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Pre-washing the fabric in quilt kits

by Verne

Verne asks...

Should I pre-wash my quilt kits that I have purchased.

Julie replies...

This is a tricky question, Verne! :)

The general rule on pre-cuts—jelly rolls, charm squares, honey buns and the like—is NOT to prewash.

Strips tangle easily in the washing machine, if a patch requires the actual size of the pre-cut any shrinkage throws off the instructions. It makes sense.

However, if this is a quilt kit cut by a quilt store, the question then becomes 'how generous are the fabrics cut'.

Without knowing any other information, this is how I would proceed.


If I care about shrinkage, I would thoroughly mist each fabric, not dripping but completely wet, and iron it dry on a piece of white fabric. The wetting and heat of the iron will help it shrink. Ironing on something white helps me see whether or not it has a tendency to bleed.

If you are a heavy fabric-starcher like me, the wetness from the starch and ironing it dry will also encourage the shrinkage.

If I was certain, after some calculations based on the design of the quilt, that there was more than enough fabric including an estimate of 5% more for shrinkage, then I'd let the washing machine do the work for me.

Remember that pre-washing does not insure that your fabric won't bleed. It shrinks and cleans the fabric. It removes at least some of any excess dye.

Testing is what helps you determine if a fabric is going to bleed.

Re-testing helps you determine if it's finished bleeding.

My experience from making my own quilts and making the samples in the Free Quilt Block Patterns Library is that these days very few of the commercially made fabrics bleed. However, when one does, it is like a knife in the gut when you only find it after the quilt is finished. So I always test.


If I'm only concerned about bleeding fabric, I'd do a quick bleed test with a small chunk from each of the fabrics. It's ridiculously simple. Click here for those directions.

I hope this has helped you to make an informed decision about your kit.

To my readers, your comments, thoughts and suggestions are always welcome. Just use the comments link below to share them.


Julie Baird

Comments for Pre-washing the fabric in quilt kits

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I pre-wash my precuts
by: mcadwell

I put my pre-cuts into a mesh bag, made to keep lingerie safe. It minimizes tangling and keeps them altogether in the washing/drying process so none of the pieces go to the home of eaten-by-the-dryer lost socks.

Backing fabric
by: Brenda

I'm working with pre-cuts and backing fabric from the same line.

Since the pre-cuts are not pre-washed should I also, not pre-wash the backing fabric?

The pre-cuts were starched and steam pressed. Maybe I should also do the same to the unwashed backing fabric?

I will be using cotton batting straight from the package.

This for a customer and I would appreciate any suggestions.

Thank you!

From the Editor: Because I'm picky in my own work, the first thing I'd do is a bleed test to confirm it doesn't bleed.

Then I would steam and starch the backing fabric. The good thing is you'd probably have to press it anyway. The better thing is that a starched backing slides easier over the bed of your sewing machine for machine quilting.

Good luck with your project!



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