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Thread: Wash or Not Wash

  1. #1
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    Wash or Not Wash

    I do a block of the month quilt and was wondering if it is better to wash all the small little fabric pieces before putting the block together. Some people say they wash theirs and others don't. An owner of a quilt shop told me fabrics nowdays do not bleed like they use to. So experienced quilters, I would love your opinion. Also, what about the rest of the fabric used in the quilt like the big pieces for the borders.

  2. #2
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    All I can tell you is what I do, and I do not was the fabrics I get for my block of the month. This is a popular topic here and each person has their own way. I don't routinely prewash any quilting fabric and haven't had any problems yet. Having said that, I recently needed to use a dark red for trim on an otherwise lighter colored runner and I did rinse it in warm water to check for running. It was fine, no running. I do wash finished quilts with a color catcher when completed. Also checking to make sure no seams are coming apart. To answer your last question, no I will not prewash the yardage for my BOM, either.
    Last edited by suern3; 03-16-2017 at 03:16 PM.

  3. #3
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    I don't prewash anything, and certainly not all those little pieces.

  4. #4
    Super Member Stitchnripper's Avatar
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    Agree with suern3. I'm not a prewasher except for flannel. There have been many discussions about it if you wa t to try the search function
    Alyce

  5. #5
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    Although I do at times prewash yardage I never prewash cut pieces. They might fray or shrink enough to cause your blocks to not go together. I've done many BOMs over the years and never had an issue due to not prewashing the block fabrics.
    hiding away in my stash where i'm warm, safe and happy

  6. #6
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    I always wash and dry my fabrics as soon as I get them home. Always larger pieces.
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  7. #7
    Super Member quiltingshorttimer's Avatar
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    two quilt shop owners have told me the same thing--that most fabric doesn't bleed and to do a "test" first--I rub (very hard) white paper on the fabric and if NO color on the paper, then it's good--if a color (even a hint) I wash. I end up seldom needing to wash. I don't have issues with the sizing in the fabric so not allergy sensitive, although know quilters that must wash for that reason. I do wash my quilts in cold water (wash everything in cold) and use color catchers and rarely any color on them. I steam (heavy) my yardage before cutting so shrink it then.

  8. #8
    Super Member Jeanette Frantz's Avatar
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    Wash or Not Wash

    I don't do (or haven't done) BOM blocks and I don't buy pre-cut kits. That being said, I do pre-wash everything else. I've bought good quality cottons, and I can't vouch for what the quilt shop owners say -- all I can tell you, is that I've had a LOT of fabric bleed, especially reds. I test the fabrics for bleeding by placing a narrow strip (6 inches long) into the hottest tap water available and leaving it set for an hour or so. If the fabric bleeds, it will show up on an all-white paper towel dipped into the water in which the fabric strip was placed. The paper towel will show whether or not the fabric bleeds. I've also had some very deep blues bleed "like a stuck hog". If I have a fabric that bleeds, I treat it to "set" the dye. I use a product available online, and it is very effective. I recently completed a red and white log cabin quilt -- lots of reds and whites. I treated every piece of fabric in that quilt (120 X 135 inches), but I will still use color catchers when I wash the quilt. I just don't take risks -- I can't afford to. Also, another reason for washing -- I have asthma and it can be very bad, so I wash the fabric before I start working with it.
    Last edited by Jeanette Frantz; 03-16-2017 at 07:40 PM. Reason: correction

  9. #9
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    I almost never prewash fabric. The exception would be flannels. While it's really a personal preference, I would not prewash smaller pieces or precuts as they could fray.

  10. #10
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    Just going through a bit of this situation myself. Finishing up a UFO which is a 2013 BOM. None of the block fabrics are pre-washed as I don't pre-wash small pieces for fear they will fray too much and I'll not have enough. I normally pre-wash all of my yardage.

    For this project, I've chosen not to pre-wash the yardage I just purchased for sashings; borders; etc. I ironed my yardage (with steam and starch) to eliminate the fold crease so I could re-fold more on-grain. I usually do not have an issue with this process and my pre-washed and ironed fabric behaves very nicely after folding/hanging to get in on-grain. This time, not so much. When cutting strips for the first set of sashing I had several strips that were bowed a bit. Not enough to be unusable but still 'off'.

    My decision to not pre-wash the yardage was so that it would behave the same as the pre-cut pieces used in the blocks relative to shrinkage. Granted, that is mostly controlled by the batting used (in my case 100% cotton W&N) but still wanted all the fabrics to have the same shrinkage rate - or as close as possible given different manufacturers.

