The Free Motion Quilting Project: Great Quilting Debate: Prewashing Fabric, Episode #36

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Great Quilting Debate: Prewashing Fabric, Episode #36

Hello My Quilting Friends! Today I'm taking on another Great Quilting Debate: whether to prewash fabric before making your quilt or not. Listen to the episode or download it to your computer here:



Or watch the episode and check out my super messy laundry room here:


Yes, I do think prewashing fabric is a super important step in the quiltmaking process! Here's the reasons why I wash everything unless it's too tiny and will fall apart in the washer:
  • Stops fabrics from bleeding into one another. Washing removes the excess dyes so all the fabrics remain the color they're supposed to be.
  • Eliminates the question of how to care for the finished quilt. You never have to worry about washing it and messing it up.
  • Gets all the fabric feeling and acting the same way. If all the fabrics have been washed and starched 2 times, they will all have roughly the same amount of stretch and give and be easier to piece together more accurately.
  • Erases the hard crease in the middle of fabric which is rarely square with the grainline of the fabric.
  • Makes fabric easier to square and cut accurately.
Now for the video I promised about preparing fabric:


Once you prewash the fabric, you're going to have to restore order to the soft, wrinkly fabric by applying starch and pressing. Yes, there's also a Great Quilting Debate about starch and whether it's good or bad for your quilts. Click Here to listen to that podcast episode too.

So prewashing usually goes hand in hand with starch and pressing, but not always. Some quilters wash, but don't starch. Some quilters starch, but don't wash. As you can see, there are lots of ways you can work with fabric and definitely not a one-size-fits-all option here!

There are times when you can't prewash fabric. Precut fabrics smaller than a fat-eighth are impossible to wash without turning into a wadded mess of broken threads. You can starch precuts to stiffen them, but washing is just not a possibility.

When working with fabrics like this, think hard about your fabric combinations. If you have a precut pack of bright batiks in the most common bleeding colors (red, blue, purple) that would be a bad idea to mix that with white fabric where a bleed will be most noticeable. Match potential bleeding precuts with darker fabrics like black so even if the colors migrate, your quilt will still look great.

I've never found an issue from mixing prewashed fabric with non-prewashed fabric. I always wash the background fabric for my Quilty Box projects and the precuts are rarely washed, but the quilts still turn out great.

Ultimately the decision to wash or not wash is down to time. If you only have a few hours to quilt each week, prewashing, starching, and pressing your fabrics will likely feel like a ridiculous time-consuming extra step.

But if you have a bit more time or you just want to go the extra mile on a special quilt, give prewashing a try. The relief of knowing you can wash your finished quilt without worry about bleeding dyes is absolutely worth it in my opinion!

Now for a few updates about what's going on around the house...

This weekend we traveled to Charleston to visit family and made a big Thanksgiving meal for everyone. I love to cook and I especially love the challenge of feast meals and getting everything done on time.

It was a huge relief to be able to place our huge book order right before we left. The final proof finally came in and the books look amazing! Trust me, if you place an order for 1000 of anything, you want it to be perfect!

Click Here preorder Explore Walking Foot Quilting with Leah Day.

Don't forget our Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday sale will begin on Thursday!

My basement laundry room doubles as a space for leatherwork, dyeing fabric, painting fabric, and building costumes. The downside of having so many crafts in one place is there really isn't enough space for them all and I tend to leave my toys out even after I'm finished playing with them so it was time to seriously clean things up today. Yes, this was just a bit of the mess all around me!


I noticed I have lot of bag hardware from ByAnnie.com and lots of leather projects I've left unfinished. I plan to work on that this week with James while he's out of school for Thanksgiving. I need to get this space organized so I can actually walk in here and get some work done rather than spend all my time cleaning it back up again.

I think part of the problem is not having an idea of what I want to do with all the leather scraps I have laying around. I'm going to do some searching online for fun project ideas and come up with some new things to create.


I'm happy to report I've finally finished my machine embroidered landscape! This cute design will be ready in December and compatible with all the major embroidery machine brands. I just need to write the instructions and create the final files for you to download and it will be done.

It feels great to be finishing up this project and I have many more machine embroidery collections in the works. I know next year we're planning to do lots of videos on walking foot quilting, but I think sharing more videos on machine embroidery will also be a good idea to.

And YES! I will have an update about the quilting frame and moving the Grace Qnique 14+ soon! It's been a crazy busy and stressful month and I'm hoping I'll be able to share more on that transition soon.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

4 comments:

  1. I can't wait for your update on the Q'nique on the frame, everything I know about FM quilting I learnt from you and now got a Q'nique of the frame and I feel like a total beginner AGAIN. Grace does have a good deal of videos on the setting up and threading but I would have loved more videos on loading, advancing, playing with heights on the idler bar and practise pieces to check for tension problems. Maybe you can make this ride somewhat smoother.

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  2. I prewash all of my fabric whether it is retail or thrifted. Rather than use starch, I use a fabric sizing - it seems to work perfectly.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I have always had problems with figuring out how to get fabric "square" and haven't found another post to address the problem.

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  4. I feel I need to wash everything (except stuff smaller than FQs) because I once put steam on a purple fabric and my white background fabric bled pink. It was a very sad day.

    I don't have a ton of time to wash fabric, though so all my new fabric goes in with my normal laundry loads.

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