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Thread: Pre-wash or not, that is the question...

  1. #1
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    Which do you do, and why? I generally don't pre-wash because I'm too excited to sew. What I don't like is after it is washed it has that crinkled look.

    I'm going to pre-wash, dry, and iron my recent purchase to see the difference. Those of you who do pre-wash, do you starch when you iron?

    So ladies, which is your preference?

  2. #2
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    I don't at all.

    The only time I have is when a piece was badly creased and ironing wouldn't get rid of it. Since then, I've learned the "mist with water and chuck in the dryer" method, which is much quicker!

    I should add though, the fabrics we get here are expensive but are excellent quality. If I was buying cheaper fabrics with strong colours I'd probably think about it a little more.

  3. #3
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    i only pre-wash fabric that will be used in a quilt that is meant to be used and washed repeatedly.

    if its a wall hanging or art quilt i won't pre-wash but i do steam press the fabric when i iron it.

    if the fabric has gold paint on it (mainly asian/japanese quilt fabric) i won't wash it because i've had it turn green and in some cases wash completely away.

    i only use spray starch for more structured projects like handbags and clothing.

  4. #4
    Super Member sewjoyce's Avatar
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    I only wash first if I think the fabric might bleed (reds, blues, brights, etc.) and the end product will be used a lot.

    I, too, hate to iron fabric after it's been in the dryer. I like to use Mary Ellen's Best Press, which is a light starch. That stuff will take out all the wrinkles and fold lines, etc. I'm already on my second bottle of this stuff... :-) :-)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Missi's Avatar
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    You will find many many threads on this question if you do a search with just as many opinions. I myself am a prewasher - learned the hard way with shrinkage. The fabric comes home from the store and goes in the laundry pile. If you take it right out of the dryer you can avoid all the wrinkles. I prewash not only due to fear of colors running, but mainly due to shrinkage. Different brands will shrink differently and when sewn together you can have a mess.


    For the Round Robins we have to prewash, and I was discussing this with my LQS owner when I was buying my fabric for round 4. She won a beautiful quilt in a raffle from a shop hop (you know it was quilt shop material) and long story short had to wash it. It has lots of little pieces and all different colors. She threw in five color catchers. When she removed the quilt from the wash many of the colors had ran. Pulled it from the dryer and the smaller pieces had shrank and with the quilting on them were unrecognizable. The was ruined! Had the fabric been prewashed she would still have the quilt.

  6. #6
    BlueChicken's Avatar
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    I've never had anything shrink, and have never heard anyone but you guys mention it. It can't just be the country of origin, we get our fabrics from the same place I would think.

  7. #7
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    I just did some googling and one said that your fabric thread counts may differ, therefore, if you don't pre-wash shrinkage of the various fabrics will also differ. Also, if you use muslin for a backing which doesn't match the fabrics thread count, the muslin may shrink more. And, you can pre-wash the fabric but don't forget about the cotton batting because that will shrink, giving it the antique look.

    I'm going to wash some fabric and batting and iron with starch. I'll make something simple then wash that, and see the difference. I just have to know. Funny thing, I never thought about pre-washing the batting...

  8. #8
    Junior Member Ethel A's Avatar
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    Doesn't it depend on the batting you will use, also? Even if I've prewashed my fabrics (for fear of bleeding) there will be some 'shrinking' due to the cotton batting I've used. It's sometimes inevitable, don't you think?

    I've been told NOT to pre-wash batting. I can't remember why..... just that it was not a good idea to do so. I think it might have something to do with the batting falling apart if you let it go through a top-loading machine (the agitator will pull it apart).

  9. #9

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    Butterfli...I do not prewash!! I know I should duck for if my mother could hear me I'd surely be ducking from what she's tossing at me!LOL I love the crisp feel of the new...I love the old quilts,etc. Now, if it is a 'red'...I will prewash or if I inherit something from another place...I will. That is it. I don't care of the fear of chemicals for my house is surely loaded as it is. I have washed quilts after and they come out great. So, here's the hoopla....it is by choice. No right or wrong...just preference. I've never had any shrink later in the wash with me crying over it at the end of the story:)Skeat

  10. #10
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    I always pre wash. :wink: I recently read that rinsing is enough--so that's what I do. I fill the washer to the right level--then agitate it by hand--then spin--and toss in the dryer. I don't iron until I use them--just fold them nicely and press with my hand.

  11. #11
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    I also wash when I know it is going to be used a lot and especially if it has any color with red dye or blue.

  12. #12
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    I absolutely prewash - warm water and soap - every single piece of fabric that comes into the house. 100% of the time, and I feel very strongly about it.

    Can you tell? :wink:

  13. #13
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    It is all personal preference. There is no right or wrong.

