Should I prewash cotton fabric before using it?
There is some debate and discussion around whether or not you should wash cotton fabric before using it and I suppose it depends on what fabric you are using and what you are going to be using the fabric for...
If you are using cotton fabric to make a patchwork quilt it is worth bearing in mind that very bright colours can occasionally bleed into lighter coloured fabrics after washing and to avoid this happening some people pre-wash the fabrics.
The better quality ‘premium cotton’ fabrics tend to bleed less than cheaper cottons so if you are making an heirloom quilt it may be worth considering paying a little bit more for a better quality cotton fabric.
Fabrics that are popular for quilting are brands like Moda, Robert Kaufman, Irene & Lewis, Dashwood, Winbourne etc.
The other issue to consider is the small amount of shrinkage that can occur after washing. We have found that if we use a good quality cotton of the same type for a quilt then pre-washing is unnecessary and we have had no problems. However if you are using different quality cotton fabrics in the same quilt then it may be worth pre- washing as each fabric may shrink slightly differently and therefore cause puckering and some distortion of the fabrics.
If you do decide to pre wash cotton fabric you can do it in a washing machine or hand wash using no soap. Roll the fabric up to remove excess moisture then allow to dry by hanging by the selvage. When damp iron on the wrong side.