Why I prewash, a cautionary tale.

When it comes to "Quilting Rules" it's trendy to say that there are no rules, or that the "quilt police" are out of fashion.  But still, secretly (?) some of us stick to certain ways of doing things and passionately defend our positions when questioned.  For me, prewashing fabrics has become a sticking point..

Some people might think I'm crazy for prewashing because I wash all my fabric,  jelly rolls and layer cakes included.  I even wash gifted scraps, but I wasn't always so cautious.  

This weekend we drove up to Boston to visit friends, and I got to visit two of my quilts as well.  I made this one for Ayane before she was born (backstory here) and I have always loved it, so imagine my surprise when I spread it out and saw this:

Two of the blue fabrics I had used had bled.  They were gifted or scavanged scraps and I think they were hand dyed (possibly by whoever I got them from). Back then I didn't have a washing machine at home and didn't prewash. I took my chances, and look what happened.
Of course the quilt is still beautiful and definitely still functional,  but I wish I had been more careful and it would still be perfect.
So just a reminder. Please learn from my mistake.

Are there any "rules" that you secretly cling to?


  1. I've found that some fabrics still run, even after washing. Here's a cool trick to find out if they're going to run. Wet the fabric, place a paper towel on top, and iron it. The paper towel will become colored if the fabric's going to bleed. Also, I've heard of people using Synthropol on bleed spots like the one on this quilt.

  2. I hear you, but I never wash fabrics before use. I however wah all my quilts after finishing them and will put in some colour catchers. never had a problem.
    Love the quilt...

  3. Beautiful quilt! I just finished a quilt and had one of the red fabrics run a bit. I bought one of those Tide pens and plan to see if a good scrubbing will reduce the area that bled. It's frustrating!

  4. Love this quilt. I always pre-wash my fabrics, but have still had some hand-dyed pieces and even a couple of yarn-dyed plaids run run run. I try not to notice too much in the finished projects. I also always do my bindings on the bias. It's so much easier to do them on the straight-of-grain (for cutting, etc.), but on so many of the antique quilts that my mom has given me everything is perfect but for a fraying binding. Not willing to take that chance.

  5. What a heartbreak! I'll go back to prewashing everything now. Have been careless lately.

  6. I'm not a pre-washer, and it will probably take a major disaster to turn me into one. I respect your decision to do it, though! My ultra-stick-to-it rule has to do with squaring up fabric. I always open it all the way up and press it, then re-fold with selvage edges together and check that it hangs straight. Some are right on, but I've had some fabrics that are as much as two inches off! Not cutting with the grain of the fabric can result in distorted blocks either from stretching during the piecing process or crooked shrinkage when you wash the quilt.

  7. I'm definitely a pre-washer, too!

  8. rarely do I pre wash... I usually was my quilts with salt, a natural color catcher... Also, I've heard that if you pin color catchers directly that spot where it bled, you could re wash it, and maybe have success at getting the bleed out. The quilt is beautiful!!

  9. Hi! That quilt is so beautiful and I love the Kaffe fabric around!
    My first rule is that I pre wash always! For the colours and also not to change the size later.

  10. Yeah I obsessively pre-wash, too, charm squares and everything. Besides color bleeding I also fear that things will shrink unevenly if I don't although that may be irrational. Not sure if there are any other "rules" I insist on to quite that degree...

  11. Beautiful and brightly! Fabrics are juicy. I like it. It is cheerful for child (Ayane)!

  12. I love the idea about squaring up the fabric. I've bought some fabric online that, although it was an expensive designer line of fabric, was cut so far off- grain that it gave me fits the entire project. I also always make bias bindings for the same reason as Louise.

    I don't prewash because I want the quilt to pucker as much as possible when I wash it. I love the resulting texture and it hides a million mistakes!

    My one obsession is to heavily quilt my project - more than is expected. I'm not so keen on the current trend to grid quilt or outline quilt only. For me, more is better! And the texture is SO much better!

  13. I wash all my quilts, even with prewashed fabrics, with Shout Color Catcher sheets. Maybe that would help pull some of that color from the white parts of this quilt? So lovely, what a shame about the color migration.


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