Which White is the one for me…

You already know that not all White solids are the same shade of white.  There is White.  Off-White.  Porcelain.  Snow.

The difference in “color” is subtle but when the bolts are placed side-by-side, the difference in shade and tone is obvious.  (Even with the lighting and shadows…)  Choosing which White Bella Solid to use is a matter of preference – everybody has their favorite.  (I almost always use Bella 200.)  But some of the distinctions are very important, one in particular.

From left to right, the bolts are:

That PFD is a key distinction – so important that it is a specific designation that appears on the end of the bolt.

So what does that PFD actually mean?  Does it matter?

PFD – Prepared for Dyeing.  It means that the fabric – or garment – is specially made to be dyed.  PFD fabrics have been desized, scoured, and fully bleached, and they have not been finished or processed with optical brighteners or softeners that can interfere with dye uptake, resulting in fabrics that lack saturated color or are not evenly dyed.

Bella 97 PFD has been very popular for many years because the “bleached white” isn’t quite as “WHITE” as the Bleached Bella 98.  Bella 98 has been finished with optical brighteners to make it brighter, i.e., more “white”.  It has also been finished to prohibit the absorption of dye, including any excess dye that might be released when the fabric is washed or wet.

Bella 97 has not been finished that way, it has been purposely manufactured to maximize the absorption of the dye, whether that dye is in a dye bath or in a washing machine.  It is acting as a magnet for the dye because that is what it is supposed to do.

While it is not necessary to know these terms, they might help you decide which fabrics to use.

Desizing – that is the process of removing the “size” material from the warp yarns after the fabric has been woven.  Sizing is used in the weaving process to strengthen the warp – lengthwise – yarns to reduce breakage.

Scouring – a chemical washing process that removes natural waxes, soil and any non-fibrous impurities (e.g., seed fragments).  Scouring is a prerequisite to most other finishing processes.

Bleaching – even after scouring, even the most naturally white cotton fibers are yellowish so bleaching is often required.  It improves the whiteness by removing the natural coloration and trace impurities from the cotton.  The degree of bleaching necessary is determined by the required – and desired – whiteness of the fabric.

The next two steps are not used for PFD fabrics because they generally inhibit the absorption of the dye.

Optical Brighteners – these are synthetic chemicals used to make clothing appear whiter and brighter, and thus cleaner looking.  Optical brighteners are frequently added to liquid and powder laundry detergents. They are the modern day replacement for the decades-old practice of bluing – adding small amounts of blue dye to fabric to make it appear whiter.

Softeners – finished textiles are given a softening treatment to give the fabric a desired “hand” or feel.

So what does this mean for non-dyeing quilters?

Bella 97 PFD should only be used when dyeing fabric.  Using it in place of Bella 98 or Bella 200 can result in color transfer, especially when used with fabrics with saturated color.

So which White do you use?

Happy Thursday!

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43 thoughts on “Which White is the one for me…

  1. Good to know I didn’t knew that about PFD and would have never thought it. Lucky I never had a problem with color transfer although I bought PFD a lot of times. Now I think I’ll stick with the ‘normal’ solids.

  2. Really appreciated the explanation of the PFD and the process upon process a plain bolt goes through to become a bolt of Moda fabric.

    Found myself on trip down memory lane with your comment whiter and brighter…….. my 41 year old baby at age 3 said to me get xxxx product for whiter and brighter…… too much TV for you kid. haha

  3. What a timely article! I was just looking at the “white” solids I have in my stash thinking I really need to label them when I purchase them! I have a bag of hexis I made from scraps and am now trying to sort them by “white” color – quite a chore let me tell you! The last thing I want is to finish an EPP project, hold it up to admire the work, and spot a misplaced “white” hexi! Thanks Carrie for the textile lesson. You are a fount of knowledge!

  4. What an interesting article on whites. I never knew that about PDF, Moda is my go to and I usual buy 200, thank you!

  5. Wow thank you for this information. Now with the precuts and not washing them before use I know which white to use for piecing.

  6. I love your informative articles. This one was great. Thank you for your educational articles. Please keep them up!

  7. Great information! I had no idea. I’m printing this to put in my notebook- believe it or not- I remember topics but forget the details sometimes. So I keep a Quilting/Sewing binder with helpful info in it. Thanks Carrie!

  8. Two years ago, I “had” to start a new quilt in red and white. I had picked up 97 PFD and some very saturated reds. Fortunately for me, the shop owner was knowledgeable enough to ask if the fabrics would be used together and explained why I might want to choose another white. Now I pay close attention to the bolt ends. Thank you for explaining the process!

  9. Thank you for your article, and the wonderful explanation I will now rethink the use of this particular white. Since am a newer quilter less than 1 year, and have been using 97 because I read somewhere that it was preferred by a lot of quilters. I do enjoy the color as it is not a stark white and it plays beautiful with most of my other fabric choices. Do you have a suggestion for a “softer” white to replace 97?

