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Thread: How do you prep your fabric?

  1. #1
    Member hautewife's Avatar
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    How do you prep your fabric?

    Disclaimer: I can be "full of questions" so I am going to try my best to limit myself to one question a week. If I ask something that has been answered before, you won't hurt my feelings by directing me to previous posts.

    I've read many different views on pre-washing, starching, etc. I would like to do an open poll of the methods used to prepare your fabric before cutting. For example, do you prefer to pre-wash your fabric, air dry, and iron with no starch. I'm also interested in knowing your "why" you have these preferences.

    Being honest with myself, I can be lazy when it comes to these things (washing, ironing, etc). I just want to sew, already! However, if it will make a huge difference than I would certainly do any prep work necessary.

    As always, thank you in advance for your valuable wisdom.
    Live. Love. Laugh.

  2. #2
    Power Poster ManiacQuilter2's Avatar
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    I am bad and never have pre-washed because I don't want to be burden with all that pressing. Right now, I am working with strips so I spray starch them before sewing and cutting them into blocks.
    A Good Friend, like an old quilt, is both a Treasure and a Comfort

  3. #3
    Junior Member Cathy77's Avatar
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    I don't prewash. I'm too lazy! There, I said it!

    But seriously, I asked the lady in my LQS and she said that it's not necessary any longer with new fabrics. However, if it is a very colour intense fabric (e.g. a red batik) she dunks the edge into a glass of boiled water, if it doesn't shed colour, you're ok to use it like this, otherwise pre-wash. She advised me to just iron the fabrics with lots of steam as it's apparently the heat that makes fabric shrink. I do that now.

    And if I feel that the fabric is a little flimsy and not stiff enough for my taste I also starch them (before cutting and sometimes when pressing seams as well). Also, when I know that I'll be working with bias cut pieces I use more starch.

  4. #4
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    OK, Fabric, this is going to be as painful for you as it is for me. Just bear with me and I promise in the end you will be a beautiful quilt (or a beautiful UFO, depending on how much you frustrate me!!) I find that a little pep talk really helps

  5. #5
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    I'm completely hit and miss with my prep! Sometimes I prewash everything beforehand. Sometimes I prewash most fabrics but forget to prewash others. Sometimes I don't even bother to iron the fabric to get the crease lines out!
    I guess it all depends on how excited I am to get on with the project! Usually when I forget to prewash I will realise when I make the last cut of all the cutting out, and then curse myself!
    I've only had one major issue when the completed quilt is washed and that was from a black border that I hadn't prewashed. I've since invested in boxes of colour catchers and haven't had any other problems!
    I've not had much shrinkage in any of my quilts, apart from one that I meticulously prewashed every bit! Although I think that was probably down to the batting (even though I prewashed that too!)
    Fingers crossed I don't have any major issues in the future!

  6. #6
    Super Member Gramie bj's Avatar
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    I always pre wash yardage. Why? some fabrics bleed (color runs) and some shrink. I use warm water with regular laundry det. and a color catcher, ( laundry product, designed to grab color from water, and hold it). Dry on med just like I would the finished quilt. I smooth by hand and fold for storage. When ready to use I Iron and use spray starch before cutting. Starching before cutting seems to make fabric easier to handle and keeps stretching on diagonal cut to a minimum. I do not iron before folding because I always iron before cutting to get out fold lines from storage and why iron twice? I do not like to iron!

  7. #7
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    I prewash all my fabric -- if for nothing more than to get all the chemicals out of it. I dry it in the dryer but do not iron i. I then ruler fold it and put it in the right drawer. I iron the fabric just before I use it. Then I will also use starch. I'm not going to waste my time ironing right after washing if I'm going to put it away. It will need to be ironed before it is cut anyway.

  8. #8
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    I pre-wash all fabrics in warm water, because I prefer working with clean (chemical-free) fabric, and because I don't like the idea of fabric shrinking unevenly after it's been sewn together; that seems potentially problematic to me. I don't pre-test my fabric for bleeding, though I think that's a good idea. I do group my fabrics for color when pre-washing, and use a color catcher for most loads (and they do often come out with quite a bit of color in them.) I dry the fabric in the dryer, then hand press and fold for storage. I press the fabric before cutting, using Best Press.

  9. #9
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    I pre-wash everything (except pre-cuts, which I actually don't use too much) in cool or luke warm water and dry on low heat. Before washing I zigzag the cut edges to reduce loose threads. Once dry I iron, using Best Press (Fresh Linen - I love the smell of that stuff) and then fold and put away until I'm ready to use it. I have always hated to iron, but for some reason I actually enjoy ironing new fabrics. If the fabric needs a little pressing before cutting I'll iron it again, also using Best Press.
    Of all the things I've lost I miss my mind the most!

