Prewashing Fabric: How to Prepare Material for Sewing

There’s debate in the sewing community about whether or not fabrics need to be prewashed, and a lot of this comes down to personal preference.

The specifics of how to prewash your fabric will depend on the fiber content, but a good general rule of thumb is to prewash the fabric.

How to Prewash Fabric

If you are sewing a dress and intend to wash it in cold and dry on low heat, then do that for your prewash.

If you intend to dry clean the blazer you’re sewing, take your fabric to the dry cleaners and have it dry cleaned before you sew it.

Generally speaking, washing in cold water and drying on low heat reduces color bleeding and shrinking.

Flannel and knits (especially knits made of natural fibers) tend to shrink more, so if you’ve bought enough extra fabric, you can wash in warm water and dry on medium.

Fabrics like silk and wool can be dry cleaned, or you can handwash them and hang to dry.

For more delicate fabrics like silk and wool, use a gentle soap meant for handwashing or baby shampoo.

Should I use soap?

What about fabric for quilting and appliques?

Quilting cotton that hasn’t been washed is easier to cut and piece because it’s smooth, flat, and crisp. Prewashed quilting cotton is softer, so cuts aren’t going to be quite as exact.

For woven fabrics, you can pink the edges of the fabric using pinking shears or a pinking blade for your rotary cutter, or you can serge the edges.

How do I stop fabric from unraveling or fraying in the wash?

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Danielle Pientka

Danielle is a DIY/craft/sewing blogger on  She loves to write about projects that she makes for her small farm, her children, and her home.