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To Wash or Not to Wash?….This is the Question

To Wash your new quilting fabric or not to wash?  This is the question.

Hello dear Friends and Readers.  Time and time again, I see the question.  Should I wash my new quilting fabric?  I see so many people say, it’s good quality fabric, it’s not necessary…. Is that really the answer?

I’m not so sure. If the fabric is good quality, then it shouldn’t matter if it’s washed.  What is the worry?

To Wash or Not to Wash?….This is the Question  susies-scraps.com
To Wash or Not to Wash?….This is the Question susies-scraps.com

The main reasons people sight for washing fabric is worrying about dye bleeding, and although it’s not so common these days it does happen and some of the worse culprits are red, blues and black.

Not so many people seem to worry about shrinkage, but it is a factor.  100 percent cotton and linen may shrink up to 5%.  The shrink rate may vary in width and length.  This may not seem like a lot but it does matter If you consider the whole garment or quilt.  Apparently most of the shrinkage will occur with the first wash and not a great deal of progressive shrinkage in subsequent washes.

The manufactures of cotton need to use a lot of chemicals and treatments to “tame” the cotton fibres and make them sit perfectly flat.  When the fabric is washed the fibres relax and the chemicals and sizing wash away to a certain extent.

Thousands of chemicals are used to produce fabrics including quilting fabrics. Have you ever noticed how many garments have written in their instructions, wash before use.

Would you ever put new unwashed sheets on your bed without washing them? (I tried it once and developed shocking hives). Have you ever noticed when you wash fabrics or garments for the first time the smell and colour of the water coming out of them? We may not be able to eliminate all the chemicals from fabric by washing them but maybe there is some reduction.

I think it is something to consider that every time you touch, cut and  move unwashed fabric there is an exposure to unknown chemicals and they are aerosolised into the air as well.  I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that the fresher the fabric, the higher the chemical content, as some of them break down over very long periods of time.  Some people are allergic and find themselves feeling unwell or wheezing during the use of these unwashed fibres.  As the user of the fabric, I don’t want unnecessary exposure.

Here is some information about chemicals used in cotton farming and manufacture.


Anyhow, it’s only my opinion, but I always wash my fabric when I bring it home.  I don’t know where it’s been before I got it!!!  And there will be some degree of dust or”shop soiling”.

I take the trouble to separate light and dark colours.  I don’t put them through a harsh wash, just nice and warm and a gentle spin.  I now use a wash bag too, to reduce tangling.  This is also an opportunity to see how a fabric is going to behave.  Like a first test.

I shake them out well and hang on the line to dry.  I usually observe the crease and keep the fabric folded on it to make cutting easier later.

When it’s dry I fold it neatly, and put it away in a cupboard with my stash, all ready for use. This way, I never have to worry, will my fabric shrink or will the dyes run?  My fabric smells fresh, and it’s all ready for use.

I keep these in my cupboard too to keep any insects away.

Cupboard Keeps

I just think, when making a quilt, so much work and love goes into it, why miss out a critical first step.  I like to avoid disappointment.

There is a saying in the medical world, if you are thinking about it, maybe you should do it.  Perhaps this applies to quilting too!

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Happy washing,