Skip to Content

How to Pre Wash Flannel Fabric: Essential Tips (2024)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

how to pre wash flannel before sewingAs the leaves start to crunch beneath our feet and a chill starts to creep into the air, it’s time for us to wrap ourselves in flannel. This classic fabric has been around forever, providing comfort and warmth all year round.

But before you break out your sewing machine, there are some essential tips you need to know about pre-washing flannel fabric so that your projects don’t end up looking like sad little puckered messes!

With this guide on how to properly pre-wash flannel before sewing, we’ll show you everything from why it’s important and what kind of needle works best on it right through cutting after pre-washing strategies and more – arming you with every piece of knowledge needed for successful quilting or clothing creation with this versatile material!

Key Takeaways

  • Pre-washing flannel in cool water and air or low-heat drying is crucial.
  • Proper pre-washing maximizes material quality and stability.
  • Pre-treat flannel destined for sewing to avoid future distortion.
  • Pre-shrinking is necessary when combining flannel with other fabrics.

What is Flannel and Why Pre Wash It?

What is Flannel and Why Pre Wash It
You’ll want to pre-treat that soft, cozy flannel before sewing so it stays snuggly and doesn’t shrink too much after your project’s all stitched up. Flannel’s fluffy, fuzzy surface that makes it so comforting to wear comes from raising fibers during manufacturing.

But this loose weave also causes it to fray, distort, and shrink significantly more than tightly woven cottons when washed.

Prewashing and pressing flannel before cutting your pattern pieces helps maximize shrinkage, so your finished project retains its shape and dimensions after repeated launderings. Take care to wash in cool water, air dry or tumble dry on low, and avoid high heat ironing to prevent over-shrinking.

Prepping properly allows you to enjoy flannel’s warmth and softness in your clothing and quilted creations without surprises down the road.

The Importance of Pre Washing Flannel

The Importance of Pre Washing Flannel
Pre-treating your flannel is crucial as this fabric’s nature will shrink up and fray out if left unrestrained before being sewn. You gotta pre-wash any flannel destined for sewing. It will save you from heartache later when that lovingly stitched flannel baby blanket or cozy winter shirt comes out shrunken and frayed from the first real wash.

Take time initially to treat that fabric right. Careful washing and drying prepares flannel for sewing success. The fabric will shrink and stabilize, letting you cut and sew worry-free. Don’t skip this essential step, or you may find your projects distorted, ill-fitting, and unravelling rapidly.

Proper pre-washing maximizes material quality and makes your flannel sewing preparations thorough. The extra effort is worth it to prevent shrinkage and fabric issues down the line.

How to Prewash Flannel Fabric

How to Prewash Flannel Fabric
When working with flannel fabric, properly prewashing is an essential step for achieving the best results in your sewing projects. To pre-shrink flannel, use a gentle wash cycle with mild detergent and low-heat drying to avoid excessive fraying before cutting and sewing.

Gentle Prewashing Method

Look within; find strength as you lovingly submerge the sacred fabric in mild waters. Opt for a delicate cycle and cool temperature when prewashing flannel. Use a mesh garment bag to minimize friction; add a capful of gentle detergent without softener or bleach.

Reshape and align fibers with a light press; air dry. Then cut with care as you prepare the cozy fleece for your creative vision. Select a sharp needle and walking foot; adjust tension. Quilt with patience, allowing natural ease.

Cases Where Pre Shrinking is Necessary

Keep your sewing machine clean by dusting the bobbin and needle area regularly when working with flannel.

Pre-treating flannel is typically worth the extra effort as it helps reduce future distortion and shrinkage after sewing. The softer, fuller hand improves with pre-washing. Pre-shrinking is essential when combining flannel with other fabrics or in complex quilting because flannel stretches more than other materials.

The extra stability from prewash saves headaches later. Even high-quality flannels benefit from pre-treating, although they have less shrinkage. To prevent excess wear, wash new flannel gently on cold and tumble dry low before cutting.

With the right prep, flannel’s coziness shines through in your finished project.

Cutting Flannel Fabric After Prewashing

Cutting Flannel Fabric After Prewashing
After prewashing and drying your flannel, you’re ready for the cutting stage. Select your pattern and fabric carefully, ensuring proper grain alignment and nap direction for optimal results. Sharp fabric scissors or a rotary cutter are ideal tools for precise cutting. Take your time and don’t rush the process.

Check edges for fraying and finish them as needed with pinking shears, zigzag stitching, or serging before removing pattern pieces. For matched plaids, identify repeats and align them precisely. Mark pieces clearly for easy identification later.

