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Thread: Pre-washing fabric

  1. #1
    Senior Member Termi's Avatar
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    I am very new to quilting and when I started knew absolutely nothing. I saw a tutorial for a wall hanging using charm packs and
    decided I could do it. Since I've heard that pre-washing fabric is the way to go, I hand washed the charm packs and dried them in the dryer. When they came out of the dryer they were not square anymore and of course had all shrunk differently. Do any of you pre-wash charm packs or other pre-cuts? I had to re-cut all the squares. The tutorial made it look so easy, they used the charm packs without washing first. BTW, I've learned a lot from all of you, thank you.

  2. #2
    Super Member dakotamaid's Avatar
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    I do not wash charm packs. For the very reason you found. If they are in the same pack they are from the same line of fabric, usually, and will shrink the same once the top is put together.

    HOWEVER, if you like to prewash put small pieces in a mesh bag or pillowcase and wash them that way. I've also put them in the sink in warm water and washed them by hand. Others like to wash on delicate in their washing machines. Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Senior Member katiescraftshop's Avatar
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    Hand washing and wringing out the water may have destorted them. I pre-wash and dry everything. Smaller pieces in a lingerie bag. It's just how I prefer to do it.

  4. #4
    Super Member charmpacksplus's Avatar
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    Moda does not recommend washing the pre-cuts.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Tilladare's Avatar
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    For those who DO wish to prewash their pre-cuts, may I make a suggestion? Instead of wringing or squeezing the water out, use a salad spinner!
    I have one dedicated to food, and another dedicated to wool, and am considering adding a third for fabric!
    (Which reminds me, I need to get busy cleaning the last of the fleece in the spare bathtub!)

  6. #6
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I never prewash fabrics. I do test for colorfastness if I suspect a fabric might be a bleeder. Saves me a lot of time, and fabric and batting (I use primarily cotton batting) crinkle up together in the wash. (I look the soft antique look.)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Termi
    . . . When they came out of the dryer they were not square anymore and of course had all shrunk differently. . .
    Which is why I wash everything that is washable before putting it in a quilt or garment.

    It's also why I'm not particularly fond of small pre-cut pieces.

    It's amazing to me how much variation there is in the fabrics after washing them!

  8. #8
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I just want to mention that the different shrinkage rates of different fabrics actually don't matter when a quilt is closely quilted. This is because the quilting stitches that bind the layers together also prevent fabrics from shrinking overly much. This doesn't apply if quilting lines are far apart (say, 10" ). As long as you like the crinkly look, as I do, use primarily cotton batting (shrinks on average 3%), and quilt lines fairly close together (I usually do 2" but probably up to 4" is okay), then the variability in shrinkage of fabrics won't matter.

    The one exception to this may be flannel, if you are combining it with other fabrics, because flannels can shrink an outrageous amount compared to other fabrics. I once saw a quilt that Harriet Hargrave made to prove her point about not prewashing. She made a quilt entirely out of flannels that she did not prewash. She measured the quilt before washing and again after washing. It shrank the amount of the cotton batting (about 3%) but no more than that because the quilting kept the flannels tied to the batting. Washed by themselves, flannels can shrink 10% or even more!

  9. #9
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    I prewash for one reason only, to remove the chemicals in the fabric they put in there to deter mildew. When I was a new quilter, I would store my newly bought fabric on open shelves in my quilt room, only washing it right before I was ready to use it. I was getting headaches and feeling generally queasy when in my quilt room. I soon realized it was the accumulation of all the chemicals in the air making me ill. I took a few days to wash all my fabric and within a few days I was feeling much better. I always wash my fabrics the minute I get them home now and have never had any more trouble. That's my two cent worth! :D

  10. #10
    Super Member knlsmith's Avatar
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    A lot of us don't prewash. I almost NEVER prewash, especially precuts. I do prewash red, blue, and black flannel if it fails the hot water soak test.

    You can use the search function at the top of the page. You will find all kind of prewash/no prewash topics. It's kind of a which came first...the chicken or the egg topic.

    Welcom to the board. It's great here!

  11. #11
    Super Member Murphy's Avatar
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    I do not prewash fabric.

  12. #12
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    The only thing I prewash is flannel.I find the sizeing gives the fabric more body which I like when cutting.If iam worried about bleeding I use a color catcher the first wash.

