Preshrinking cotton fabric prior to cutting and piecing it into a quilt is a commonly debated topic among quilters. While whether to prewash your fabric or not ultimately comes down to personal preference, ZJ Humbach shares her quilter’s guide for prewashing 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.