Yikes! Prewashing Quilt Fabric!

You’ve probably heard all you care to about whether or not to prewash fabrics before including them in a quilt. I’ve gone both ways from time to time and settled on a middle ground: I treat batiks with Retayne and often do not wash regular printed fabric unless it is intensely colored.

But every once in a while there’s a shock…

I always put a Color Catcher in when I prewash fabric, and it does a great job of picking up any stray dye in the wash.  So I was very surprised to see the spots shown above on my sheets!  (At least I had the sense not to prewash that fabric with my husband’s dress shirts!)

Here’s the fabric:

It’s from a major manufacturer and came from a quilt shop.  I just decided to prewash because the color is so intense.

I washed this 3-yard cut 3 times, and here are the 3 color catchers:

Finally, I gave up on the prewash and treated it with Retayne.  (Retayne wash requires my tea kettle and a bucket, since water temp needs to be 140 and tap water is too far below that.)  I’m still going to rub this fabric hard with a wet cotton swab to test for colorfastness before I use it in a quilt!

So, do you prewash your fabrics?

12 thoughts on “Yikes! Prewashing Quilt Fabric!

  1. I do not prewash fabric and I regretted it twice. I did use Retayne once and it was a difficult process for me. I know I didn’t do it correctly. I still use the cross-your-fingers- and -hope The fabric -doesn’t -run technique. I do use color catchers for the first wash after the hilt is made. When I see the results on the archers I always think about prewashing the fabric the next time.

  2. Yes. Always. Always. Always.
    I restore antique qlts and am constantly being asked to ‘fix’ an old or even new qlt that has been RUINED because the maker did not wash the fabrics first and the owner washed the qlt not knowing she should test the fabrics first.
    And washing doesn’t always work either! I washed a red 4 times before use that still ran in the qlt I put it in. I should has chunked it!

    • There is an internet article by Vicki Welsh called “Save My Bleeding Quilt” that talks about trying to save quilts. You are a saint for repairing antique quilts. I refer people who want that service elsewhere!

  3. Somewhere along the line (probably after a mishap) I got in the habit of prewashing. I wash everything so that my scraps will all be the same since some say not to mix prewashed and unprewaashed fabrics in a quilt. But sometimes I mix. And sometimes I’m in a rush and skip. Not too consistent. I agree Reayne process is a challenge. And I do use color catchers when I have a quilt with sharp contrasts.

  4. Wow, this post has been an eye-opener for me! And very timely, since I’ve been considering making some holiday projects that have brightly colored fabrics. I’ve been in the habit of making quilts out of remnants. I formerly only prewashed cotton flannel. And only used a color-catcher once for prewashing. But some of the smaller remnants, and especially precut fabrics, like the 5” squares, if I washed them first there’d be nothing left…I guess I could do what a friend of mine used to do:,serge all around the edges of the fabric to stop fraying, then wash. Now I find myself wondering why I never hear any feedback about certain quilts I gave as gifts, imagining them to be bleeding, faded trainwrecks of the original un-prewashed projects.

    • I’m wondering about some quilts I’ve given, too. I have sometimes put small pieces in a net bag, along with a color catcher, before washing. Not perfect, but “better than nothing” as my Mother used to say. Thanks for commenting.

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