Fabric… to prewash or not? That is the question. A common question actually. I would be lying if I said I always prewashed my fabrics before I started a project.  Most of the time I am too excited to get started and I want to just jump right in.  And this question has been asked time and time again… Is prewashing fabric a MUST before I begin cutting and sewing? 

Although some are quick to respond with YES, I do not think the answer is universal.  In fact, it really depends on a few things like: What are you sewing? Does it need to hold up? What is the purpose of your project? What fabric are you using? The list could go on.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding if prewashing fabric is necessary:

1. Shrinkage in fabric types and projects –  Some fabrics shrink more than others. Cotton and flannel are good examples. If you are doing a project with multiple fabric types and wash them after, they can shirk differently. If you sew, then wash, it could cause your project to pull and lay incorrectly. For example, if you are doing a quilting project, then washing is a VERY important step. If you do not wash your fabric it could shrink after the quilt is put together which will cause bunching and pulling. What a waste of time and money! However, if you are sewing up some fleece blankets for the animal shelter, this is an example of when prewashing can be skipped. Or a one time wear Halloween costume. There are exceptions to every rule, and typically I find them!

2. Color –  Darker colors are more likely to bleed into your other fabrics when everything (eventually) makes it to the wash. When working on something with multiple fabric prints or multiple colors, you might actually need to wash them all separately, and more than once to avoid color bleeding.

3. Stiffness & Starch-  Did you know that when fabric is printed, it goes through a few process and one is setting colors and stiffness with starch.  This process can make it harder to handle and maneuver when you are working with it. Washing it can remove that, which will make it easier to work with when you sew.

Let’s take a closer look into washing fabrics with some inside tips on how to prevent fray in this video…
Joan Mantini

About Joan Mantini

After several years of being the Facebook page owner at Beginner Sewing, I noticed there was a desperate need to have a single go-to spot for members to be able to find answers to their common questions, get some useful tips & tricks, as well as find reputable places to purchase sewing products online. Taking my role as a trade publication editor by day, and combining it with my knowledge of frequently requested beginner sewing advice, I created www.beginner-sewing.com. An outlet that gives new sewists a free digital magazine geared for entry level sewing as an extra bonus!

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