How much does flannel shrink?

I have been working on a project for quite some time where I am fixing up a quilt that my great grandmother made. Once I have it done – hopefully but doubtfully before I travel home for Christmas – I will do a full blog post showing the whole journey and what I did there. But in general the quilt had been used and abused for years. I had decided to take the quilt completely apart, repair the front, and replace the back.

She had used flannel on the quilt back originally so I wanted to do the same. Since I didn’t have a lot of experience with flannel I asked around about it and a lot of people had opinions on how to do it. Everyone said make sure you get a high quality and stay away from some big box stores for flannel on a quilt back. Other people suggested using a high quality flannel sheet. In the end I purchased both yardage of flannel and a flannel sheet. I bought both online – the yardage from (they were fast and answered my questions) and the sheet from

I had read and heard that flannel shrinks a lot more than cotton and this had me very concerned. This quilt is quite old and has been washed over 100 times. The fabrics on the top were not going to shrink any more. I had to make sure that the flannel was completely shrunk down before I started putting my sandwich together. I was told by a woman at a quilt show to wash and dry your fabric on hot 6 times before using it. So I did and this is what happened. All units are in inches.


Yardage Sheet
Wash Dry Weft Warp Weft Warp
Original Size 44.5 112 87.5 101.5
Hot Wash/Dry 1 43.5 106.5 87.25 97.5
Hot Wash/Dry 2 43.25 105.5 87.25 97.5
Hot Wash/Dry 3 43.25 104 87.25 97.5
Hot Wash/Dry 4 43.25 103.75 87.25 97.5
Hot Wash/Dry 5 43.25 103.75 87.25 97.5
Hot Wash/Dry 6 43.25 103.75 87.25 97.5

The yardage shrunk by 7.4% while the sheet only shrunk by 3.9%. Cotton will typically shrink by about 2% – 5% depending on the quality. So if I was considering using flannel on a new quilt with new cotton fabric I would definitely want to make sure I pre-wash my flannel regardless on if I was using yardage or a sheet. This will help me avoid having a funky looking top because my back shrunk disproportionately. In addition, I lost 8″ of fabric in the wash cycle. Depending on how much fabric I bought that could make a backing too small so I advise to buy too much and wash before cutting.

It does not seem like the statement of having to wash the fabric 6 times held true for what I bought. Really my fabric stopped shrinking after the 4th wash for the yardage and after the first wash for the sheet. Although these two fabrics are both flannel they are made differently which is why they shrunk differently. Sheets tend to have a tighter weave to them which is why I would expect that it did not shrink as much.

As for feel of the fabric I found the yardage also changed more than the sheet. The yardage was always soft but after all of those washes it got even softer. Visually I did see a little bit of pilling but nothing too bad. The sheet got a little softer with washing but it finished with less of a softness than the yardage did.


At the end of the day I used the sheet as my back. This was not my preferred method as I am tying the quilt and with the tight weave sometimes it can be difficult to get through the fabric. But the owner of this quilt is my mother and I did have to go with what she wanted. Either way I will be excited to get this quilt all back together and back to my mom.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. Go quilt to it!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s