Perfect Patchwork Point – Part 1 – Fabric Preparation

20160926_191011My first patchwork project was sewn a little hastily and with great excitement. I missed out lots of steps because they didn’t seem worth following, and the result was a good quilt but not a fantastically accurate sew.

Now I am on the search for the perfect patchwork point – most times. Everytime would be practically impossible.

So, here follows Part 1 of the Search for a Perfect Patchwork Point, and it is all about fabric preparation. So much to consider before even the first piece is cut, never mind sewn.

Perfect points.  Fabric preparation.

Buying Fabric

There are many types of fabric, but the commonly used ones for patchwork are either 100% cotton or polyester / cotton mixes. Whatever you choose, to get the best results use the SAME type of fabric for all of your patchwork pieces. The reason is that different fabric blends / mixes stretch and shrink differently, and behave differently – which will distort your project.

Pre-cut Fabric

First, if you are using pre-cut fabric such as jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, etc, the rule is DO NOT pre-wash.  Just press the fabric pieces if you want to, check they are the right sizes (I learnt the hard way that some cheaper suppliers are not so particular about being consistent) and start sewing.

 Why not wash? – well – any pre-washing could distort the shape of your cut piece.

Fabric from Yardage

For all other fabrics bought by the yard off bolts, and even fat quarters, the fabric preparation is all a matter of choice. 

Many people pre-wash to prevent color run once a quilt is sewn, especially for darker colors.

Some pre-wash to get rid of some of the chemicals left behind as part of the manufacture process.

Some pre-wash because then any shrinkage or distortion in the fabric will happen before you start cutting your shapes. (Irregular shrinkage in the fabric patchwork pieces on completion can buckle and stretch your quilt – I called this ‘character’ when it happened on my second quilt!)


Dry your fabric evenly. Try not to peg it on a line as this will cause sagging. Instead drape it over the line for even distribution.

Pressing / Ironing

Press your fabric – don’t iron.

What’s the difference?

Ironing fabric is when you put the iron onto the material and then move it around, keeping in contact with the material. This is what we normally do with clothes, etc.

Pressing fabric is when you put the iron down on the material in one place, then pick it up again. Move it along and put it down again.  This way the iron does not push or pull the fibres in the fabric out of position, keeping the weave of the fabric even.

Use a medium heat iron and no steam.


Spray starch onto the back of fabric just before you want to use the fabric.

Follow the instructions on the packet / tin. They usually include using a cool iron so as not to burn or singe your fabric. It’s worth a practice on some waste fabric.

The ingredients of starch attracts a rather unwelcome everything-eating bug called a ‘silverfish’. To prevent them eating your sewing project:- only starch before sewing, store pieces of fabric and part-completed work in air tight bags/boxes/ containers etc, and wash out the starch once the quilt is sewn.

Ready to Cut

Your fabric is now clean, dry and crisp. The weave is flat and even and you are ready to cut. The best ways to do that will be found in Part 2. I’ll include the link once it’s ready for you to read. Meanwhile, click on the picture below to purchase your starch products.




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