Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Why I Pre-Wash My Fabric

Do you pre-wash your fabric? I most definitely do. I spent a couple of hours Monday morning washing my newer purchases. I usually do it as soon as I get it in my hands, but I let it build up a little this time and so it took me ages. It's completely worth it though. Have a look at these photos and you'll see just one reason why.

See all that colour in the water? Kind of pretty, but imagine if that fabric was in a quilt and bled into a different fabric. NOT a nice thought. It was't just the darker colours that ran either. Yellows and creams can run too, and a couple of mine did. The only ones that didn't really lose much were the blues and purples.

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.

Happy Sewing!

Hope x


  1. I always always always wash my fabric and then iron it. Always put it in hot water first ... and maybe do it again if colour running and then cold rinse until clear water :) I don't use any detergent though.

    1. Ooh, another washer! It sometimes seems like hardly anyone pre-washes. It is better to be safe than sorry, isn't it?

  2. I wash all my fabrics as soon as I get them home.

    1. Good idea, then they're ready to go when you need them. I try, but don't always manage it, and then they sit for ages waiting to be washed!

  3. I just received a bunch of fabric from my mom, she had pieces of paper pinned to the fabric stating if it had been washed or not. I thought that was a great idea,especially if you put your fabrics on the shelf for a bit, you won't have to remember if you washed or not.

    1. That is a great idea! I try to wash mine as soon as I get them, but don't always do so. The unwashed fabric sits in a pile separate to the washed.


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you taking the time to say hello. I'll get back to you by email when you leave an address, otherwise, check back here for a response. Thanks!