How to Prewash Fabric for Quilting

Last Updated on January 2, 2024

Hello, fellow quilting lover! I want to share with you my process for prewashing fabrics before quilting. After a heartbreaking experience with red dye bleeds ruining my Christmas launch, I learned the importance of prewashing to avoid surprises.

As I prepare for my Valentine’s launch, I want to ensure that my fabrics remain vibrant and bleed-free.

Join me as I walk you through my tried-and-tested method to prewash fabrics without frayed edges or unwanted surprises.

How to Prewash Fabric for Quilting


  • Prewash fabrics to avoid color bleeding issues, especially with vibrant colors like red, ensuring your quilts stay flawless.
  • Serge the fabric edges to prevent fraying during washing, creating a clean and polished look for your quilting pieces.
  • Separate fabrics by color intensity before washing to minimize the risk of bleeding and maintain the vibrancy of your quilting materials.
  • After washing, iron fabrics without steam to eliminate wrinkles, ensuring a smooth and crease-free surface for your quilting projects.
  • Trim off surged edges post-washing for a tidy finish, providing a clean starting point for cutting your fabric pieces for quilting.

Is It Necessary to Prewash Fabric Before Quilting?

While prewashing fabric before quilting is not strictly necessary, it is often recommended. Prewashing helps eliminate excess dye, prevents color bleeding, and reduces the risk of fabric shrinkage or distortion after quilting.

How to Prewash Fabric for Quilting

Additionally, it allows you to address any potential issues like fraying or wrinkles before incorporating the fabric into your project. Ultimately, the decision to prewash depends on personal preference, the type of fabric used, and the specific requirements of your quilting project.

How to Prewash Fabric for Quilting (Video Included)

Prewashing fabric for quilting involves serging the edges, separating by color, machine washing, ironing without steam, trimming surged edges, and finally cutting pieces for your quilt to ensure a clean and wrinkle-free result.

This process helps prevent color bleeding and ensures your fabrics are ready for a flawless quilting experience.

Step 1: Gather Your Fabrics

Start by collecting the fabrics you plan to use for your quilting project. Whether it’s a quarter yard or a larger piece, ensure you’ve tested the fabric for colorfastness to prevent potential bleeding issues.

Step 2: Serge the Edges

Frayed edges can be a headache when prewashing fabrics. To combat this, serge the edges of your fabric pieces on both sides, creating a neat finish. However, leave the selvage edge unsurged unless it seems prone to unraveling.

Step 3: Separate by Color

To avoid color bleeding, sort your fabrics into groups based on color intensity. For instance, you might want to wash lights and darks separately. This precaution is especially crucial when dealing with vibrant colors like reds.

Step 4: Wash and Iron

Place your fabric pieces in the washing machine, keeping similar colors together. Once the cycle is complete, remove the wet fabrics and lay them out on an ironing board. Smooth out each piece to minimize wrinkles.

Step 5: Iron Without Steam

Iron Without Steam
Iron Without Steam

If applicable, iron each fabric piece without steam using the cotton setting. Ensure that you’ve eliminated any creases that might have developed before washing. If stubborn creases persist, a steam shot or fabric relaxer like Flatter can be helpful.

Step 6: Trim Surged Edges

After ironing, trim off the surged edges from your fabric pieces. This step provides a clean finish and removes any excess fabric from the serged edges.

Step 7: Cut Pieces for Your Quilt

With your fabrics now prewashed, trimmed, and ironed, proceed to cut the pieces as you would for your quilting project. This ensures that your fabric is ready for use without any surprises during the quilting process.

Why Need to Prewash Fabric for Quilting?

Why Need to Prewash Fabric for Quilting

Prewashing fabric before quilting is a crucial step in the quilting process. While some quilters may choose to skip this step, there are several compelling reasons why prewashing is highly recommended:

Colorfastness and Dye Bleeding

Prewashing allows you to test the colorfastness of the fabric. Some fabrics, especially those with intense or dark colors, may bleed when exposed to water or moisture. By prewashing, you can identify and address any potential bleeding issues before incorporating the fabric into your quilt.

Shrinkage Control

Fabrics, especially natural fibers like cotton, tend to shrink when exposed to water and heat. Prewashing helps control and minimize shrinkage, ensuring that your quilted pieces maintain their original size and shape even after the quilt is completed.

Removing Chemicals and Sizing

Fabrics often contain chemicals and sizing agents from the manufacturing process. Prewashing helps to remove these substances, ensuring a cleaner and softer feel to the fabric. This is particularly important for quilts in close contact with the skin.

Preventing Uneven Shrinkage

Different fabrics may have varying rates of shrinkage. If you combine unwashed and prewashed fabrics in the same quilt, there is a risk of uneven shrinkage, leading to distortion and puckering of the quilted pieces. Prewashing all fabrics helps maintain consistency.

Additional Resources – Fabric Shrinkage Calculator – (in Percentage)

Eliminating Allergens and Dust

Fabrics can accumulate dust, allergens, and other particles during the manufacturing and shipping processes. Prewashing removes these impurities, creating a cleaner working environment and reducing the risk of allergic reactions for sensitive people.

Softening the Fabric

Prewashing contributes to the softening of fabrics, making them more pleasant to work with and enhancing the comfort of the finished quilt. This is especially important for quilts that will be used for bedding or other cozy purposes.

Testing Fabric Durability

Prewashing allows you to assess the durability of the fabric. Some fabrics may not withstand the washing process, and it’s better to discover this beforehand rather than after investing time and effort in quilting.


I hope this step-by-step guide to prewashing fabrics before quilting proves helpful to you. It took me some time to figure out what works best for my projects, and I’m always open to learning new techniques.

If you have alternative methods or tips for prewashing fabrics, please share them in the comments below. Let’s continue to support and learn from each other in our quilting journeys.

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