusted shop. After that I used a salad spinner as a mini-washer for small cuts for the rest of the blocks. As for batting, I sometimes prewash and dry on a low setting. Depends on the type of batting and the look I’m hoping for in my quilt.

  32. If I prewashed I would never get quilts done! Done is better than perfect. I don’t like cutting washed fabric and I won’t start pressing (with MaryEllen’s) every piece before I cut. I’ve not had a problem with either shrinkage or dye running. As many others have shared, I do also use a color catcher for the first wash.

  33. I prewash all my fabric, even charm packs. And I have preshrunk 100% cotton batting by making it damp and putting it in the dryer. It came out distorted (uneven thickness and wavy), but it did not show in the quilt.

  34. I prewash all fabric and cotton batting. I’m not a fan of crinkly/dimply. Any fabric that’s not white can bleed, regardless of quality. And any cotton fabric can shrink, and at varying rates. So if you only prewash colored or dark or bright fabrics, the unwashed fabrics could shrink later, causing distortion. After spending so much time creating a quilt, I prefer to eliminate as many surprises as possible.

  35. I prewash most all fabrics (unless precuts). I am not a fan of the crinkled look and use mostly cotton battings, so I try to pre-shrink the batting in my dryer. I wet the batting by spraying both sides heavily with water, then roll the batting up and squish to distribute the water, hoping it penetrates deeper into the batting. Then put batting in the dryer on steam setting with a wet towel. I keep adjusting the load and resetting the dryer until the towel is mostly dry. So far this seems to work OK.

  36. I don’t prewash fabric or batting. I happen to like the crinkled look of quilting.
    I know that batting will shrink some, but I also use the batting that will shrink the least. I don’t use 100% cotton batting, I use 80poly/20cotton, or 100% poly.

  37. I have not prewashed routinely (only reds) but after reading all of the comments I am convinced that I need to start. It sounds like gambling if you don’t prewash – you are not really sure what will happen and I have had a few bad experiences. I have also found that the bed quilts that I made have had some amounts of shrinkage – which was okay – but I never considered the distortion that that could cause as the fabrics shrink in different amounts or ways. Thank you for all who have shared their wisdom and experiences.

  38. Wow so many pre washers! I do not pre wash all my fabrics any more. I figure with todays tecknogly the dies should be good. I will do the odd red, yellow or black for a check sometimes. I have had very little problems.

    As for battings I do like to give them a good spray with a water bottle then toss it in the dryer. It helps to release the creases and fluffs it up. I usually use Hobbs wool or 80/20. Great topic Lori. Very surprised with all the responses.

  39. Prewash everything except pre-cuts. Also place batting in dryer with small wet towel for a few minutes to rid wrinkles and fluff it. Take quilt out of dryer when slightly damp and then lay it out on floor to dry.

  40. Ahh, the pre-wash debate goes on. I rarely pre-wash and have only had one problem. If you buy your fabric from different stores, a good quilt shop and some at Joann’s or Hobby Lobby. The grade quality of the fabric is different and will have different shrink percentages. This can cause uneven shrinkage and put your finished quilt out of square. I wash in cold water, with vinegar and color catchers to control color bleeding,that has never been an issue for me. If you use a very dark color mixed with White, then a pre-wash might be useful. When I make a bed quilt to a particular mattress size, I add at least an inch all the way around to allow for shrinkage. I sometimes just throw my quilts in the dryer on low heat, if they are not dirty, just to puff them up a little.

  41. I spent a lot of time sewing an appliqué baby quilt using stabilizer to keep the shapes flat. I did not prewash the batting, but did prewash the backing. How disappointed I was to wash the quilt and have the batting shrink up. Ended up with a crinkly quilt after all of my efforts to get the appliqués perfect.

  42. Great question and love the answers. I started quilting in 1992 and have ALWAYS prewashed and ironed my fabric. I have opened the batting and put it in the dryer for a few minutes to smooth it. I can see the wisdom in preshrinking batting and will start spraying it with some water. Fabric bleed has always been a worry and it is easier to deal with it before cutting than the first time the quilt is washed. Thank you for all the helpful information.

  43. I don’t prewash anything but I like the idea of tossing batting in the dryer to get it unwrinkled. Never thought to do that!
    The only color that concerns me is red- I usually will prewash but not anything else.
    I also love the crinkly look.

    • Some of my most wounderful greens, deep blues and black have bleed to a dirty red color so I like prewashing. Or at least using color catcher sheets in the washer and then 1 in the dryer for the first time wash of a quilt.

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