    1. Bella 200! It’s color “name” is Off-White but it is almost identical in shade to Bella 97.

      You’re not alone – a lot of quilters love Bella 97 because of the softer shade of White. They’ve used it without any problems but the advent of high-efficiency washers that use less water has created some color-transfer problems. (We’ll be talking about that here soon.)

      1. Who knew? Great info on Moda “whites” ~ thank you, Carrie! And yes I learned the hard way that I I need to add color catchers to almost all my laundry loads now using my new high-efficiency washer that uses less water!!

  10. I’ve been a 98 user for a long time. It’s hard for me to tell the difference in the whites – except for Snow – so it was just easier to just stick to one number. I’ll have to get some 200 for comparison. Great article!

  11. Upon reading your article I went to my fabric bolts to find out what Bella solid I had. So happy to see Moda Off white 200 on the bolt still in shrink wrap from a purchase last year. If buying yardage rather than a bolt I try to attach the color number to the fabric so I don’t have to use my eyes to determine if my whites match. Excellent and informative article. This is very useful information!!!

  12. I often choose a Moda collection pre-cut and think, “Oh, i have a white or off-white in my stash that goes with this”, only to find I don’t have the right shade. Or, I order sometbing on-line and can’t tell what the best match is. I’d love to see Moda give a “suggested white” with each of its collections so we can all get it right!

    1. I love that idea! Whites, and blacks, are hard for me to distinguish. And, it’s impossible to tell which one goes best with a chosen fabric/collection online.

  13. I had no idea until this article that 97 was used for dyeing, and I’ve bought and used two bolts of it. I literally had a baby quilt ruined when I used a navy backing. I washed it in my HE washer with color catchers on cold in a delicate cycle, and the entire white front was blue. Now I know why! I’ve also bought and used two bolts of 98, but it is a bright white! Looks like my new purchases will be 200!

  14. *With everyone else..thank you for this short but very informative blog. Your answer to one of the questions brings up that different fabrics may react differently in high efficiency washers. This is something I need to know including how different detergents react. Another big question has to do with the sizing. I look forward to your next note. **When I started quilting in the last century we were told to wash the fabrics when we got home due to the sizing. The chemicals used would break down the fibers and ruin the fabric. Needless to say the smell was horrid to anyone with allergies or sensitive nose. Now I don’t know if I got use to the smell but it is much decreased, but still there. I know things have changed over 40 yr for the best, but how much? These are items I hope you can answer or let me know where to find answers. ***Thank you so much….Robin

  15. Can someone tell me which white I would use to go with my Summer Breeze III jelly roll? I have a package of 5 fat quarters in colors to go with this design set but I would like to have a white also and I’m not sure which one I should get. Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Judy – If you like a “Bright White”, use Bella 98. But if you prefer the slightly softer shade of White, use Bella 200.

      With just a few exceptions, I prefer the Bella 200, it’s my go-to White. And yes, it is what I would use with the Summer Breeze collection. Even though the color is called Off-White, it’s still obviously white… just not as bright as the Bella 98. 🙂

      1. Uh Oh!! I just ordered a yard of the 98 white. If it looks too white, i can order the 200.
        Thanks so much for your input. I have a layer cake of Summer Breeze III and just thought those squares looked pretty white but I don’t want a white that is going to stand out. I should have it tomorrow so I’ll see what it looks like. That’s why I just ordered a yard – just to see if it looked o.k.

        1. Just got my 98 white and I see what you mean. It’s a tad too white for the Summer Breeze, like you said. So—-guess I’ll order the off-white that you suggested and then decide. But the 98 really stands out and I think it will be too white for what I want. Thanks for your help. It is appreciated.

  16. Hmmmm.., ok then, I buy 97 by the bolt. And I use color catchers when washing a quilt the first time. But I do trust your judgement on this Carrie and I’ll switch to 200. (Except for the 50 or so Scrappy Stars I already have in the works!)

    1. Hi Mary Ann – The most important things to remember when using the Bella 97 is to pre-wash any highly-saturated color fabrics – e.g., red, navy, purple, black, etc. – and then to wash the finished quilt in a regular, old-fashioned washing machine that uses a full-tub of water. With Color Catchers. 🙂

      1. I have a bolt of PFD. Is there anything I can do to slow down or help prevent the absorbing of other color? Prewash the other highly-saturated colors. Would prewashing the PFD help?

  17. Thank you so much for such an informative article!!! This kind of info is difficult to find, if you know to even ask the question. Articles about the specifics of (quilting) fabric from the manufacturing point of view are helpful, not to mention interesting, especially to us newbie quilters; you just can’t Google this stuff. It’s one more reason I love Moda!

    I look forward to more of these types of articles. Thank you!

  18. Oh my goodness thank you so much for this article, I had no idea about the PFD! Oops! Guess I can add that one to my long list of quilting blunders 🙂

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