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Thread: Prewash Fabric or Not?

  1. #1
    NancyRose's Avatar
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    When I first began quilting, I was told to prewash the fabric before cutting. Later, the people at my LQS said that they did not. I came across some fabric that I had prewashed, and I would like to buy some complementary fabric to use with it. Should I prewash the new fabric, because the other has been washed already? If I mixed prewashed and unwashed fabrics, will it cause problems when the whole quilt is washed?

  2. #2
    Moderator Up North's Avatar
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    If part of the fabric is prewashed I would wash any others I used in that quilt, Normally I don't prewash my fabrics unless I think they will bleed. I like the crispness of the fabric.

  3. #3
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    I would also pre-wash the additional fabric because the other is washed. If I am using a jelly roll and mixing it with yardage (usually from the same collection), then I don't wash the yardage because I don't wash the jelly roll.

    Otherwise, I do pre-wash. To get that nice crispness of new fabric I use startch.

  4. #4
    Senior Member crashnquilt's Avatar
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    I prewash all my fabrics for several reasons.
    1. Different manufacturers fabrics will shrink different percentages.
    2. Removal of chemicals, formaldehyde, sizings, cotton polish, etc. helps to fabric to be "true"
    3. Prewashing gives you a view of the finished quilt.

    If you do not prewash fabrics, after sending your quilt out to be quilted, after that first washing, if you have different percentages in shrinking the quilting can become totally lost in the fabrics.

    The chemicals used for fabric finishing can be a health concern to several people. Some may just get some annoying "unknown" itching, rashes may appear on the skin, but more important, eye irratant.

    I have been fighting an infection in my eyelids for over 2 years. I've rubbed my eyes hard enough to look like I have been hit, and my eyelashes have fallen out. Recently, an opthalmologist said it is a reaction to the chemicals in treated fabrics. Now that I prewash everything, even customer quilts, the infection is starting to clear.

  5. #5
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    I usually don't prewash, but if part of the fabric is prewashed I prewash the rest.

  6. #6
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    I agree with Up North, if the rest of the fabric that's going in the same quilt has been washed, then I wash, otherwise, I don't prewash anymore.

  7. #7
    Super Member Lneal's Avatar
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    I usually don't pre wash my fabrics either.

  8. #8
    Super Member JJean's Avatar
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    I pre-wash everything but pre-cuts. Some colors run. I was glad I used Shout Color Catchers with my Downy Kid's quilt. I washed it 3 times and used a TBS of vinegar on the last.

  9. #9
    Senior Member cindyg's Avatar
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    I wash everything. I wash the dark colors after letting them sit in a vinegar soak for a while. As soon as I don't wash the darks, one will bleed. I wash all the other fabrics because I washed the darks and to get the chemicals out of them as well. To put body back into the fabric I press it using Mary Ellen's Best Press (a starch alternative). It smells so good! Everything goes to the laundry room for washing before it ever sees my sewing room. I do not, however, wash charm squares or jelly rolls, etc.

  10. #10
    Super Member isnthatodd's Avatar
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    I made a dress one time for display at a fabric store I worked at and did not prewash the fabric. The dress was lovely and crisp. When I washed it after being on a display for a month, it looked like a dead towel :( I was really disappointed. The fabric was seersucker, so I couldn't even starch and iron it)

  11. #11
    Moderator Jim's Gem's Avatar
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    I don't usually prewash. However if some of it is already pre-washed, you will want to keep it consistent.
    I usually only prewash my flannels.

  12. #12
    Honey's Avatar
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    The only time I prwash is when I am working with flannel. I have never had a problem with fabric from my lqs or with the places that I order from.

  13. #13
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    I agree, it is better to prewash it all, or none :D:D:D

  14. #14

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    If you start out cutting from prewashed fabric you should
    make sure all of your fabric is prewashed. Likewise if you start out cutting with unwashed fabric you should continue with unwashed fabric. In other words do not mix prewashed with unwashed fabrics.

  15. #15
    Super Member Oklahoma Suzie's Avatar
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    I would wash the new fabric.

