It’s time to pick out fabric and ready it for the quilt pattern you’ve been coveting. You look at the back of the pattern and say “challenge accepted”! I’m going to share some of my tips and some other information on quilt fabric that will make this challenge for you fun… not a chore.
Tip #1 – How Much to Buy?
Always buy a bit more fabric than required. Unless a pattern specifies that the fabric amounts listed already include extra, add about 10% to the amount you buy. For example, if a pattern calls for 1/8 yard, I’ll buy 1/6 of a yard. If it calls for 1/4 yard, I’ll buy 3/8 yard. It never hurts to have a bit extra and you can always use the leftovers to build your stash! Here’s a few reasons why I do this:
- When squaring up the fabric, it’s possible to lose some of the length if the fabric was wound a bit wonky onto the bolt.
- Or if you pre-wash my fabric, there could be shrinkage.
- Finally …. Cutting errors. We all have them!
My patterns already include a bit extra in the amount required, but not every designer does that. Here’s what the back of one of my patterns look like. Most patterns will have these requirements on the back.
Tip #2 – Pre-wash the Fabric or Not?
There are pros and cons to each. Some quilters swear by it and wash and iron the fabric as soon as they get home. Others, like me, do not pre-wash most of the time. I find that the fabric is easier to cut without washing because the fabric retains the sizing it came with. I also like that “antique” look when the quilt is washed after quilting. So, here’s some pros and cons below to ponder in making your decision. Keep in mind this is not a complete list, just things I consider the most important when making my decision.
• All the fabrics that are going to shrink will shrink so the finished quilt pattern is not ruined by fabrics shrinking differently.
• Certain fabrics might bleed, like purples and reds, and transfer to other parts of a quilt when the finished item is washed.
• Chemicals used in the processing of the fabric are removed in pre-washing. Some people are allergic to these chemicals so this is a benefit to them.
• It takes time. The extra steps of washing and ironing adds time to the prep when getting ready to make a quilt.
• It washes out the sizing. Some quilters like this sizing which tends to make the fabric easier to cut. I like the “stiffer” fabric that, for me, seems to cut easier.
• Most of the quality fabrics today do not shrink much and the fabric dyes are much more stable to prevent bleeding. There’s also laundry products, like Shout® Color Catchers, that prevent color transfer.
• Fabric edges fray which can distort the fabric. This will require you to waste more fabric when squaring up.
Tip #3 – Washing the Fabric or the Quilt
If you decide to pre-wash your fabric, here’s a tip to help prevent fraying. You can prevent most of the fraying by cutting a corner off the fabric or cutting the non-selvedge edges with pinking shears.
This also works well for fat quarters and fat eighths. For these smaller pieces of fabric, in addition to above, I will put them in lingerie bags. This keeps them from getting tangled up with each other.
Be sure to separate lights from darks and wash on a gentle cycle in cold water. I toss the fabrics in the dryer on “air fluff” only for about 10 minutes and then hang the pieces on a drying rack to finish the drying. This cuts down on the wrinkles a bit, that way you can save ironing for when you are ready to cut.
If you decide not to pre-wash the fabric, but wash the quilt, you can follow the steps I take:
When I wash a large or small quilt that I have made, I use the Shout® Color Catchers I talked about earlier and I have experienced no color transfer. Just be careful! If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it.
I always wash the quilt on the gentle cycle with cold water. I dry it on low, or even just “air fluff” for about 10 minutes and then lay it out flat or gently over a drying rack to finish drying. You need to be careful with draping large quilts over a rack because the weight of the wet quilt can pull at seams. With a large quilts it’s best to find a clean, flat area to lay it out to dry.
Next week, I’ll talk about some more fabric tips and also some cutting tips. Come on back next week for some more tips! But before you, go leave me a comment below on your thoughts on the fabric tips I’ve shared or some things you’d like me to share in the future. I’ll enter you in a drawing for my pattern Seaside Cottage just for commenting!
The drawing will be on Monday, July 6th so you have a couple of weeks to enter! **We have a winner! Congrats, Jane Harrington!**
Jan Espinosa says
Thank you so much for taking the time to explain things to new quilters that we really need to know. I didn’t know about the clipping an edge to prevent fraying. That will certainly be helpful.
Mary Smith says
I like to prewash by soaking like-colors in my sink, wringing out and tossing in my dryer. It also helps to get the fabrics back on grain.
I am a beginner, these tips are helpful. I have done both, pre-wash and not wash.
Peggy Bourassa says
Love the cut the corner tip! And your sweet kitty!
Rita Manetta says
Great tips! Thank you so much!
Deana Fraser says
Thank you for the tips ,I really like the one about cutting the edge off before washing the material ,I will try that one !
me too! I hadn’t heard that tip before!
Thank you for your tips. I have to try the cut corner of the fabric before washing.
barbara blair says
Thanks for the tips! I always avoid washing fabric, because then you have to iron it before you can cut. I wasn’t aware of the tip about cutting a corner off to prevent fraying.
Great tips! I never pre-wash and I always use the Shout Color Catchers….what a find they were!!
Connie Miller says
You always have great tips. I had never heard of snipping off the corner to prevent fraying.
Debra Gutenson says
I always wash first. That’s the way I was taught, and I like to remove chemicals before I handle fabric. Thanks for all your tips. Your Seaside Cottage is beautiful.
Mitzi D Bridges says
Thanks for the tips on whether to wash or not.
