Prepare Fabric for Quilting–Prewash or Not Prewash? That is the question.

Chevron Quilt

Prepare fabrics for quilts? To wash or not wash?

We at Woolstock Knit and Sew are starting to prepare a knitting and sewing class schedule for the fall and winter.  It seems odd to do that now, as we are not even officially in summer.  We want to plan ahead so we can provide the best classes!

One of the classes we are looking at holding is a quilt-technique-of-the-month club.  So as a quilting club leader, I get to try out the different patterns to decide which ones to do.  Yay!!

There are two schools of thought on how to prepare fabric for quilting.  Some prepare before using it in a quilt block. Some do it after the block is made and quilted.  I think it depends on what you are planning to do with the quilt.  If it is a wall hanging, how much are you planning on washing it,…really? If it is a baby quilt or a quilt for picnicking, that will be washed more often.

So… school of thought #1- Buy your fabric, iron if you need, starch if it needs a bit more body.  Then go ahead and make your blocks and assemble your quilt.  Once it is all done, wash your quilt.  If you think the colors will bleed, you can throw a color catcher in with the quilt for insurance.  The thought is that any shrinkage will be minimal and will help “Puff” the quilt.

School of thought #2- Wash that fabric ahead of time!  Treat the fabric like you would if you…let’s say– had a bad stain, so that you know if it will shrink or change before investing your time sewing it.  This also takes care of any bleeding concerns since the excess dye has already been dealt with before you start creating.

Once the fabric is washed and dried, iron it. Get all those wrinkles out! After it is all flat and smooth, spray the fabric with starch.  You don’t need to over spray or soak the fabric.  The goal is to just put some body back into the fabric.  By providing the fabric with some extra body (stiffness) the seams will be sharper and your block will go together better.

At the shop we use Best Press Starch.  It has a very nice light smell and works very well.  Not only will it make it easier to work with as it relaxes stubborn wrinkles, but it will make the fabric stain and soil resistant.  I use this on my regular ironing as well.

Once the blocks are finished, assembled, and quilted, you can wash the quilt again or just use it. It is your personal choice.

But, I want to know more.  I am going to actually test the two options.  I will be doing a trial testing the different schools of thought to see which works better, but in the mean time, I would love to hear your opinion.  Leave me a comment! What is your preference: wash now or later? Or do you do something different?

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