  16. #16
    NancyRose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crashnquilt
    I prewash all my fabrics for several reasons.
    1. Different manufacturers fabrics will shrink different percentages.
    2. Removal of chemicals, formaldehyde, sizings, cotton polish, etc. helps to fabric to be "true"
    3. Prewashing gives you a view of the finished quilt..
    Thanks for your post. It was very informative. I admit I was leaning towards not prewashing, but you have made such valid points that I will now. I hope your eyes get better. I suffer from allergies, and in the fall my eyes were giving me fits, too.

  17. #17
    NancyRose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pittsburgpam
    I would also pre-wash the additional fabric because the other is washed. If I am using a jelly roll and mixing it with yardage (usually from the same collection), then I don't wash the yardage because I don't wash the jelly roll.

    Otherwise, I do pre-wash. To get that nice crispness of new fabric I use startch.
    I wondered about jelly rolls! I guess the rule of thumb is, wash if you can. It just bothers me when I see how the cut edges fray and you lose precious fabric. You have a beautiful quilt in your avatar picture. I have some hand-dyed fabric I have been buying every year at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago every year, and I would like to eventually make a quilt like yours. So far I don't feel confident enough to attempt it.

  18. #18

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    I was recently told, by a quilting instructor that fabrics today are not "cured" for more than an hour (at one time it was 2 days) so that all cottons should be pre-washed to be sure of no surprises in your finished quilt. So, now I do, and I have found that if you get the fabric right out of the drier before it is totally dry, and smooth it out, there is very little ironing required,

  19. #19
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    I prewash all of my fabric. A bleed will break your heart!

  20. #20
    pamsmpk's Avatar
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    Same here, I DO pre-wash flannels because they have a tendency to shrink but otherwise....only wash completed quilts with a color catcher

  21. #21
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    Having been badly burnt with colors bleeding on something I worked on recently (red, of course), I plan to always prewash from now on. I prewashed something yellow recently, and used a color catcher, and it "caught" a ton of dye. There's nothing worse than spending hours working on something, only to have it bleed all over itself the first time you wash it, trust me.

  22. #22

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    Where do you buy "color catcher"?

  23. #23
    Super Member lalaland's Avatar
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    I just want to emphasize what crashnquilt says about prewashing. I learned this in a class I took on fibers and was surprised to say the least.

    Formaldehyde, which, if you're unfamiliar with it, is the stuff they use to preserve dead things. When you see a dead thing floating in a jar with liquid in it, that liquid is formaldehyde. It's one of the most popular chemicals used in fabric because it kills bugs, and their eggs. Fabric is stored in warehouses before being shipped and bugs love warehouses AND fabric.

    Sizing is also used in fabric. It's great because it makes the fabric smooth and even looking. When you wash out the sizing, your fabric may suddenly be not so smooth and very uneven.

    And just because a fabric is 100% cotton, doesn't mean it has the same weave. Some are tighter than others, some threads are denser, you can tell by feeling the fabric.

    And how many people do you think have touchy feeled that fabric before you? Now we're talking dirt and oil.

    And dyes do run so washing with a color catcher to catch the running dyes, or using white vinegar, which will keep the running dyes from adhering to the other fabrics and will also "set" the colors in your fabric, is a good idea as well.

    If you prewash the fabric you are assured that all the chemicals and whatever else is on it have been removed. After dyes have been released you will have the true color of your fabric. And with the sizing wash out, you will also have the true size of your fabric and you can straighten out any lopsided grain issues you may have as well.

  24. #24
    Junior Member quiltease's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ardis
    Where do you buy "color catcher"?
    I bought Carbona Dye Grabber at Joanns. I was making a quilt for a client, and even though I prewash EVERYTHING, when I was giving it a final press using steam..yup, the red ran onto the cream. I took it to the laundramat, placed the completed quilt in with the dye grabber (in their biggest washer)and crossed my fingers. It came out!! Not a hint of red. So now I use the dye grabber at home when I prewash darks.
    bev. :]

  25. #25

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    Thank you. I'll be sure to buy that next time I'm there.

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