Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pre-Wash or Don't Pre-Wash?? That is the question!

You may have noticed that lately....I have a few red quilts out there.

And there are lots and lots of pretty red fabrics in your local quilt shop.

I have received more than a few emails asking about whether or not to pre-wash all of this red fabric.  

Do I pre-wash?  Is it safe?  Will the dye run??

That is an age old question, and I thought perhaps, with all this red fabric out there, that I should address this question.

First, let me share what I do.  I don't pre-wash anything.   
If you'd like to pre-wash...go right ahead.  There are exceptions to that rule, however.  I don't recommend pre-washing quilt kits unless you know for certain you have plenty of fabric.  Also, I wouldn't pre-wash precuts like 5 or 10 inch charms, or jelly rolls, and the like.  Many of the patterns using them use every inch and every thread, so you don't want the shrinkage that comes with pre-washing or you may find yourself short of the needed fabric.  

I don't pre-wash because I like the sizing the fabric has when it comes off the bolt.  When I'm about to work with fabric to make a new quilt, I add starch or sizing to my fabrics before cutting them!!  

Having stiffer fabric to work with aides you in many ways throughout the piecing process.  Because the fabric has more body, it behaves better thru cutting, piecing, and pressing.  To me, working with washed or un-sized fabric is like trying to style your hair with no conditioner or any helpful hair care product.  No mousse, no gel...just limp, unconditioned hair.  (You wouldn't want to see my hair without that stuff!!  Eeekkk!!)  Sizing and starch give the fabric a lot of body, and the difference is amazing!

But...what about the red dye??  If you wash the quilt without pre-washing the fabric, will the dye bleed and ruin your quilt?  

The answer to that question is.....with quilt shop quality fabric from a major, well-known manufacturer, you should not have any problem.  You would not need to pre-wash any fabric.

That said, when in doubt, TEST!  Test some swatches for yourself to be sure.  No manufacturer gives a guarantee because so many factors are at play.  What type of water do you have?  Hard, soft, well water?  How does it mix with the detergent you're using?  Any number of things can be happening, and because a fabric company has no control over that, they cannot give a guarantee.  But honestly, I trust the quality of really good quilt shop quality cotton.  

Does that make you feel any better?  Maybe...a little.  That's not good enough!  So, I did a test with one of my quilts so I can share the results with you.  
 The quilt above is the bonus project included with my Prairie Gathering Quilt of the Quarter program.  It's made of all the same red prints in the Prairie Gathering fabric collection.  The fabrics were never washed, but were heavily starched, then cut up, sewn and quilted.  The quilt has never been washed.....until now!  Notice I will use my everyday detergent and not a mild quilt soap.  I wanted to see what would happen when I washed it.  
I added a color catcher to the wash to see if it would pick up any dye that was released into the water during the wash.

It has loads of suds!
 This picture shows the quilt still wet and what the color catcher looked like when it came out of the washer.  It's really clean and clear.  
 Here you can see a close-up of the fabrics still wet.  The red dye has not run at all.  
This is a close-up of the quilt center after drying the quilt in the clothes dryer.  The quilt has that nice crinkle to it (LOVE that!!) and looks great.  

I hope this helps you feel more confident in using Marcus Fabrics.  Again, when in doubt, please test for yourself.  

The folks at Marcus Fabrics have a bit more to add on this subject on their blog today.  So, click here to visit the Marcus blog and read a bit more about this.  

Have you been Blog Hopping with us??  Our Spring Thyme Blog Hop has just begun!  Be sure to check out all of the designer's blogs for a free spring project, inspiration, and a yummy recipe.  Click here to see the full list of designers and the schedule.  

And, please return right here to blog on my day....MARCH 9th!!


  1. Great post and wonderful to see your test!

  2. That is impressive - I'm shocked that the color catcher is that clean. I never pre-wash my fabrics, and always keep color catchers on hand!

  3. Thank you! Showing the washing really makes me feel more confident in not needing to prewash.

  4. I prewashed the "Prairie Gathering" fabrics because I've had accidents. However, I didn't have to. The water stayed clear and the colour catcher, too. I spraystarched the fabrics afterwards, which makes accurate sewing so much easier. But I'll be glad to skip that one step, at least when Marcus fabrics are involved. Thanks for this tip. Birgitt

  5. Excellent post, Pam! I don't prewash and haven't had problems. Occasionally, with a suspect fabric from an unknown source, I will cave and prewash. I always use color catchers with finished quilts, but mine haven't usually come out as clean as yours!!

  6. I do prewash most fabrics. Never precuts, though. If I'm using precuts in a quilt, I don't prewash any of the other fabrics. I ALWAYS use the color catcher and sometimes it's surprisingly dark. I have never seen one as clean as yours. Nice!! I do use good fabrics from the quilt shops and it definitely makes a difference. It isn't color running that concerns me as much as shrinkage and I have had good fabric shrink so I always buy a little extra. Great post and I am going to spray starch from now on. Thanks.

  7. I normally don't ever prewash but-I did wash all of fabric for this quilt because of the red. It is all starched,pressed and ready to cut. We are getting 8-10 " of snow by tomorrow so I don't plan on going anywhere!

  8. I'm not a prewasher either and I've not had fabric run in the laundry. I seem to have worse trouble while pressing. If I've got red next to white and I spray the seam, whether with water or starch, sometimes I get some red bleed into the white. Especially over heavy seams.I think I might have the iron too hot or I'm ironing rather than pressing.

    PS, I love your utility room. I follow you on Pinterest, not only for the quilts, but for the great flea market and antique stuff you find. I especially love old sewing notions. You've got some great ones!

    Cindy in Kansas

  9. Wow to your manufacturer and the dyes used!

    I just washed a red quilt - using Dreft, cold water and 5 sheets of Shout color catchers. It took a double rinse (cycle w/o soap) and 5 more color catcher sheets before I felt comfortable drying the quilt.
    I always wash quilts with color catchers - several. The cost in the end is worth the result.

  10. It really depends to your liking. There are those who prefer pre-washing their quilts, just to make sure it won’t shrink and the color wouldn’t wash away. On the other hand, others prefer not to, since they are trying to get the creased effect they want for their quilt. Anyway, this post definitely made these points clear. Thanks for sharing!

    Blanca Douglas @ Safe Cleaning by Guardsman

  11. Interesting post Pam - and one I seem to have missed too! I always advocate quality fabrics and also use a dye catcher - just in case - ... I'm too impatient to sew without waiting around for fabric to dry!

  12. I'm late to this conversation but wanted to share my experience with you. I just finished a red and white quilt. I used all quality, reproduction fabrics from my local quilt shop. I washed and dried all the fabrics before cutting. ( I did not use color catchers in my pre-wash and washed all the reds together, so I wasn't aware that they bleed) My long arm quilter used blue pencil to mark my quilt and when we sprayed with water to get the blue marks off the white, the reds bleed into the white. After researching I ordered Sympathol and washed the quilt in hot water.....3 times....before my color catchers came out close to white. I am now a believer in pre-washing until those color catchers come out white.