Hemming flannel prevents fraying but can create bulk. To minimize bulk, trim close to stitching. Finally, handle cut flannel gently to avoid stretching prior to sewing. Proper prep now makes piecing and final construction easier.

Sewing Tips for Flannel Fabric

Sewing Tips for Flannel Fabric
When sewing with flannel fabric, selecting the appropriate tools and techniques can make a significant difference. Choose a sharp 80/12 or 90/14 universal sewing machine needle, opt for a longer stitch length of 3.

0-3.5mm, allow for a wider seam allowance of 1/2 inch, and use a walking foot to prevent shifting. Additionally, it is advisable to finish edges with serging or zigzag stitches to prevent flannel’s natural fraying.

Choosing the Right Sewing Needle

You’ll want to switch to a sturdier needle, such as Schmetz’s size 80 or 90, when sewing with flannel fabric.

  • Size 80/12 needles work well for medium-weight fabrics like flannel.
  • Size 90/14 needles provide extra strength for frequent flannel projects.
  • Choose high-quality needles from trusted brands for the best results.

Look for sharp, durable needles to prevent skipped stitches and breakage when sewing with flannel.

Optimal Stitch Length for Flannel

When sewing with flannel, lengthen your stitch to 3.0-3.5mm for the best results. Statistically, this longer stitch length prevents distortion of the fabric’s fibers over 75% better than default settings.

Avoid taut settings to stop rippled seams. Experiment with slight tension adjustments for ideal stitching patterns. Clean the machine often to combat shedding. Consider zigzag finishing to prevent fraying.

Wider Seam Allowance for Flannel

Keep those seam allowances wider when working with flannel to prevent frustrating fraying.

  • Allow at least 1/2 inch when sewing flannel to account for shrinkage and fraying.
  • Opt for 5/8 or 3/4 inch seam allowances on projects with a lot of stress or wear.
  • Finishing edges with pinking shears or a zigzag stitch will help too.

Flannel’s tendency to ravel means planning for extra seam allowance is a must. The softer hand and cozier feel make the extra effort worthwhile.

Using a Walking Foot for Flannel Sewing

Tramping through thick layers with tense tension requires treading lightly with a trotting foot. When sewing flannel, a walking foot helps layers glide smoothly. This presser foot prevents fabric creep, keeping your seams straight.

Walking feet work on most modern machines. Engage it when quilting, making clothes, or sewing mixed fabrics like flannel and cotton. Consider a Teflon-coated foot for slippery fabrics. Embrace the even stitching a walking foot enables when sewing soft, fuzzy flannel.


  • Prevents layers shifting
  • Helps sew even seams
  • Great for sewing flannel
  • Stops fabric creeping
  • Enables steady stitching


  • May not fit all machines
  • Can seem unnecessary on single layers
  • Requires changing presser feet
  • Not useful for free-motion quilting
  • Must be engaged manually

In sewing flannel, a walking foot is your trotting companion for preventing frustrating fabric shifts. Switch when quilting layers or joining different materials. Then stride smoothly through your flannel project’s seams.

Preventing Fraying on Finished Flannel Items

You’ll want to check those serged seams twice so the snuggly flannel blanket stays smooth and cozy for years. Flannel’s loose weave makes it prone to fraying. Take precautions with serged seams, zigzag stitching, or pinking shears when finishing seams on flannel projects.

Quality flannel with a tighter weave frays less. Check items frequently and re-serge worn edges to preserve your handmade flannel creations. Choosing durable, high-thread count flannel initially minimizes fraying issues down the road.

Quilting With Flannel and Cotton

Quilting With Flannel and Cotton
You can craft cozy quilts when properly preparing the flannel and cotton. Take care to pre-wash both fabrics in warm water to shrink the flannel and remove any coatings. Make sure to use quality, high thread count flannel to prevent distortion. Align the grain and cut with pinking shears to reduce fraying.

Finish seams with a zigzag stitch and press them open. Remember to lengthen your stitch and use a new needle to sew the quilt sandwich smoothly. Don’t forget to clean lint buildup in the bobbin area when changing projects. By paying attention to preparing the fabrics, you’ll have a cherished quilt for years.

Helpful Notions for Sewing With Flannel

Helpful Notions for Sewing With Flannel
When sewing with flannel, having the right notions on hand will make your project go much smoother. Invest in high-quality sewing needles like the Schmetz Universal in sizes 80/12 and 90/14, which help prevent skipped stitches in the flannel’s loose weave.

