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Thread: To Wash or not to Wash?

  1. #1
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    Hello, I am still a novice at quilting, but I have a question. The first quilting class I ever took taught me to always prewash the fabric. I just returned to quilting after completing my post graduate work, and I just took a class making a carpenters star wall hanging and the teacher said she never prewashes and she like the way the fabric handled better when not washed. Then I just read on the blog that it should be prewashed, then ironed and starched. Could someone please clear this up? I am planning on starting the first of at least 4 full sized quilts (one for me and the others for my kids) and would like to have them turn out well and be nice for the kids for a long time.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    GMA
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    Junior Member GMA's Avatar
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    I would wash all fabric to prevent any bleeding. I have allergies and all that sizing really bothers me. I prefer to sew at the 'correct' size and have it do the shrinking on it's own. If it's a wall hanging or something that's not going to be washed that much than, probably not a big thing.

  3. #3
    Moderator sharon b's Avatar
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    If you go to the search button and type in wash or not wash, it has been discussed many times and everyone has their own opinion. Most of it depends on personal preference. I used to wash EVERYTHING as soon as it hit the door , but after reading here I stopped that and have had no problems. Some fabrics will shrink more than others, but using the warm n natural batting that also shrinks, so I figure it will all shrink together :wink: and then it gives it a more crinkly finish. I do have to say if I was using red fabric I probably would wash that as according to the more experienced quilters here that color does tend to run more. I know I have probably only added to your confusion, sorry :?
    Sharon

  4. #4
    Power Poster earthwalker's Avatar
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    I pre-wash everything. It saves lots of heartache later. I also buy a lot of fabric remnants from various places (bazaars, markets, charity shops....). I like everything to be clean and fresh prior to storing with my stash. Also as GMA says, it does remove sizing and any other chemical residue from new fabric.

    I bought some fabric remnants yesterday...a few baby print flannels and about 3 metres of dark blue fabric with bears and stars...whilst the fabric was unused, it did smell pretty awful (A huge bagful for $2). A quick wash and out on the line, and voila...clean, fresh, and didn't run so now it's ready for my next project. I also visited a fabric store recently and purchased some fabric off the bolt. Again I washed before storing. I am often amazed at how dirty even new fabric can be.

  5. #5
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input. I understand how the washing issue might not be as important with a wall hanging as with a quilt that would be washed a lot. You that wash first, do you use spray sizing or starch it before you cut it?

    Again, thanks for the guidance.

  6. #6
    k3n
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    I don't always wash FQs and certainly wouldn't wash charms or jelly rolls. An exception to this is batiks which are notorious for running. I just spent all yesterday soaking some in first vinegar then salt waterand finally they went through the washer with a piece of white cotton that STAYED white!

    Yardage I always wash and have recently started using spray starch which also has a silicon type thing in it (sorry the label's French and it says 'glisse' which means 'slide'). Apart from making the fabric crisp and fresh AND making the sewing room smell nice, I find this also seems to make the cutter and the needle slide more smoothly through the fabric. The kids like it too if some gets on the wood floor - they spend all day in their socks, sliding up and down! :D

    An exception is when making One Block Wonders - then you don't prewash as you need the sizing to help align the layers. Those quilts I would test for colour fastness with a damp cloth and wash first time with a colour catcher to be safe. OR wash a spare piece of the fabric with the bit of white cotton to check for fastness. :D

  7. #7
    Senior Member Roben's Avatar
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    Sharon is right - there is as many opinions on this as there are quilters :D Personally, I watch the fabric I use and test any darks I'm concerned about - but there are instances where I do pre-wash. When I do, I serge the cut edges of the fabric (a zig zag stitch would also work) to prevent fraying.

    I've recently converted to Mary Ellen's Best Press instead of starch, and I love it! It is pricier, but no more gunk on my iron and it smells so much better! :D It seems to give me the same kind of control of the fabric without heavy feel of starch, and it doesn't contain any starch so no bug worries. :lol:

  8. #8
    Junior Member nantucketsue's Avatar
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    I usually pre-wash. but as I am using 80/20 batting which has a shrinkage rate, I decided not to on my present quilt, so hopefully it will all shrink together. Of course it would be sensible to test any dark colours first whatever method. I am very interested in Roben's suggestion of Mary Ellen's best press. I wonder if I can get that in UK.

  9. #9
    Super Member amandasgramma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMA
    I would wash all fabric to prevent any bleeding. I have allergies and all that sizing really bothers me. I prefer to sew at the 'correct' size and have it do the shrinking on it's own. If it's a wall hanging or something that's not going to be washed that much than, probably not a big thing.
    AHA!!!! I'll bet this is EXACTLY why I've had so many allergy problems this last year!! It coincides with my starting to quilt/sew a lot! WOW! This might be saving me $$$$ from going to an allergist! LOL -- more $$$$ for fabrics now!!!