Jane Harrington says
I’m working on one of your patterns that has wool applique on the cotton quilt. Is there a way to wash it or should I dry clean (or just not let anyone touch it!)
Hi Jane. I have never washed any of my quilts with wool on them. Most of them are wall hangings that are not touched. If it’s a large quilt, I would just gently soak it in a tub for cleaning, let it sit and drain completely after draining the water and then lay it flat for air drying.
Thanks for this information…I usually presoak reds and dark blues, to prevent running colors.
Rose Zapel says
I have just started washing some fabric; mainly fat quarters when making baby quilts. And then, I starch, because that adds the stiffness back and make cutting easier. Will try your corner cutting tip!
Good tips. I always purchase more material than required and it has saved me more times than I care to admit. The left overs have been useful in scrappy quilts, or more recently, masks and scrub hats.
I used to prewash all the fabric but found by not washing, the fabric is easier to cut and work with. I do however prewash the reds.
Great tips. I always purchase more fabric than what is recommended and it has saved me more times than I would like to admit. Leftovers are used in scrappy quilts, and more recently, masks and scrub hats.
Thanks so much for clarifying about the prewashing or not. One tip I heard many years ago from Harriet Hargrave is that if you think a fabric might run sew a small piece of it to the light color fabric and place in warm water. The fabric color may run, but that doesn’t mean the light fabric next to it will pick up the color.
I like to prewash for a couple of reasons:
— Washing removes the sizing that can attract bugs. This is particularly important if the fabric is going into the stash and not being used immediately.
— If it is all prewashed, when I make a new quilt I know that all of the fabric is in the same condition.
— It really points out the fabrics that were “wonky” when wrapped on the bolt.
If it want fabric to be stiff when cutting or piecing, such as when cutting on a bias, I can always apply sizing then.
These are all great reasons for pre-washing fabric.
Jan P says
Love the Seaside Cottage quilt! I’m seeing lots of nine-patches in patterns these days – so great for using scraps!
When I first started quilting, I washed all fabrics. Now I don’t wash any and have been very lucky, although most of my quilts are used for decorating and are rarely washed!
Sandy Everitt says
Great article with many good tips! I like that you added photos and lots of white space . . . makes article easy to read. Also, never saw scalloped pinking before. I rarely pre wash, usually just when very strong colors (red & blue) are involved.
Lynn Hyman says
Thanks for the tips. I had not heard the one about cutting the corner of the fabric!
Margaret Cozza says
Even though I’ve been quilting for 20 plus years, it was good to read your article. I was taught to always prewash my fabrics, but have recently been encouraged by my favorite shop owner to try making the quilt with off the bolt fabric. It was easier to cut and came together very well. Washing aftrwards gave it a perfect look. Thanks.
BJ Henderson says
I use color catchers and pre-wash my fabric. If I have a dark red or navy, I sometimes soak them in cold water.
Joellyn Warner says
What a great article! I’ve wondered about the wash or not to wash and have tried finding all the information I can on this subject. Thank you for all the great information and tips. 😊
Love the quilt❣️😍
Joyce Jensen says
Thank you for the helpful information.
cathy lynch says
Thanks for all the great tips. I prefer not to wash, I like to get right to cutting. Do you have a favorite ruler?
Hi! My favorite ruler is from Creative Grids. Those rulers have markings that are easy to read and I like that they are clear and also have slip prevention disks already on the back of them.
I pre wash all fabrics from fat quarters on up to yardage, using color catchers like Shout or Caranuba, and especially so where reds are concerned. The dyes don’t always complete bleeding on first wash, so the color catchers are used when quilt complete, as well. As initially I might not know who the quilt will go to, and some with chemical sensitivities, zi feel it best to wash at the get go. Smaller pieces, of the bleeding color types, I do in a small sink.
Jan Parker says
I used to be a faithful “washer” of all new fabrics. Afterward, I would then proceed to spray the fabrics with sizing and spend hours ironing! Then I just stopped. I said this is nuts to be doing all of this work. I find that I have had no problems with not washing. I like that they are already sized.
Liz Kisielewski says
Good information. Sometimes what to do differs for different projects and fabrics.
Joanna Suter says
I have bought fabric for many years and have always pre washed. I would like to stop pre washing but feel like all my fabric should be the same. All pre washed or none pre washed
Doreen Sawyer says
Love Seaside Cottage bright colors and nine patch perfect for summer!
Thank you for the fabric quilts, I have pre-washed in the past but prefer not to since the cutting is easier and sharper.
Sharon Howell says
I love the look of a quilt that has shrunk a little when it was washed. I can’t remember what my mother said about perfectly flat quilts, but she was one that said a quilt was made to keep someone warm, and she couldn’t see buying new fabric to make a quilt. However, she made an applique quilt that had to have new fabric, but was made to hang on a wall–it is full bed size, and she said she’d never make an applique quilt, but sometimes when you get older, you change your mind.
Sally Ricketson says
Excellent! Thanks so much.
Thank you for the tips. I am a beginner quilter and have preferred to not wash my fabrics. Love the Seaside Cottage quilt, bright and cheery!!
Betty Dix says
I have never pre-washed my fabrics. I’ve been quilting for over 40 yrs. now. Still a beginner, LOL. But, I’ve not had many problems with not washing. I will use those color catchers tho. Saves a lot of frayed nerves. Just did a load of Quilts Of Valor & that color catcher saved their bacon. Love your Seaside Cottage pattern. Just found you because of American Patchwork & Quilting.
Sue Cunningham says
I loved this article and look forward to your next article. Thanks