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Thread: Washing before using your fabric

  1. #1
    Super Member Sierra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    northern California

    Washing before using your fabric

    Almost every day there is an article that mentions washing, or not washing fabric before using it. That's OK, but there is a way to do it easily and w/o having to iron when you are done. AND you might ease some other laundry problems you have.

    When you wash BEFORE cutting and quilting you ensure that you won't have shrinkage and you catch any fabric which has a real "loose" dye problem. This scares me the most because my very first quilt had me in tears when I took it out of the washer (I wash a second time before I give a quilt because some of my work is on the floor, often unintentionally).

    So, why not wash your fabric? The most often reason given is that you have to use pinking shears or baste the edges before you wash so the edges won't unravel. That is a problem I've never faced because I don't use really loose fabrics for quilting; they will pucker later, also, if the quilt is used as a bedcover. I put all the fabric I use in the washer on "delicate" setting and hot water and have never had any unraveling except when the cut at the shop was way off the straight of the fabric weave. That's better to know than not to know about, isn't it? Also, I can glance at the edge of a piece of fabric I intend to use and see the little 1/16" frizz and know it's been washed (and thereby, tested).

    Another reason given is that some quilters like the antique look of fabric that has shrunk a bit when washed the first time after it is made. If you are using more than one fabric, or doing triangles, or ????, then you fabric may shrink in different ways and torque the fabric in mysterious ways. Another... some of us are allergic to the various acids, etc., used in manufacturing fabric and do better w/o having to deal with it.

    I dry the fabric in the dryer (if you don't think dryers shrink you should mark a tee shirt and never put it in the dryer and not mark another of the same and dry it, and then compare over time!). BUT, take your fabric out BEFORE it is totally dry!!!!! Drape it over the back of your couch if you don't have a drying rack. Clothes that are over-dried are wrinkly, and "over-cooked" fabric is a nightmare. Remember the "press, don't iron rule? To move you iron up and off, down and on something which has been torqued out of its mind is a time-consuming nightmare! Just take it out when it is warm, but still has obvious moisture in it (almost dry) and it will dry very quickly, and be very relaxed fabric... NO IRONING needed. This is true with all fabrics, even when they are clothes. (One of my daughters couldn't believe the mess her clothes were in after being washed and dried and the repair man told her it was a washer/dryer set up, and she was cooking her clothes. She was young and beautiful at the time, so it was all OK.

    If this helps some of you, I'll be happy. It seems sort of selfish not to share such a simply thing that could help others. I hope it does help someone.

  2. #2
    Super Member Teddybear Lady's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Thank you for sharing this information with us.

  3. #3
    Power Poster
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Washing can sure minimize or prevent some unpleasant surprises!

  4. #4
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    western NY formerly MN, FL, NC, SC
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    thanks for your info/experiences
    Nancy in western NY
    before you speak THINK
    T is it True? H is it Helpful? I is it Inspiring? N is it Necessary? K is it Kind?

  5. #5
    Super Member Deborahlees's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Wine Country-Southern California
    I only pre wash reds.....
    Yes that is a real picture of my hometown Temecula, California. We feature premiere Wineries, World Class Golf Courses, Pechanga Indian Casino and Hot Air Balloons

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Sierra View Post
    When you wash BEFORE cutting and quilting you ensure that you won't have shrinkage
    This is exactly why I don't wash. I want the shrinkage. It gives character to the quilt. Doesn't matter to me if the fabrics shrink at different rates.

    A color catcher takes care of bleeding issues, I throw more than one in if I have reds in the quilt.

  7. #7
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Southwest Kansas
    If you want to spend your time washing and ironing fabric go right ahead. I'd rather sew.

    Let me tell you some of the reasons I don't wash. It's not dirty. It comes shrink wrapped from the manufacturer. Fabric comes with a finish that helps avoid sun fading. Shrinkage is your friend and the batting has a lot more to do with shrinkage than the fabric. Even if it shrinks the bed won't mind. Since it's not clothing that has to hang properly the grain doesn't matter either. Even if it bleeds and something else picks it up it's still a quilt and will still keep somebody warm. I'm not allergic to fabric finishes.

    The biggest reason is I don't want to spend my time washing and ironing fabric.

  8. #8
    Junior Member msariano's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Richmond, CA
    I only wash fabric that I think will run after the quilt is completed. Like the reds and some saturated blues, etc. Generally I don't like to prewash because I lose too much fabric. I tried cutting the corners and also cutting the edges with pinking shears but I still lose a lot of fabric--I hate losing 1" of fabric at today's prices!. I have never prewashed fabric that didn't unravel. However, I am scared that the bleeding reds will spoil the finished quilt.

  9. #9
    Super Member jcrow's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Small town in Northeast Oregon close to Washington and Idaho
    Blog Entries
    I just can't wash my fabric. I guess I could if it was really, really red, but not otherwise. I like how it feels right off the bolt. I like how it shrinks. I wash it when it's bound. That's good enough for me. If I had to wash my fabric, I'd never get any sewing done.
    "Be yourself...everyone else is taken."
    Strong people don't put others down...they build them up."
    "Remember that your instincts are more important than rules"

  10. #10
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    metro Portland, OR
    Very good information. Also, I like to make sure all the falmaldehyde (sp) is washed out.

    Jeanne, you are very fortunate you haven't had any trouble with fabric bleeding.
    I choose to give my life away for things that last forever

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