I've been quilting since 1997, and I've only pre-washed my fabrics a handful of times. Usually, I'll pre-wash reds. However, when I use strong colors and wash the quilt for the first time, I'll toss a couple of Shout Color Catchers in the washing machine. So far, so good! I've also used a lot of flannels backings with regular cotton for quilt tops, and I've never pre-washed my flannel. I've heard that it's a must, but I've never had a quilt look bad on the front, because I didn't wash the flannel backing first.
I prewashed the fabrics for my very first quilt because I didn't know I had a choice. Upon learning that I'd done that, the instructor for the beginning quilting class told me to starch and press the heck out of the fabric to give it some body and make piecing easier. That cured me of prewashing. Too much trouble!
I do not ever prewash fabric, the quality of todays quilt store fabrics is mostly very good and I have not experienced any problems. I have washed some water damaged fabrics and the mess of threads from the raw edge was very discouraging, and then haveing to starch and press, well I lost my love for the stuff. I do not cut off my salvages before I cut my project, many times I need those areas to be able to layout and sandwich my quilt.
At a workshop, I learned that with cheaper fabrics, because the thread count is low, the process uses corn by products to fill in the gaps, give "hand" to the fabric. When those fabrics are washed, they shrink...big time. It could be where the pre washing thought comes from. Regarding bleeding, I use a dye catcher when washing bright reds, or something I think might run...I've never had a problem with fabrics bleeding. Knock on wood...
I agree with above comments. I washed the fabrics of my first quilt - as my instructor recommended, and dealt with all the strings and hours of ironing. I don't pre-wash anymore unless it's a dark red, or overdyed batik. Dye catchers work great. So now....I don't pre-wash routinely. I do cut off my salvages (saving 'em for a salvage string block) and love the art that is often found on salvage!
I rarely prewash and love, love, love the Shout color catchers to make me feel safe. Reds make me nervous, so I will test for bleeding before cutting.
I used to prewash everything because I thought I was supposed to. It was always such a pain! I also used to make a lot of quilts/blankets with minky backing and still prewash my quilting cottons for those because of the no-shrink nature of minky. For all other quilts, though, no prewashing for me anymore! I rather like the crinkled look that results from the bit of shrinking once I wash my finished quilts.
Thanks for reminding me about washing fabric when using with minkee...I forgot about that!
Wow...I feel like such a nerd no...I totally prewash all my fabrics except white. But I think I might be changing my ways after reading all the comments :)p.s. I love the shout color catchers as well (although I'm thinking they might be overkill now)