ZJ Humbach

Quilter's Guide to Preshrinking

ZJ Humbach
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Duration:   6  mins

Preshrinking cotton fabric prior to cutting and piecing it into a quilt is a commonly debated topic among quilters. Ultimately, whether to prewash your fabric or not just comes down to personal preference, but if you like to prewash your fabric, ZJ Humbach shares her quilter’s guide for doing so.

Cotton Fabric

Depending on the cotton fabric you are using for your quilt, it can shrink up to as much as three percent when washed. ZJ explains that this means that if you have a quilt that is supposed to finish at 100 inches, after it is washed it could shrink to as small as 97 inches. She also explains how this can cause issues if your pieced quilt top and backing fabric do not shrink at the same rate.

Whether you decide to prewash your cotton fabric or not prior to using it, ZJ recommends that you stay consistent. This means that if you wash the fabric for the quilt top you need to wash the fabric for the backing. While cutting down on the amount a quilt may shrink once washed is one of the reasons for prewashing fabric, ZJ explains that it is not the only one. She talks about how prewashing fabric can also ensure that fabric colors do not bleed once the finished quilt is washed. ZJ shares more quilting tips when it comes to deciding whether to prewash or not, including how to test a small swatch of fabric for colorfastness before using it. While quilt tops are generally made from yardage of quilting cotton, they can be made from other cuts and fabrics as well.

ZJ shares several tips for working with different fabrics in a quilt including flannel fabric and precut quilting fabric. She explains why different fabrics may need to be treated differently prior to using them and how to handle prewashing or not prewashing precut quilting fabric.

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7 Responses to “Quilter's Guide to Preshrinking”

  1. Stephaney Thomas

    What about fat quarters? I'm making a nine patch with flannel and purchased a stack of fat quarters. If I preshrink, do you recommend I pink the the edges to reduce fraying?

  2. Carol Ann Kitchell Maurer

    My point of view is different than the video on NOT pre-shrinking precuts. On the contrary, if you preshrink yardage then why not Precuts too? Especially if you are adding them to a quilt with washed yardage...each fabric then, will shrink differently under the iron causing wonkiness within the block. I agree you should never put precuts in the washer, yes it's a disaster, but in my experience and opinion, each precut piece should be separately "dunked" by hand into a tepid soap bath, rinsed in cool water and laid out onto a white paper towel to check for bleeding and shrinkage greater than 1/4". Christmas precuts are notorious for bleeding and shrinkage, not so much crocking. So yes, prewash your precuts, by hand--each step that does take time quilting-especially washing precuts insures a quilt than can be washed without fear of bleeding.

  3. Sheela

    When do you preshrink and when do you spray starch? I usually spray starch all my materials before I cut them. and only preshrink/ wash those that are very dark in colour or that are batiks which I know will run its colours. I had several of Hoffman's Batiks darks with this issue but not the prints. I ended up washing several times and also using colour catcher.

  4. Linda P

    I have made a quilt top with pre cuts that I did not preshrunk. I want to use flannel for the back. Should the flannel be preshrunk? It is yardage off the bolt.

  5. Susan

    I long for the good old days when I could buy cotton that was garenteed not to shrink and many were garenteed color fast. I'm sure it is better today and I'm just an old fool or my memory is shot.

  6. Patty Woodham

    What if you are using other non precut fabrics with your precuts? Do you preshrink the nonprecut fabrics (sashing, borders, backing) to use with precuts you did not preshrink?

  7. Linda Parks

    I preshrink prexuts in a pan of hot water then in bag in dryer or hang to dry. A little Ravel if not careful but I like to preshrink all fabrics.

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