  10. #10
    Super Member ube quilting's Avatar
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    I do pre- wash every fabric with just a little detergent and no softener, gentle/ short cycle.

    Either dry in machine on low setting or hang outside (weather).

    I do not iron fabric at this point but straighten and fold it and put into stock shelf.

    I double starch on back, press on front ( starch & press - starch & press). I do this after I cut the amount I want to use off the main length of fabric. It just makes it easier to handle. Re fold the main piece and place in basket that goes with project. I like to keep all my fabrics for one project together in case I want to cut more.

    I also don't like to cut out an entire quilt at one time. What if I cut it all wrong!

    After the starch& press I will begin to sub cut the fabric into the pieces I need for the project.

    Why do I do this? It really does make the fabric easier to handle, controls fraying and distortion. The number one reason is because I like to play with fabric. It is all part of the joy of making a quilt. There is a meditation and calmness in doing these acts as part of the creative process. I love it.

    peace
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  11. #11
    Super Member SueSew's Avatar
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    Another vote for skip the pre-wash. If you have to starch and size it back up after washing what is the point?
    Don't shoot!
    SueSew
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by joe'smom View Post
    I pre-wash all fabrics in warm water, because I prefer working with clean (chemical-free) fabric, and because I don't like the idea of fabric shrinking unevenly after it's been sewn together; that seems potentially problematic to me. I don't pre-test my fabric for bleeding, though I think that's a good idea. I do group my fabrics for color when pre-washing, and use a color catcher for most loads (and they do often come out with quite a bit of color in them.) I dry the fabric in the dryer, then hand press and fold for storage. I press the fabric before cutting, using Best Press.
    This is pretty much exactly what I do, too, except that I TRY to remember to pull the fabric out of the dryer when it's still just a touch damp, and I drape it over a stand-up clothes dryer thing in my sewing room. Especially with long yardage - my machines like to twist up longer pieces of fabric and if it dries with those creases it takes way too much work to get them back out again.

  13. #13
    Member hautewife's Avatar
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    Wow, I'm surprised that so far the majority pre-washes. I had never heard of a "color catcher" before. I also especially like the idea of dipping in boiling water to test. Also, the point of washing away chemicals is reason enough for me to pre-wash. My son has sensitive skin so if for no other reason, that is good enough.
    Live. Love. Laugh.

  14. #14
    Super Member Jeanne S's Avatar
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    I preWash all dark color fabric yardage. I preWash light colors sometimes if I have the time and energy. If i do preWash I iron with spray starch before using. I rarely use precuts but if I do I never preWash them..

  15. #15
    Member hautewife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ube quilting View Post
    I do pre- wash every fabric with just a little detergent and no softener, gentle/ short cycle.

    Either dry in machine on low setting or hang outside (weather).

    I do not iron fabric at this point but straighten and fold it and put into stock shelf.

    I double starch on back, press on front ( starch & press - starch & press). I do this after I cut the amount I want to use off the main length of fabric. It just makes it easier to handle. Re fold the main piece and place in basket that goes with project. I like to keep all my fabrics for one project together in case I want to cut more.

    I also don't like to cut out an entire quilt at one time. What if I cut it all wrong!

    After the starch& press I will begin to sub cut the fabric into the pieces I need for the project.

    Why do I do this? It really does make the fabric easier to handle, controls fraying and distortion. The number one reason is because I like to play with fabric. It is all part of the joy of making a quilt. There is a meditation and calmness in doing these acts as part of the creative process. I love it.

    peace
    Thank you for the tips on how to starch and press. Also your reminder to embrace the entire process as meditation is encouraging.
    Live. Love. Laugh.

  16. #16
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    Do an experiment. Take a yard of printed cotton. Measure both the length and width. Machine wash & dry. I have found that if you put a yard in, you get a yard out BUT it almost always shrinks width of fabric. Sometimes a half inch, sometimes almost 2. I prewash everything. Prints shrink and Batiks bleed. I am also a starcher. 1/2 StaFlo, 1/2 water, dip the fabric, dry till damp, then iron.
    "I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to."
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  17. #17
    Super Member AngeliaNR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SueSew View Post
    Another vote for skip the pre-wash. If you have to starch and size it back up after washing what is the point?
    Don't shoot!
    Me, too (though I have been known to wash heavily dyed flannel and batik--usually red ones).
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  18. #18
    Junior Member ShelleyCS's Avatar
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    Like others, I pre-wash. I have allergies and develop a cough if I don't. Washer/dryer, just as I expect the quilt will be washed, so hopefully, no further shrinking. To be honest, I use good fabric and I've yet to have significant shrinking except with flannel. I hand press out of the dryer, then iron and press with starch before cutting. It gives the fabric a bit more body and makes it easier to work with.

