This is a weirdly divisive question in the quilt world.
It’s also one of the most common questions I get. Do you prewash your fabric?
How’s that for a definitive answer?
Let me clarify. . .
I prewash all quilting cottons. Always. They go straight into the laundry hamper when I buy them and they’re not allowed into my sewing room until I wash them.
I have had bad experiences with the fusible adhesive not sticking to fabric because of the sizing in it.
I have had dark colors bleed onto light colors in a finished quilt, washed for the first time. (Absolutely heartbreaking!)
I have had shrink issues with doll clothes where the fabric puckers badly along the seams because it had not been prewashed.
Sure – most fabrics won’t cause these problems if they haven’t been prewashed. But some do! And you never know which will be the problems until AFTER the heartbreak.
I prewash all knits and flannels.
They have more of a tendency to shrink than wovens and I want to get that shrink out of the way. I’m getting ready to start handsewing some clothes for myself (using this fabulous book my husband got me) and I definitely don’t want those to shrink after the fact.
I don’t prewash faux fur, satin, polar fleece or cuddle fleece.
They don’t have shrink issues. I’ve never had any of them bleed. The ones I buy never seem to be coated with excessive sizing so they don’t feel icky. There’s no real reason to prewash them.
I don’t really use any other fabrics – so I have no advice to give about rayons, voiles, challis, etc.
One more note. . .
A lot of people say they don’t prewash quilting cottons because they like the crinkle effect they get after washing. I’ve found that I get plenty of crinkle – even with prewashed fabric – by using cotton batting. I use Warm & Natural brand 100% cotton batting and I do NOT prewash it.
Want quick access to a bunch of other posts about fabric?
- Quilt Sizes and Supplies Needed – I do all the math for six common quilt sizes
- How to Choose Fabric for a Quilt
- My Favorite Batting – why it’s the only one I’ll use