Pre-washing fabrics – an experiment

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I picked up this delicious fat quarter collection at the 2013 Quilt Market in Houston.  Recently, I decided to turn it into a monochromatic, graphic quilt.  When I buy cotton yardage, I immediately wash it when I get home and then place it on mini fabric bolts.  That way, when I’m ready to use it, it’s ready.  In this case, however, the cuts of fabric were small, I struggled with whether to prewash the fabric or not.  Instead of guessing, I decided to do an empirical experiment and to share it with you.

First, what are the considerations on whether to prewash the fabrics?  Below, I prepared a chart that summaries the pros and cons of prewashing:

Prewashing

 

Understanding these pros and cons, I decided to pre-wash just one of the fat quarters in the bundle.  After this experiment, and as you can see below, I determined that there was no appreciable shrinkage or fraying.  In fact, the difference here looked to me more like a difference in the cutting of the fabric.

Comparison - unwashed on top of washedDifferences can easily be differences in cutting

 

However, I had to press and starch the pre-washed piece to get it stabilized enough to properly cut it.

Waves

 

So, at least for the purposes of the Kaufman fat quarter bundle, I did not prewash any of the other fat quarters.

What is your practice on pre-washing?

One comment

  1. Patricia says:

    I always pre-wash because my kids have eczema. I’m also super terrified colors will run and ruin my work (speaking from experience

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