Blog, Exploring Quilting Basics

Exploring the Basics- Fabric Prep AKA The BIG Debate!

Welcome to our series exploring quilting basics! We left off with a look at the materials you need to gather before you start your quilt. Next time, we’ll be exploring tips for prepping your fabric for cutting. For an overview of the series, you can check out all of the posts here


Hi friends!

In this post in the Exploring the Basics series, Tammy and I talk about fabric prep. 


Before you start cutting, you need to get your fabric ready. And truly, this next question can be one of the BIG debates in the quilt world. 

Do you prewash your fabric or don’t you?

I admit to being one who does not prewash her fabric. I used to prewash and I still have some fabric on my shelf that has been prewashed. I actually did a blog post a few years ago (really many years ago!) about prewashing and fabric shrinkage. 

Cotton fabric will shrink. And every fabric shrinks differently. And it usually shrinks more across the grain than along the length. So this information might lead you to wonder why I don’t prewash.


I am usually making quilts on a deadline and I just don’t have time to prewash. Or at least, I don’t think I have time! Plus, most of my quilts are for showing the pattern and therefore won’t be on a bed, or needing to be washed.

Here are some tips depending on whether you prewash or not.

  1. Prewashing or not- it is your choice. No judgement here! Just be sure all the fabrics you use in a quilt are either all prewashed or all not. For example, if you are making a quilt using precuts, it is best not to prewash the other fabric since I am guessing you won’t be prewashing the precuts!


    Mix of Precuts and yardage
  2. If you don’t prewash, be sure to iron your fabric and get it folded on the straight of grain- more times than not, it is not folded on the straight of grain when it comes off the bolt! Sometimes it is close- but not quite! I always iron the fabric making sure to iron away the center crease and then refold my fabric so it is straight.



    Iron your fabric before cutting!
  3. If you plan to mix fabrics, such as mixing batiks with cottons, you may want to prewash. Batiks shrink less than cottons so it can affect the look of the final quilt.


    Prewash when mixing batiks and cottons
  4. If you don’t prewash, be careful with how much steam you use when pressing. The wetter the fabric gets, the more it can shrink  (it is like prewashing on your ironing board!). And while you are piecing, if it shrinks (and stretches because it is wet), it can lead to some frustrating sewing!
  5. There are many starch and sizings on the market. I don’t usually use them prior to piecing unless I prewash- then I like to use a little Best Press or Flatter when I iron the fabric. It gives the fabric some body and I find it is easier to sew.

My best tip for fabric prep? Iron your fabric to get rid of any creases and refold on the straight of grain. 

Don’t forget to check out Tammy’s post for more information- click here.

See you next time…. when we will chat about cutting prep.

happy quilting!


3 thoughts on “Exploring the Basics- Fabric Prep AKA The BIG Debate!”

  1. We shared an uber today from the quilt festival to the airport. I looked up your patterns when I got home and wanted to let you know that I am anxious to try some of them. It was great meeting you and I am sorry that I didn’t get to see your demos.

    1. Hi Janet!
      It was so nice to meet you too! Thank you for checking out my website. My Braid demo is a video on my Facebook page- and there are some on You Tube but it would have been fun to show you in person. Who knows- maybe some day I will be out that way at a guild or shop! You never know… Keep in touch- can’t wait to see what you make!

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