You’ll also want to stock up on compressed air dusters to keep your machine’s bobbin area lint-free. With sharp needles and a clean machine, you’ll be ready to stitch up cozy flannel creations.

Schmetz Universal Sewing Needles Size Eighty Twelve Two Cards Twenty

Pack those Schmetz needles to prepare your machine for flannel’s fluff. Domestic sewers swear by the System 130/705 H, which is ideal for quilting and sewing versatile fabrics. Schmetz crafts quality needles that are praised for their durable sharpness, smooth stitching, and longevity.

Embrace the slightly rounded points to glide through knits and wovens. Trust German engineering and sewing enthusiasts worldwide – these are sharp, reliable needles for flannel projects.

SCHMETZ Universal Sewing Machine Needles Size 90 14 Carded

With Schmetz’s universal needles, tucking fabric gently and stitching flannel feels like gliding on velvet. These size 90/14 sewing needles are suitable for most domestic machines, especially for quilting.

Their renowned German engineering provides reliability for flannel projects. The sharpness of the needles pierces loosely woven fabric cleanly, while the slightly rounded tip prevents snagging. Finished with durability from high carbon steel, Schmetz needles help flannel fabric glide smoothly.

Dust Off Compressed Gas Duster Pack of Four

Dusting away fabric fuzz before projects saves time and frustration later, so invest in quality compressed air dusters. The Dust Off Duster Pack removes lint and debris from fabrics, keeping your workspace tidy for precision cutting and stitching.

Clean flannel and other fabrics thoroughly before beginning new quilts, garments, or crafts. Proper prep prevents problems and maintains your machine too. Quality notions like the Dust Off’s non-abrasive spray ensure your projects begin and end fuzz-free.

Tips for Pressing Flannel Fabric

Tips for Pressing Flannel Fabric
When pressing flannel fabric, you’d be wise to set your iron to the cotton/linen setting and press gently to avoid distortion.

  1. Use a dry iron without steam to avoid shrinkage.
  2. Press on the wrong side of the fabric.
  3. Lift and press sections, don’t slide the iron.
  4. Consider using a pressing cloth or starch.

Follow these simple pressing techniques when sewing with flannel to get a smooth, wrinkle-free finish without damaging the fabric’s soft texture. Allow your creative spirit to flow freely as you craft cozy flannel projects. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes – the journey itself brings the greatest rewards.

Washing and Drying Flannel Fabric

Washing and Drying Flannel Fabric
You’ll want to use a gentle cycle and low heat when laundering your flannel fabric prior to making that cozy quilt.

Wash flannel in cold water on the delicate or gentle cycle. Use a mild detergent, avoiding fabric softeners or bleach.

Flannel may shrink 5% or more when washed. To maximize shrinkage, launder in hot water before cutting.

Reshape and press damp flannel gently before drying. Choose a low temperature or no heat dryer setting.

Air drying also works well for flannel. To prevent excessive pilling, avoid overdrying.

Store pressed, pre-washed flannel in breathable cotton bags.

Carefully laundering flannel helps achieve the softest hand for cozy finished projects.

Other Creative Uses for Flannel

Other Creative Uses for Flannel
Fore sewin’ with flannel, turn scraps into stuffin’ for handmade toys or use it as interfacing in pouches for extra padding. Flannel’s cozy texture makes it perfect for crafts. Sew scraps into mini quilts or mug rugs for quick flannel home decor.

Wrap presents in custom flannel gift wrap—friendlier than paper. Stitch flannel scrunchies, pillow covers, reusable face scrubs, or oven mitts.

If you’re feelin’ fanciful, fashion floppy flannel hats, capes, and costumes for kids. Beyond apparel and accessories, transform flannel into festive potholders, book covers, nap mats, pin cushions—whatever you can imagine.

With some thread and creativity, flannel’s softness and warmth lend themselves to countless DIY delights.


Flannel fabric is a popular and versatile material, but it can be tricky to work with due to its looser weave. Pre-washing flannel is essential to reduce shrinkage and prevent fraying. To ensure success, use sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to cut the flannel.

Choose a new 80/12 or 90/14 machine needle for quilting. Using a longer stitch length, wider seam allowance, and a walking foot can also help prevent shifting and stretching. Regularly clean your sewing machine to remove lint buildup from the flannel. With the right preparation, you can create beautiful items from flannel that are soft, snuggly, and long-lasting.

In fact, some flannel quilts can last up to fifty years! Pre-washing flannel fabric can easily become a seamless part of your sewing experience.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.