To wash or not wash your fabric?  You will find quilters on both sides of the debate for this!  We have some tips to help you choose!

             1.       Is part of your quilt already washed?

If you are making a memory quilt out of t-shirts, you know they have been washed many times! If you add fabric that has not been prewashed to this type of quilt, the first time it is washed you have a chance of puckering seams.  Areas that are new cotton fabrics may shrink and pull on your set t-shirt blocks. Pre-wash your fabrics used for sashing and setting blocks beforehand to prevent this from happening!

             2.       Are you making a Red & White quilt?

Red and White quilts are a classic tradition in quilting. Piecing these two colors together can create a stunning quilt.  But what happens once it is washed after its first use?  What if that red bleeds onto the white fabric? All of that hard work may be damaged!  Don’t risk it!  Pre-wash both fabrics, but we would recommend separate washes!  Just like your laundry, wash white and colors separately!  This same concept applies to any quilt where you have a high saturated cotton color of red, blue, or other deep colors that will be against a light quilt fabric background.

             3.       Do you have a new wideback fabric?

Your longarm quilter will love your wideback! It is far easier to create backs for large quilts with a 108” wide backing fabric.  But what about washing?  We have found quilters spend a lot of time creating these quilts with such time and energy.  Then send it off to be quilted and have it returned with a stunning result. Only to wash the quilt and find the backing fabric has bled onto the front of the quilt!  We highly suggest prewashing that backing before having it quilted!  Stitch a large basting stitch down the edge to help control the fabric in the washer and iron it before delivering to your longarm quilter.  You both will be pleased with the result!

             4.       Are you using fabric precuts?

Here we will say no – don’t prewash a precut!  Your fabric is already cut for you, such a time saver!  But if you prewash a precut, you have a great chance of the fabric fraying and losing parts of those special strips! Since these will not be washed, do not wash any other fabric that you are using with it.  Let all the fabric shrink at the same time together!

             5.       Will this fabric be a garment?

If your favorite fabric will be cut, sewn, and worn – then absolutely yes!  Prewash your fabric!  All fabric shrinks when it is washed and some even change color.  Is your favorite black dress still black after multiple washings?  We highly recommend prewashing fabrics for garments!  You spent a good amount of money on the perfect fabric for your outfit and more than likely, a good amount of time in creating it.  Without prewashing that fabric, once it is worn and washed it is likely to shrink and pucker at your seams!  Wash the fabric based on if it is a cotton, lawn, rayon, knit or other type.   Follow washing directions for each of the specific fabrics.  You might want to do a large basting stitch on the edge of your fabric beforehand to help keep it from warping in the washing machine on its first washing.

Prewash quilt fabrics with Retayne

So what do I wash my fabric with?

Many will jump to a color catcher in your laundry tub.  But color catchers don’t fix the problem. They will catch the dye that comes off the fabric in the wash, but the dye is still there!  You will need to use a color catcher every time you wash that quilt. It doesn’t fix the issue of the dyed fabric, only helps prevent bleeding!

We suggest using Retayne in your washing.  Retayne uses a fixative to stop the fabric dye from bleeding! Retayne can be used for hand washing and machine washing fabrics.  Retayne will be used with hot water, to affect the dye in the fabrics, like a regular washing could.  The Retayne will then fix the dye in this initial wash, so any wash afterwards can be used with cool water. Retayne is a wonderful product that only needs 1 teaspoon per yard of fabric, so the bottles will last.  It comes in a 4 oz or 16 oz bottle.

Fabric companies are understanding the needs of the quilters! We are happy to work with RJR Fabrics and Cotton and Steel fabrics, which are created with reactive dyes.  Theses fabrics are stable and will not release any excess dye. Prewashing fabric is not necessary.

So, what do you say? Have we converted you to a fabric prewasher? Tell us in the comments below!

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Author: Ellen Ault