Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Pre-Wash: To Do or Not to Do, That is the Question

Quilters can be pretty set in their ways and this is one of those topics that often gets conversation going, online and in person.

I used to pre-wash everything--it came from my car to the laundry room before it went to the studio.

 Some years ago I stopped that and for the last ten years or so I have basically pre-washed nothing. Using a Color Catcher when the quilt was done was enough insurance for me. This is a miracle product, every kid going off to college should be given several boxes and taught to use them. It's magic:  any color molecules that bleed off the fabric into the water are attracted to the color catcher sheet, not the surrounding fabrics:

I did not pre-wash the 59 red and white fabrics used in my Red and White--By the Numbers quilt. When asked how I could bear to sell that one, my funny reply was always: "I had to sell it before I had to wash it.". Can you imagine the fear in putting a quilt like that in the washing machine? No, me neither. I would probably have used an entire box of Color Catchers. And held my breath until the cycle was done. I did sell it so I never had to experience that level of fear and trepidation.

Today I pulled 40 fabrics from my stash, mostly batiks, for a 40th anniversary Block of the Week quilt from a local shop, to celebrate 40 years of the quilt shop being in business, with the same owner. Patches & Stitches has been my "home away from home" for 30 years and the "happy place" for many, many quilters. There will be lots more info about the quilt coming--don't ask me, the details, I don't know all the ins and outs yet--but we will all know soon!

I am not a Hoarder. I am the "Curator of an Extensive Personal Fabric Collection". Here are the fabrics I pulled in just 10 minutes from my considerable stash:

As I looked at those really dark batiks, especially the reds, purples, and dark blues, I thought I better pre-wash all this fabric, including the stark white with white dragonflies. I separated the fabrics into darks and medium/lights and did two loads.  Here are the Color Catcher results:

You can tell which came from which load. I probably should have washed those reds and purples again but I didn't. I was really surprised how the yellows bled. But the white fabric is still pristinely white, no problems.  I will be sure to use a few color catchers when washing the completed quilt, and will continue to use them until fabrics in the quilt no longer bleed.

Here are my fabrics, pressed and folded, just waiting for the first block instruction:

I'm sure this is enough fabric for two or three quilts so I'm already thinking of another project or two to use them in. I want to USE my fabric, not STORE it.

Do YOU pre-wash? Any horror stories to tell? I'm glad I took the time to pre-wash these--it didn't take very long, less than 2 hours to wash, dry and press both loads. I used the Express Wash cycle as the fabrics are dirty, just new.

Let's quilt!



  1. I never prewash either. I've made beaucoup QOV's (always red/white/blue) and use 3-4 color catchers when washing before presentation. I also put 4 in a sandwich baggy with instructions to use before washing and encourage the use of same with any future washings. I LOVE those things!!

  2. I finished a BOM appliqué. It was the first time that I had used a kit. I didn't prewash the fabrics. I gave the blocks a wash as I completed them and had some bleeding. When I finished the quilt, I got the quilt wet and had even more bleeding which was sad. . .I'm determined to prewash now! I even used the color catchers too which helped but, did keep all the dye off the quilt top!

  3. All of your blogs are my favorite but I am in love with this one! When I took a Becky Goldsmith appliqué class this spring she thought it was shameful if you didn't pre-wash your fabrics wihen appliquéing. I didn't prewash anything on my halo medallion quilt I used to prewash and quit doing it years ago. Now I'm rethinking the process.

  4. I prewash my Batiks, but that is all. They seem to be the worst for bleeding nowadays. That was not always the case, but most of todays fabrics, other than batiks, don't seem to run. Regardless, when the completed quilt gets washed, a color catcher is an excellent idea, just as a precaution.

  5. I used to prewash religiously, but as I began using more small scraps from other people, that wasn't an option. So I quit. Like you, I rely on color catchers, and I have yet to be disappointed.

  6. I don’t pre-wash. My husband does it for me!

  7. LOL - I just love your curator comment. Will have to remember that one when someone meets my stash for the first time. I don't pre-wash with exception being my batiks. I learned that lesson with the third quilt I ever made and before I knew anything about Color Catchers. Beautiful fabrics you have there.

  8. I wash but do not use soap, and you?

  9. I always prewash because of the bleeding and also because the fabrics shrink! Some a lot more than others. And I wouldn't want to make a quilt, give it as a gift and have that person wash the quilt, forget to use the Color Catcher, and have the colors bleed and ruin the quilt.

  10. Sometimes I do prewash, but not always. It is always a tough decision for me. Reds do scare me, they can bleed.

  11. What soap/detergent do you use when you do wash? Or do you not use any? Thanks. Love your blogs!