    Welcome to the board.

  19. #19
    Super Member calla's Avatar
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    I prewash if I am making a garment, for example a jacket. However for a quilt seldom. I read once that a gal prewashed and she snipped on the diagonal one corner to mark the fabric it had been washed.

  20. #20
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    The only thing I've pre washed is flannel, and maybe something from a garage sale if it isn't "fresh" smelling. So far I haven't had any problems. I'm not a starcher. I have Best Press, Niagara, and the old discontinued Bounce. They don't do much for me. That being said, I don't do intricate quilts, mostly patchwork or strips.

    Also, to the OP, we have a search function you might try using as a start to your questions and then go from there. I'm pretty sure the wash vs. no wash has been discussed a bunch of times. And still no consensus!!!
    Alyce

  21. #21
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    I serge or overcast the raw edges.

    I sort the pieces by color - then put them in hot water (as hot as it comes from the tap) and let the pieces set until the water cools down. I use pots, pans, sinks, etc. to put the pieces of fabric in.

    I poke at the pieces now and then to see if there is any colored water. If the water is colored, I look to see which piece of fabric is putting out dye. That piece will get extra attention.

    After I am reasonably confident that all this wet stuff will not share color - i put it in the washing machine with just a tiny amount of detergent and wash it either in warm or cold water on a short gentle cycle.

    Then I will dry it on "permanent press" or line dry it.

    Then I fold it and store it until I am ready to use it. The only time I iron a piece right after washing it is if it is really wrinkled. It usually is fine with "hand-pressing."

    I feel that agitation is what makes fabric look used/worn - so I try to keep that to a minimum. Don't over load the washer or the dryer.

    I feel that fabric should have enough body to not need starch/sizing to be usable.

    I do iron the fabric before cutting it. I usually iron it on the back - with the grain lines - it's easier to see the grain lines from the back.

    If I get a nasty bleeder, I will try to return it or discard it. No reason to stick someone else with a problem.

    Some people mess with Retayne, Synthrapol, and/or color catchers. I want my fabric to be user-friendly when the item is completed - I also assume that most people (that would get things I make) are just going to dump the quilt in the washer and wash it without worrying about color migrating/bleeding.

    I have measured hundreds of pieces before and after washing - to see if it was worth the effort. It is to me. Shrinkage has varied from none - to over 2.5 inches in width on a 42 inch wide "new" piece. I can't tell just by looking. I've had at least one piece of every bright color bleed. I've also washed many pieces of intense colors that left the water perfectly clear.

    I am not particularly phobic about yard/garage sale or thrift store pieces. But I will give them a sniff test before taking them home.



    I

  22. #22
    Senior Member QuiltingHaven's Avatar
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    I wash my fabric when I bring it home. I use color catchers when washing mixed colored fabrics. I put them in the dryer with my woolie balls and run it on low for 10 minutes and then I hang all of the fabric on the clothes line. I have found over the 4 years that I have been quilting that if I have just gotten some fabric, I wash it in the next load of laundry, dry for 10 minutes in the dryer using my woolie balls to keep the fabric fluffed, hang in on the closeline. Otherwise, I wash batches if I am getting in the process of making a quilt. I have purchased fabric at garage sales (really good buys) and it stays in the garage as I slowly wash it. Yes, I know it is a lot of trouble but I think of where it could have been made, chemical allergies of family members, and want to make sure shrinkage won't be a problem (you don't want to know about the charm packs) and then I put a note on it washed and how much yardage is in each piece of fabric and put it on a styrofoam sheet (purchased at Hobby Lobby with my 40% off coupon) cut in 10" by 5" pieces.
    Busy in Ohio

  23. #23
    Super Member franc36's Avatar
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    I'm another who does not pre wash. Until a couple of years ago, I serged the cut ends of my fabric and washed it. Then I started using lots of jelly rolls, layer cakes, and charm squares. Those, I did not pre wash, so I just stopped pre washing altogether. I like to work with very stiff fabric so I heavily spray fabric and precuts with a mixture of 2/3 Sta Flo 1/3 water. After starching, I put the fabric in a zip lock plastic bag which I keep in the freezer until I get around to ironing. This works for me. When I wash the quilt, I use color catchers.

  24. #24
    Super Member nunnyJo's Avatar
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    spray starch and press. like the feel of unwashed

  25. #25
    Super Member citruscountyquilter's Avatar
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    Rarely pre-wash because I have never had bleeding, shrinkage etc and not doing it works just fine for me.

    Starch when I am cutting strips, bias or fussy cut or doing especially complex pattern.

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