  13. #13
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prairiequeen
    The only thing I prewash is flannel.I find the sizeing gives the fabric more body which I like when cutting.If iam worried about bleeding I use a color catcher the first wash.
    Same here. The lady at the quilt store said no prewashing necessary on modern fabrics. Although if one has a sensitivity or allergy, that is another story.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by prairiequeen
    The only thing I prewash is flannel.I find the sizeing gives the fabric more body which I like when cutting.If iam worried about bleeding I use a color catcher the first wash.
    What is a color catcher? :?:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tilladare
    For those who DO wish to prewash their pre-cuts, may I make a suggestion? Instead of wringing or squeezing the water out, use a salad spinner!
    I have one dedicated to food, and another dedicated to wool, and am considering adding a third for fabric!
    (Which reminds me, I need to get busy cleaning the last of the fleece in the spare bathtub!)
    DITTO....this works for ALL small pieces of fabric, even FQ's

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stitchnripper
    Quote Originally Posted by prairiequeen
    The only thing I prewash is flannel.I find the sizeing gives the fabric more body which I like when cutting.If iam worried about bleeding I use a color catcher the first wash.
    Same here. The lady at the quilt store said no prewashing necessary on modern fabrics. Although if one has a sensitivity or allergy, that is another story.
    what make MODERN fabric any different from VINTAGE fabric?
    It is all the same and in todays market MODERN fabrics can contain up to 73 chemicals with more than 50% of being carcinogens! So I would rather wash the NEWER fabrics than the old...BUT all fabric should be washed so to remove left over dyes, oils, dirt, and for proper shrinkage!

  17. #17
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i do not wash pre-cuts...but i do color test if i have any colors to worry about and if there is a (mis-behavin' piece) i either do not use it or i do pre-wash and try to set the color. i only pre-wash if the fabric feels or smells funky...or is wool, or batik/hand-dyed, or the color bleeds.

  18. #18
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaciqltznok
    Quote Originally Posted by Stitchnripper
    Quote Originally Posted by prairiequeen
    The only thing I prewash is flannel.I find the sizeing gives the fabric more body which I like when cutting.If iam worried about bleeding I use a color catcher the first wash.
    Same here. The lady at the quilt store said no prewashing necessary on modern fabrics. Although if one has a sensitivity or allergy, that is another story.
    what make MODERN fabric any different from VINTAGE fabric?
    It is all the same and in todays market MODERN fabrics can contain up to 73 chemicals with more than 50% of being
    carcinogens! So I would rather wash the NEWER fabrics than the old...BUT all fabric should be washed so to remove left over dyes, oils, dirt, and for proper shrinkage!
    I stand corrected. Thank you for this information.

  19. #19
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    The only fabrics I prewash are flannels and very dark colored anything else. Flannels only for the shrink factor. Someone told me when I began quilting 10 or so years ago, that today's fabrics are usually stable...and to trust them.
    I found this to be true. I like the crispness of unwashed cottons...they cut better, are less fray-edged or distorted, and I hate when they turn out limp from prewashing. Several pros do not advise prewashing....the battle has been going on for a long time.
    I also find that washing my quilts in cold water, delicate, and damp drying them in the dryer, then gently reshaping if necessary works just fine. I do small things...lap quilts, wall hangings, and the like and have never had a problem with not prewashing.

    D

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99
    I never prewash fabrics. I do test for colorfastness if I suspect a fabric might be a bleeder. Saves me a lot of time, and fabric and batting (I use primarily cotton batting) crinkle up together in the wash. (I look the soft antique look.)
    Agree 100%

  21. #21
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    I only prewash when I think fabric might fade or bleed( hand dyes) Diane C.

  22. #22
    Junior Member scarlet14's Avatar
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    try washing and rinsing in a salad spinner---can do all with out opening it till done and not as rough as a washer and spins them fairly dry too

  23. #23
    katlady's Avatar
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    No & why woud you if it's for a wall hanging??

  24. #24
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    I make quilts primarily for charities and would never think of making and sending one off without prewashing the fabrics in it. (And the quilt itself when it's completed). I don't want to donate anything that might sicken a child from the chemicals in the fabrics, or have the various fabrics shrink differentially or bleed from one color to the other and become a depressing mess. I think for wall hangings and other things like art quilts that are for display only that aren't needing to be washed and dried, then of course not prewashing is reasonable if we want to keep the fabrics new-looking.

    Dana

  25. #25
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    I don't prewash. Period. Have never had any problems. Most patterns that use precuts will tell you NOT to prewash for just this reason.

    BTW, to prewash or not is about as divided an opinion as you can get.

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