There are two different camps for whether or not to wash cotton fabric before sewing, quilting, or embroidery. This is why you should.
Some people always prewash fabric before quilting and embroidery. Others, almost never prewash when using quality quilting cottons and prefer how easy the fabric’s sizing makes it to handle. Many believe that steam pressing is adequate to preshrink fabric.
Bonnie normally recommends prewashing fabrics. Here are some benefits:
Excess Dyes and Bleeding
Reds, blues, and purples are most susceptible to bleeding onto lighter colors and that can spell disaster for any project. Prewashing intense colors helps to get rid of excess dyes.
If you have a fabric that bleeds or just makes you nervous, you may want to pretreat before washing using a color fixative like Retayne.
Color catchers (found in the laundry detergent section) often help tremendously when first washing an already assembled quilt, table runner, or wall hanging whose fabric was not previously washed.
Cottons can shrink. Laundering before piecing or embroidering helps to reduce that problem. Washing a quilted piece without prewashing the fabric can make it look slightly wrinkled when it is dried. Some actually prefer that vintage look. If you don’t, prewash your fabrics before using them. With flannel, definitely wash and dry before using it.
In the case of embroidery, you may get puckering after laundering if you do not prewash the fabric before stitching. Remember to pre-shrink your stabilizer, if needed, when embroidering. Some stabilizers will shrink after ironing which also causes puckering.
The other benefit is that prewashing removes chemicals and sizing which is good for items made for children and those with allergies.
How to Launder Fabric:
- Use pinking shears or a pinking rotary cutter on raw edges, serge raw edges, clip a small corner off each end along raw edges, or fringe by clipping ¾” slits along the raw edge, a half-inch apart.
- Wash with gentle detergent.
- Dry on cotton or permanent press setting.
- Iron using starch or Best Press.
Testing for Colorfastness
I have used this test on fabrics that made me nervous before I used them.
- Cut a small square of the fabric in question.
- Soak it in cool, soapy water for a half-hour.
- If the water is clear, lay the wet fabric on a paper towel. If the towel is still white after the fabric dries, it should be okay to use.
Do you prewash fabric before using it?