Here's how I pre-wash my fabrics:
- Use a pale bowl or tub. It makes it easier to see any colour in the water.
- Wash in warm water with the same detergent used for all my laundry. While I'll most often wash my clothes in cold water, I always do my hand-washing in warm because I hate cold, wet hands. Plus, I give quilts away to friends and family, and they might wash in warm. It's best to treat the fabric as it will or might be treated in a finished quilt.
- Wash by hand, rinse by hand, spin in the machine. How will I know if all the excess colour has come out unless I can see with my own eyes? Also, some fabrics can be problematic and no amount of washing or rinsing will get all that dye out. I have had to return fabric in the past because the water was deep purple even after five or six rinses! Make sure you rinse in your pale bowl too.
- Rinse until the water runs clear. The reason here should be obvious. One thing to note: Sometimes you'll get little fibres that float in the water and try to trick you into believing they're dye. Usually they'll float on the surface so you can tell the difference.
- Don't leave your wet fabrics touching each other for too long. Even if your water is rinsing clear, there may still be colour transfer if you're unlucky.
- Be vigorous. Agitate that fabric, make sure the water is really soaking in to the fibres and the colour is being forced out. Some fabrics bleed immediately on contact with the water, others will take a bit of persuasion. If you wash your quilt in the machine, it's going to be agitated, so do the same with your fabric.
- Dry straight away. I always dry my fabric inside on a clothes horse. I know how my clothes can get tangled on the line if it's windy and I don't want that happening with my fabric. Also, I can easily keep track of how it's drying. I don't own a dryer, but wouldn't use one in any case.
- Iron while slightly damp. It's not always possible, but if you can it makes it easier to get a crease-free finish and easier to square-up as you iron (if you need or choose to do so). Just be as gentle as you can.
I know a lot of people tell you that it's not necessary to pre-wash your fabric for patchwork, that if you buy good quality fabrics then the colour is not likely to run. Well, I disagree. The fabrics I washed yesterday are all well-known brands. Moda. Free Spirit. Riley Blake. Lecien. I think most of us would agree that they are of a decent quality. As you can see, that didn't stop them turning my wash water distinctly colourful.
So what about colour-catchers? No, I still wouldn't risk it.
Anyway, that's just my opinion on pre-washing. Many people disagree, and have no trouble with their quilts. That's great. I prefer to err on the side of caution and wash every time. Well, almost every time. I treat pre-cuts differently, but more on that another day, and more on some other reasons why I pre-wash too. (That post is now up, here.)
Phew! That's a lot of typing. I hope I didn't lose you along the way.