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To Wash or Not to Wash?

This is a ‘Frequently Asked Question’, but I think it deserves some discussion. I get asked this question a lot, since I teach Beginner classes. The answer isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. When you plan your quilt is the best time to consider this questions. It's important to think about the end use.

When most printed cotton fabric is manufactured they treat the fabric before they wrap it on the bolts. The treatment helps the fabric stay  as wrinkle-free as possible…until it’s washed. You’ll notice that the fabric from the bolt is a bit stiffer. Once the fabric is washed, the sizing is gone and there is more ‘drape’ to the fabric and you’ll need to press it flat.

The question now, is: Do I wash the fabric before I make my quilt? Here is how I decide:


  • If I am making a quilt for a little person. I assume the quilt will get washed A LOT. I want it to be soft for them as well.

  • If I am making a T-shirt quilt. When you make a T-shirt quilt, the majority of the quilt is made of fabric that has been worn and washed numerous times already. If there is fabric that shrinks in the quilt, it will get weird puckers and not look the same ever again.

  • If I am hand quilting a quilt. I want the fabric to be soft and have a nice hand to it.

  • If I have a red and white quilt- red is notorious for bleeding onto the other fabrics. Sometimes testing the red fabric is a good idea to see if it bleeds. (You may want to opt for a different fabric.)


  • I am starting a quilt with all new fabrics.

  • I am making a quilt that I want an old-fashioned look to it. I quilt it and then wash it and it gives it that beautiful vintage look.


  •  If I am hand quilting a quilt. I want the fabric to be soft and have a nice hand to it. The question I have to ask myself is: Do I want to wash it up to have that nice vintage look to it, or do I want it to look more contemporary?

I hope this helps you decide whether to wash or not!

Quilt with joy!


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