    To answer OP, I've decided after studying this forum, that it's best to pre-wash....only because I put SO much effort into sewing the projects that I'd be sick if one bled or shrank!

  10. #10
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    Thanks for the kind responses! I think the general consensus is that while it IS personal preference, they probably is no downside to washing the fabric beyond losing the sizing which can be restored somewhat with starch. I will have to look into Mary Ellens Best Press. (I wonder if Joann Fabrics would have it..)

  11. #11
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    my feeling is that if the fabric is limp and flimsy feeling without sizing, why in the world bother to use it at all?

    who is going to resize a finished quilt when they wash it?

    that said, it does make sense to use some of these products when cutting the pieces to stabilize them for something like the one-block wonder type quilt.

  12. #12
    Super Member shaverg's Avatar
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    It depends on the color of the fabric and what I am going to use it for. If it is for a wall hanging, I hardly ever wash. But if it has a lot of blue or red dye and I am going to use if for a quilt, I will prewash. I don't think there is a right or wrong it is up to the individual. It is kind of like pressing seams open or to the side.

  13. #13
    Super Member azdesertrat's Avatar
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    I always prewash,always always.You never know and after putting all that work into a quilt and you go to wash it and the fabris shrinkl and not at the same percentages,you will be upset to say the least.Its better to be safe than sorry

  14. #14

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    If you prewash, do you have to use a spray starch or any other kind of starch? Could you just dry and iron and use?

  15. #15
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    azdesertrat

    I can see the merit in your method. Thanks.

  16. #16
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nursie76
    Thanks for the kind responses! I think the general consensus is that while it IS personal preference, they probably is no downside to washing the fabric beyond losing the sizing which can be restored somewhat with starch. I will have to look into Mary Ellens Best Press. (I wonder if Joann Fabrics would have it..)
    The downside I have with prewashing is the time and energy it takes. I'd rather devote that time to cutting, piecing and quilting.

    I haven't prewashed fabric since taking a class from Harriet Hargrave. It saves me a lot of time, plus fabrics with the factory sizing still on are somewhat protected from sun fading. I will briefly test very suspicious fabrics (especially reds) by placing in water and seeing if any coloration takes place.

    What I *always* do, though, is wash the quilt with Synthrapol once it is finished. Synthrapol suspends unset dye particles in water so they rinse away instead of settling into other fabrics. I also look at the wash water. If I were to see a lot of color in the water (hasn't happened to me yet), I would be very careful to wash again in Synthrapol until the water is clear before drying the quilt.

  17. #17
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    Thanks. I need to find out where I can get Synthrapol. I have never heard of it. Does it work for garments too?

  18. #18
    community benefactor Knot Sew's Avatar
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    I don't prewash...I do sometimes test for color fastness... I haven't had problems. I do prewash muslin and some of the special day fabric as this seems to be not as good as the regular. No quilt police do what you like :D

  19. #19
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    I have been Googling Synthrapol. Do you just add it to your washer load and still add regular detergent, fabric softener, and then dry?

  20. #20
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nursie76
    I have been Googling Synthrapol. Do you just add it to your washer load and still add regular detergent, fabric softener, and then dry?
    Synthrapol is itself a detergent, so you don't need additional detergent. I do use fabric softener.

    A lot of quilt shops carry Synthrapol now and it's not very expensive.

    Bleeding occurs when there is excess dye in a fabric that did not get "set". Every once in awhile you might run across a fabric that bleeds excessively and won't stop bleeding. That is a fabric in which the dye most likely never was properly "set". Assuming you catch such a fabric before it gets into a quilt (usually these are suspicious fabrics from the outset, and you may notice color rubbing off on your hands), you can prewash the fabric in Retayne. Retayne is just the opposite of Synthrapol. It sets dye into fabric. You would *never, ever* want to wash a quilt in Retayne as it would permanently set bleeds. However, it's very handy if you have a beautiful fabric that bleeds like crazy. Quilt shops that cater to fabric dyers often have Retayne on hand for purchase.

    Sorry if this is more info than you wanted.....

  21. #21
    Super Member nursie76's Avatar
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    Prism99-

    Appreciate any tidbit you all can offer!

    Thanks!

  22. #22
    Junior Member Ethel A's Avatar
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    I think the suggestion about the Synthrapol is interesting. I will have to look into this product.

  23. #23
    Super Member butterflywing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nursie76
    Thanks. I need to find out where I can get Synthrapol. I have never heard of it. Does it work for garments too?

    http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/1137-AA.shtml

    synthrapol here

  24. #24
    Super Member Rose Marie's Avatar
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    I wash all fabric from fat quarters and larger.
    I do not wash charms or other small cuts.

  25. #25
    farmmom's Avatar
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    I was always told if it's goiing to be a wall hanging ro anything like that pre washing was not necessary. If the project was going to be a quilt that gets used, you want to prewash so it doesn't shrink and ruin the quilt.

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