Shrink Test


To pre-wash or not to pre-wash? That is totes the question today! Do you do it?? Personally, I so rarely pre-wash, especially if I’m making a quilt (shhh, don’t tell, sometimes even with a garment). Pre-washing adds in a lot of steps to a project and if I am feeling inspired to make something I want to do it NOW. I know some people always pre-wash, it’s like second nature to them. As soon as their fabric comes home it goes straight into the wash. This got me curious about how much I’m really risking in my act of defiance/laziness. How much is my fabric really going to shrink? So I took a swatch from each of the fabric manufactures we carry at the shop and gave ’em a whirl in the washer. The results were kind of shocking and not all results were the same.

I started with a 6 1/2 inch square of fabric and I did my best to keep everything on grain. All of the fabrics chosen are woven, quilting weight, cotton. They all went into my washing machine on cold and tumble dried low. I used a gentle detergent because, well, my skin is sensitive like that.  After the wash and dry I pressed each square very lightly just to get them flat again but not overly pressing out of shape. I’m super happy to report none of the swatches had any noticeable fading! I threw a color catcher in, just in case, since I had quite an assortment of colors, and it came out perfectly clean. Yay, no bleeding! The results of shrinking and fraying were all over the map though. There are some clear winners amongst the group!


Fabric Used: AGF – Pure Elements – Empire Yellow
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/8 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal



Fabric Used: Andover – Alison Glass – Sun Print Text – Ocean
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal



Fabric Used: Birch Organics – Charley Harper – Nurture – Koala 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: less than 1/8 inch 
Fray Amount: Small amount but enough to have to trim


cloud 9

Fabric Used: Cloud 9 Organics – Rae Hoekstra – Lotus Pond – Diamonds Are Forever – Green 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 3/8 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal


dear stella

Fabric Used: Dear Stella – Nutmeg – Rakes – Cream 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Fray Amount: Lots of fraying along the crossgrain



Fabric Used: Westminster/Free Spirit – Anna Maria Horner – Honor Roll – Overachiever – Burgundy 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/2 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 3/8= – 1/2 inch
Fray Amount: Tons along the crossgrain. About 1/2 more needs to be trimmed to get rid of all the fraying



Fabric Used: Michael Miller – Cotton Couture Solids – Turf
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: none
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal



Fabric Used: Moda – Sweetwater – Feed Company – Vanilla Navy
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 3/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/2 inch
Fray Amount: Minimal along grainline but lots along crossgrain



Fabric Used: Robert Kaufman – Kona Cotton – Honeysuckle 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: not even 1/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Fray Amount: Almost none



Fabric Used: Timeless Treasures – Adult Novelty – Wolf – Mustard
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/2 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal but shrank kind of wonky and uneven



Fabric Used: Windham Fabrics – Heather Ross – Far Far Away – Unicorns – Green 
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/2 inch
Fray Amount: No fraying along the grainline only the crossgrain



Fabric Used: Cotton & Steel – Rashida Coleman-Hale – Mochi – Moon Bunnies – Navy
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 3/8 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Fray Amount: Small bit of fraying 



Fabric Used: Alexander Henry – Heath – Eggplant
Grainline (Warp) Shrink: 1/4 inch
Crossgrain (Weft) Shrink: 3/8 inch
Fray Amount: Very minimal


Although I’ve never had an issue with a quilt shrinking unevenly after it’s all made up, this little test may have converted me into being a pre-washer! What about you? Do you pre-wash? Has this post changed your mind one way or the other? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Kathleen D says:

    Thank you for this well thought out demonstration! I’ve never done a comparison myself, but do prefer to pre-shrink my fabric. I even use Retayne in the wash water to help keep the colors from bleeding. I wash my fabric before cutting, not only to avoid surprises from shrinkage, but to remove chemicals which can irritate my asthma & allergies. It is a pain to starch and press before cutting yardage but that’s just the way things are…

  2. Excellent review/test of the fabric brands and the varying amounts. I am pretty well convinced that I will always prewash in the future!! I have had my share of bleeding fabrics and will never tolerate that again. i use a lot of faultless spray to put the crispness in the fabric after washing so it handles well through the cutting process.

  3. savagepinkus says:

    Thanks for this. I am usually a pre washer anyway, but this is a real eye opener!

  4. Thankyou. Great article. I like your experiment. I am a prewasher. Having started my sewing journey with dressmaking, it is imperative to prewash to avoid disappointment. But I am surprised at the amount! I’m also concerned about the chemicals in fabric. I wash mine as soon as I bring it home 😍

  5. Reblogged this on Free Form Quilts and commented:
    Important to know about the fabrics we use, if we will be washing it. Inhave somemlines she didnt test that I want to. Anyone else do any shrinkage tests like this?

  6. Margaret Stephens says:

    Greatly appreciate your testing. I usually prewash (always for making clothing). But I had no awareness that the weft might shrink more than the warp! Definitely an eye opener!

  7. I’ve slowly converted to be a pre-washer. Color catchers was the eye opener for me. I wanted to use a white background. Someone mentioned that I should wash the colors and the quilt shop reds turned the color catchers pink. Really, all the colors bleed, even the yellows. The problem is all that starching and ironing after. It’s like a whole other hobby.

  8. Brenda Eden says:

    I would really love to see this done again with the same manufacturers but different range to see if there is consistency across the brand or if the results were completely different!

  9. I started as a pre-washer but now I love that slightly puckered look that comes from not prewashing. But your test will help me determine how much bigger I should make my quilt so its not too small.

  10. Joanne Roots-Rochon says:

    These are the reasons I prewash my fabric. First, have you ever tried to iron out that crease in the centre of a a folded piece of fabric, and it just won’t disappear, well here’s why….all fabric purchased off the bolt, even 100% cotton and linen, has a stiffness to it before it is washed. Sometimes, this stiff finish makes it difficult to iron out wrinkles. I hate wrinkles in fabric when I’m trying to sew. Washing your fabric before you begin to work with it eliminates this stiffness and makes it so much easier to iron. Second, if there is any shrinkage, it happens before you sew your project and not after. Third, fabric is manufactured then stored in warehouses until shipment….these warehouses use pesticides and insecticides to prevent bugs and vermin getting into the fabric, I don’t want that stuff on the garments I make.


  1. […] issue. One, from Craftsy, gives tips for when to wash and how to wash for best results. The other, from That’s What She Sewed, reports shrink test results for fabric squares from 13 different manufacturers. There were […]

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