One of the most frequently asked questions in patchwork and quilting shops is “Do I need to prewash my fabric?"
Opinions differ on this topic, and whether you do or not is a personal choice. Some of you probably always prewash, while others never do.
Prewashing all new fabrics (yard goods, or precut patches) before using them in quilts ensures that there will be no uneven shrinkage and no transfer of colours when the quilt is laundered for the first time.
How to Prewash
There are right ways and wrong ways to go about washing your new fabric. Don’t just toss it in and turn the dial. You need to unfold all fabric before placing it into the washing machine. Keep lights separate from darks as dark colours are more likely to bleed. Choose a gentle phosphate free detergent and select the gentle cycle.
Light coloured fabrics can be washed in lukewarm water but you should soak dark colored fabrics individually in cold water for at least half an hour to set the dyes and then machine wash in cold water.
Tumble dry fabrics almost dry, then remove from the dryer and press with an iron. To avoid wrinkling, do not put more than six yards (approx 5.5 metres) of fabric in the dryer at one time and do not leave the fabric sit after the cycle has ended.
Take Extra Care With Precut Kit Pieces
Precut samples or kit pieces should not be machine washed or dried. Separate the pieces into piles of same colored patches, being careful not to handle them anymore than necessary. Preshrink them by soaking in cold water. If color bleeds, repeat until water runs clear. Place patches on toweling to dry.
If you’ve purchased high quality quilt shop fabric following these hints should provide satisfactory results. Keep in mind that quilts made with both light and dark colored fabrics, should only be washed in cold water.