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3 things I do to prepare my fabric before reaching for my rotary blade

My junior high track coach always began practice reciting his 5 P's of success..."Pre-Planning Prevents Poor Performance." (Shout out to Mr. Casey!) Today I'm channeling his energy and am sharing three things I do to prepare my fabric before cutting into it. These steps are all part of the equation of how I find success in my quilting.

I will preface this post with these are the things I do to prepare my fabric most of the time. As I've learned in the quilting world, there are many techniques and suggestions of how to do things but when it comes down to it, if it doesn't work for you, then you don't have to do it! Do what works best for you based on your desired outcome, time allowed, and resources.


1. Pre-Washing

I know what you're thinking...I have enough laundry to do, why add another load to my never-ending to-do list? Well, this step is more of a sometimes step for me. With two

toddlers running around my house, I spend plenty of quality time with my washer and dryer. So what criteria do I use when deciding whether or not to pre-wash my fabrics? I pre-wash my fabrics when:

  • I am using dark or red colors on a white or light background.

  • I'm wanting a less-crinkly, cozy and more crisp finish to my quilt

  • I'm using fabrics of different fiber content (i.e. cotton and flannel)

  • I'm using yardage for my quilt top and not pre-cuts (i.e. jelly roll, charm packs, etc.)

Most often, the reason I pre-wash is because of the color combination of the fabrics I want to use. This gives me some assurance that there will be no bleeding from the darker fabric onto the lighter fabric once the quilt is assembled. A lot of fabrics have great colorfastness these days, but I don't take my chances very often, especially when red is involved.

If you don't want to pre-wash your fabrics, you can add in Shout Color-Catchers to your load

when you wash your quilt to catch any potential dye running when you first wash your quilt. I also tend to use one when pre-washing my especially suspect fabrics (looking at you red!), just to make sure I get all the dye out.

After pre-washing you'll notice there will be loose threads to trim on the edges of the fabric.

Be sure to trim these off before moving on to the next step. This is a reason

why I generally stick to just pre-washing yardage for my quilt tops and not pre-cuts since this fraying can cut into the usable amount of fabric for a pre-cut.

2. Starching

Believe me when I tell you that I fought this step for a long time. I began quilting right before becoming a mom and most of my quilting time to this day is during naps and the few hours after my girls go to sleep. I didn't need one more step getting in my way of making progress on my latest project.

But also know that when I did start starching my fabrics before cutting, my accuracy improved significantly. Starching can be particularly helpful when you're making a quilt with any bias edge concerns (i.e. bias edges on the outside of the quilt or

piecing bias edges together). In addition to more accuracy, starching can often take care of some shrinkage concerns especially if you soak the fabric in starch and let it air dry before ironing.

One concern with starching, especially when using yardage and not pre-cuts, is space needed to starch the entire piece of fabric and drying. Two space-saving options I've found that can help during this process is to:

  • Use your bathtub/shower curtain rod to drape the fabric over


  • Use a skirt hanger (shown on the right) to hang the fabric

For especially long yardage (for background or backing fabrics), I like to use the bathtub shower curtain rod to drape the fabric over the top and spray my starch on directly, then let air dry in the bathroom.

For smaller yardage (under 1 yard or so), I use a skirt hanger and starting at the bottom of the hanger, I clip each piece of fabric to the hanger, spray with my starch, then clip another piece and spray and so on. You can leave them on the hanger to air dry until they are ready to press.

Side story: I received this skirt hanger as my first Christmas present from my now-husband when we were dating. Nothing says "he's a keeper" more than a last-minute run to Bed, Bath & Beyond on Christmas Eve!

3. Pressing

If you've pre-washed and starched your fabrics, this step may seem like a no-brainer. Pressing your fabric after these steps is the finishing touch to getting your fabric smooth and stiff before cutting.

Even if you haven't starched your fabric, pressing the hard creases out of your fabric yardage from the store can help your cutting accuracy when you're ready to begin cutting, thus helping your piecing accuracy.


Again, these are not hard and fast rules you MUST follow every time. Certain projects may require more or less preparation than others depending on the outcome you're looking for. But if you're looking for tools to add to your quilting toolkit, you may consider adding some of these fabric preparation steps into your process.

Looking for more? Follow me on Instagram @jessicasteeledesign and sign up for my newsletter to become a member of the JSD Quilt Team!


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