  14. #14
    Super Member JoanneS's Avatar
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    I serge edges and prewash without soap. I fold as soon as it comes out of the dryer and don't iron until I use it. I've heard that MOST of the shrinking happens in the dryer. Don't know if it's true, because who wants to measure WET fabric? I use fabric sizing when I iron, because I don't want to deal with the bugs that are attracted to starch.

    I also soak cotton batting and then dry it in the dryer per Harriet Hargrave's instructions. I've never wanted the old fashioned look, which you can get by NOT pre-shrinking cotton batting.

  15. #15

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    I absolutely prewash - warm water and soap - every single piece of fabric that comes into the house. 100% of the time, and I feel very strongly about it.
    I have been washing my fabric (usually from my LQS) in the hottest water and with detergent - and sometimes fabric softener - and dry it in the dryer. Whoever gets the finished product may not know how to handle the quilt, and I may not be around to tell them.

    So far, I haven't had any bleeding or running in my fabrics.

  16. #16
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    I only prewash if it is for an exchange. Or if I am using flannel. Otherwise I like the feel of the fabric and love the aged look it gets (wrinkles) after I wash the quilt.

  17. #17
    Super Member pittsburgpam's Avatar
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    Sometimes I pre-wash and sometimes I don't. I didn't pre-wash for a quilt I just completed but, I just tonight washed and dried and ironed with starch for another quilt. That one has very bright white, very red, and very black all in the same fabrics.

    It just depends on what I think it needs.

  18. #18
    Super Member Barb M's Avatar
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    I always always pre-wash. I want all colours to do their running, all shrinking to happen, and the sizing washed out before i have to handle it, can't stand the smell and feel of sizing. I want to know that when my quilt is finished, it will be the same after it is washed as it is the moment i finish making it. I want to know that my quilts are meant to be washed and used.

  19. #19
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    i always pre-wash everything before i use it. i try to do it as soon as it hits my door, but it doesn't always happen that way.

    i use the hottest water, detergent and the dryer. if it had a chemical smell, then i wash 2x. i always wash reds alone. there has been bad bleeding.
    same with blues. if they still bleed after 3x, they go out the door. i don't trust retayne for the long haul. i'd rather replace the piece.

    before i cut i press, except for the backing, which i spray on the quilting frame. i starch as i cut and piece.

    i toss the batting in the dryer with hot wet towels to shrink those. i don't like surprise birthday parties either.

  20. #20
    Super Member Pats8e8's Avatar
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    It really is personal preferance. I never pre wash unless it is fabric that might bleed. I have only once had a fabric shrink, and that was years and years ago. It's good that you are trying it both ways, you can decide which way you like it better.

  21. #21
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    I always preshrink all my fabric. I buy from different stores and the brands might shrink at different rates. Plus you never know when a fabric might bleed - I have been surprised sometimes - and you need to get the extra colour out. Otherwise it could ruin the quilt when it gets washed.

  22. #22
    Super Member quiltmom04's Avatar
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    I do try to wash everything. It sort of 'levels the playing field" for the fabrics that go into a quilt, and then you don't have to wonder how the fabrics will react together, or shrink differently. I've heard people say they SHOULD have washed the fabrics first, because something had happened when the quilt was washed, but I've never heard anyone say they wished they hadn't washed the fabric first!
    After I wash it, I don't iron it right away, so I can tell which had been washed and which hasn't. And I use Mary Ellen's Best Press, too. Takes the wrinkles right out!

  23. #23
    Senior Member Kara's Avatar
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    I prewash to preshrink. The batting you use will consistently shrink, where your fabric may shrink to different degrees.

    I put so much time into some of these quilts that I don't want to take ANY chances...


  24. #24
    Senior Member blzzrdqueen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by barnbum
    I always pre wash. :wink: I recently read that rinsing is enough--so that's what I do. I fill the washer to the right level--then agitate it by hand--then spin--and toss in the dryer. I don't iron until I use them--just fold them nicely and press with my hand.
    I do pretty simular. I wash in the gentle cycle, no detergent and then dry. I also just fold the fabric until I'm ready to use. I do starch, but only after I have my pieces cut, as it's easier for me to sew then once they have a slight stiffness to them.

  25. #25
    Senior Member crashnquilt's Avatar
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    I do prewash my fabrics to remove the chemicals. My hands get tiny itchy bumps if I don't prewash. Also I prefer to pre shrink my fabrics so that my finished project won't shrink so much. I also preshrink my batting if I am using a cotton batt.

    If I am going to start the project right away I do HEAVILY starch my fabrics and press my fabrics. I think I get much cleaner cuts and the fabric is easier to work with when it has some body to it.

    If they are fabrics for the stash I wait to wash them when I am ready to use them.

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