• Spray Sizing, Spray Starch, and Washing Your Fabric

    Fabric manufacturers usually add sizing to the fabric as it is being processed. When you purchase new fabric it has a firm body and a smooth looking finish.

    When new fabric is washed it loses some of the sizing that was added in the manufacturing process at the factory. That is why many quilters prefer to not wash their new fabric. If you do wash your fabric, you can make your washed fabric look and feel like new by adding spray sizing or spray starch before ironing.

    Spray sizing and spray starch are different products that work differently but can be used interchangeably for the same purpose. Spray sizing gives your fabric a nice crisp feel without the stiff feeling of starch. Spray starch will make your fabric feel stiff. The product you choose depends on your preference.

    Many quilters prefer spray sizing over spray starch. Spray starch gives the fabric more stiffness and is more likely to gunk up your iron and cause a starch buildup on your ironing surface. Whereas spray sizing gives the fabric body your iron glides much easier. Many quilters recommend using a terry cloth bath towel on your ironing surface. After starching or sizing you simply launder the towel to remove excess and your ironing surface stays clean.

    Some have said that starch draws silverfish and other bugs that eat the starch and in the process can damage the fabric. If you do use starch it is recommended to use it only on projects that you will be stitching and washing soon. The ingredients in sizing are less likely to attract bugs.

    To size or starch your fabric it is best to spray the fabric and let it sit a few minutes and then iron. If you iron your sprayed fabric before it has a chance to soak in it may cause flaking. If the fabric needs more body, spray a light spray and iron. Repeat the process as many times as you like. It is better to spray a light spray and iron and repeat than to spray heavily and try to iron an almost wet piece of fabric.

    Once your fabric has been sized or starched your cutting and stitching will be easier because your fabrics have more body or firmness. This is especially helpful when stitching stretchy bias seams or working with very small pieces. Also when using sizing or starch it will be easier for you to press your seam allowances in the direction you wish.

    Either product will work on your quilting fabric to make the fabric have more body or be stiffer and thus easier to handle.

    New fabric -- "To Wash or Not to Wash -- that is the question?"

    There are almost as many conflicting responses to this question as there are quilters. I know quilters who don't wash anything and I know quilters who wash everything. I know quilters who wash sometimes and sometimes don't and sometimes worry because they didn't wash something before they stitched it. Some quilters say they don't wash simply because they don't want to take the time.

    I wash all my fabric before it enters my quilting studio. When I purchase new fabric, I take it to the laundry room where I have a pinking rotary cutter, mat and ruler available. I trim all cut edges with the pinking blade. Then I place them in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and cool water. I dry them in the dryer on low until slightly damp. Then press them as needed.

    If the fabric pieces are very small such as fat quarters or fat eighths, I either wash them by hand or place them in mesh bags to keep them from twisting and tangling. If they are in mesh bags, I wash them in the washer and dry in the dryer. I find smaller pieces sometimes need more pressing than larger pieces. I almost always press my fat quarters and fat eights but seldom press larger pieces until I am ready to cut.

    Always make sure your fabric is completely dry before putting it in any type of storage container. I usually leave mine out on a table for several days to be sure. Then I add it to my stash.

    If I purchase a kit of very small pieces such as for a block of the month I wash them by hand in a basin and hang them to dry. Press as needed.

    Pre-cut kits would be more difficult to pre-wash. I would hesitate to pre-wash a precut kit. Definitely do not wash pre-cut pieces in the washing machine. If you do not wash a pre-cut kit, remember to use a dry iron when pressing your seam allowances. If you use a steam iron, once moisture and heat comes in contact with these fabrics they will shrink unevenly. The lengthwise grain shrinks at a different rate than the crosswise grain. It is also recommended that if you don't pre-shrink fabrics for the top you should not pre-shrink your batting or backing.

    If you do not pre-shrink any of your quilt fabrics or batting you will have some shrinkage after it is washed the first time. This is what causes the crinkly look of the antique type quilts that are so popular now.

    Subscriber comments:
    Here is a little helpful trick I discovered one day. Whether to wash fabric or not. I do like to keep track of the material that I have pre-washed. I just go to my local sewing center and purchase some cheap cone thread for my surger. I then surge the edges of the material, whether it be my 8's of a fat quarter.I found that this keeps the material from unraveling and I know in my "stash" what has been washed and what has not.
    Jeannie

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    Subscriber's question:

    I can never remember when number of stitches per inch is discussed, is the stitch considered a complete stitch - once down and once up, or is each segment considered a stitch. For example, if I come up from the bottom and go down from the top 6 times, isn't it considered 3 stitches because that's what shows on the top?
    Stitches for hand quilting are counted this way. You go down in the quilt leaving a tiny length of thread on the top of the quilt and come up in the quilt leaving a tiny length of thread underneath the quilt. This is one stitch. So to count stitches per inch you would count the number of stitches that shows on the top within an inch. That would be your number of stitches per inch.

    There is a lot of discussion about tiny stitches and while they are nice, stitches that are even in size and in a straight line are also important. First try to practice making stitches even and straight. The more experience you have in hand quilting the smaller your stitches will become.

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    Making sure you can match corners of the squares

    When stitching squares together I work in rows. If possible all the vertical seams should be stitched on the lengthwise grain of the fabric. The lengthwise grain of the fabric has no stretch whereas the crosswise grain has a slight stretch when it is pulled.

    Line up all your patches with the lengthwise grain of fabric in position to be stitched. I stitch the first vertical seam by chain piecing. I don't cut the threads between pieces. I have several rows of two squares stitched together with threads between. Next, I stitch the second vertical seam. Now I have several rows of three squares stitched together with threads between. Continue until all vertical seams are stitched.

    Then turn the quilt a quarter turn and start stitching the horizontal seams. Now if all your patches were stitched on the lengthwise grain in the vertical seams, all your horizontal seams will be crosswise grain seams. The crosswise seams will have that small amount of stretch that will work for you. I don't clip the threads from the vertical seams. I just fold the seam allowances in opposite directions. The seam allowance on the bottom facing machine bed is turned toward me and the seam allowance on the top toward the machine foot is turned away from me. Begin stitching. As the top seam allowance turned away comes toward the seam allowance that is turned toward you the machine foot actually pushes that seam allowance together and locks them together.

    Stitching the vertical seams on the lengthwise grain of fabric first and then the horizontal seams on the crosswise grain next -- works well both when stitching simple squares into a large quilt, stitching complete blocks together, or actually the piecing of blocks.
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