Fabric Care and Prep

There seems to be a lot of differing opinions on how to care for fabric. Some people insist on washing every piece, some people say not to do it. Some people say wash some things, but don't wash others. I say, since you are the one using it, do what you think is best!

Today, I will share with you on how I take care of my fabrics for quilting. 

Fabric in the Washing Machine

Most of my quilting fabrics are 100% cotton, so I will talk about taking care of those, unless otherwise mentioned.

Lets start by talking about washing.  

Washer and Dryer Front Loader

I wash most of my fabrics before using them. I know it gets rid of the stiffness, but it also gets rid of any weird smells and color bleeding. It also pre-shrinks the fabric so the quilt won't warp when one fabric shrinks more than another. This is especially important for flannels. I find that they shrink more than other fabrics.  

I do not wash precuts. They will fray easily, and are not worth the trouble.  

Laundry Detergent and Shout color catchers

I use regular laundry detergent and a couple Shout Color Catchers in a gentile cycle, wash and dry. 

Soapy laundry in the washer

Once it's dry, I try to pull it out immediately to prevent as many wrinkles as possible. If that is not successful, I will iron the fabric with steam. 

Iron, Best Press Starch, and Distilled Water

I use Best Press starch when I am putting together the quilt and there is small pieces. The starch helps the pieces not stretch and misshapen easily.  This is especially true when making half square triangles and sewing on the bias. Otherwise, I generally don't use it.

Best Press Starch on a Small Wedding Ring Quilt

When I am done, I make sure the fabric is folded nicely. 

Folded Navy Fabric

I usually wash and prep my fabric when I am ready to use it. That way, I know what has been washed, and what hasn't. 

I wash the quilts when I am done making the quilt. This helps me evaluate any problem areas and fix them. 

I do not wash art quilts, or wall hangings.

Hopefully you find this helpful. Most of my knowledge in this area has come from experience. 

Have fun quilting!


  • Hi Debbie!
    I usually just trim it off after it frays as some fabric frays more than others. Surging the edges will definitely stop the fraying, but it is some effort. I have never tried pinking shears, so I am not sure if that will help.
    Thanks for asking!

    Becky Smith
  • It has been about 15 years since I’ve sewn and I never use to pre wash but what you are saying makes total since. When I washed flannel and cotton for a baby blanket I was making I had both frey and ravel alot. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix or prevent it? I started to use my pinking shears but that was tedious so I used my rotary cutter. Then I thought this is probably why I never pre washed. Any suggestions welcomed .

  • I too wash all but precuts for the many reasons you cite. I especially appreciate your comment that since you are the one using the fabric, it is up to you whether to wash or not.


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