    Bleeding was not my concern as I agree with most of the other posters that most fabrics do not bleed they way they used to ages ago. We'll see how my next set of sashing goes in terms of getting it on grain with this process.

  11. #11
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    This is what Iíve picked up from reading threads on the topic.

    The reasons some people prewash are:
    - To remove the sizing from the fabric. The fabric feels and hangs differently after the sizing has been removed (which can be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your view). Iíve read of at least one person being sensitive to the chemicals.
    - To remove any dirt and oils that have gotten on the fabric
    - To shrink the fabric. Different fabrics (and especially different fabric types) shrink different amounts, so it can help reduce uneven shrinkage in the finished quilt.
    - To see if the fabric bleeds. Red is the only color that Iíve had problems with myself (and of course not all reds). Some people wash all their quilts with color catchers, and so are not concerned with bleeding.


    With pre-cut pieces of fabric, the shrinkage can cause problems if it leaves the pieces too small. I bought a kit for something once and it left the pieces too small, and I had to make some adjustments. Raveling is also more of an issue with smaller cuts since that can also leave the pieces too small. If you do decide to prewash small pieces, putting them in a lingerie bag can help with the raveling, or you can just swish them around in water or soap and water.

    I do prewash fabrics in my washing machine, but for anything smaller than maybe half a yard I would either skip it or hand wash them.

    In the end it's just a preference, but I hope this helps in deciding what you want to do.

  12. #12
    Super Member coopah's Avatar
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    I would not wash the small pieces, and since those weren't washed, I wouldn't do any of it. Your quilt shop person is absolutely WRONG about quilt store fabrics not bleeding. I have some black I'll send her. And red. And blue. SHE can get them not to bleed. They are now in my scrap pile for dog beds. Yes, I know about the chemicals to stop the bleeding, but I'm not into more chemicals. I will not name a brand of fabric, but it is a well respected name in fabric and was purchased at a quilt shop. So, since your fabric is a kit, just make it and use Color Catchers (several) when you do wash it for the first time. I will say that the Quilting Treasures brand processes their fabrics after printing that takes care of bleeding and shrinking. If I remember correctly, they use hot water after it's printed. I am not affiliated with any company.
    "A woman is like a tea bag-you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt

  13. #13
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    I don't wash anything smaller than a fat quarter, but rarely buy anything smaller than that either. I've never done a BOM. But otherwise I wash everything.

  14. #14
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    Now i wash everything washable before cutting it to put into an item.

    I have measured hundreds of pieces of fabrics before and after washing them. Shrinkage rates vary from none ( which is very unusual) to over two inches width of fabric or length of fabric per yard. I ha e found that shrinkage is usually a lot more one way or another.

    I have had at least one bleeder from every color family.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MissSongbird's Avatar
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    I wash depending on the size of the cuts of fabric. If the quilt includes any fat quarters or any cut piece smaller than a half yard then I will not wash any of the fabric. If I'm making a quilt and has fabric bigger than that I will wash everything. I end up washing more than not because I usually get bigger cuts of fabric.

  16. #16
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    I wash everything as soon as it comes in the house - EXCEPT kits and pre-cuts and sometimes really large pieces (they get washed as they are cut into manageable sizes). I've never bought a BOM, but would definitely not wash it.

    Mitty said it very well. There are lots of reasons for pre-washing, but it's a personal choice. One of the downsides that I've run into recently is that many fabric exchanges require that the fabric not be washed. That means I don't participate, because I don't have unwashed fabric in my stash, and I don't want to receive squares or strips of it from others.

  17. #17
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    I do prewash most of my fabric. If I have little pieces for a BOM, I rinse them in the sink and dry on a rack and iron. I think it really is a personal preference-whatever you are comfortable with.

  18. #18
    Senior Member cat-on-a-mac's Avatar
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    I'm a prewasher. For shrinkage and bleeding. I used to think red was the only major culprit, but I had a turquoise batik that bled and bled and bled.

    I have been doing quilting for donation quilts for veterans ... so lots of red/white/blue. The piecers usually don't prewash. quite often, when I spritz with water to remove my blue water-soluble markers, I see bleeding from the red.
    Cathy

  19. #19
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    This is sure to get the quilt police out on this question....I do not wash....some wash and some don't I am a don't...I like my fabric crisp....

  20. #20
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tishspastime View Post
    An owner of a quilt shop told me fabrics nowdays do not bleed like they use to.
    I laugh whenever I hear this from a shop owner. It is true that they don't bleed like they used to, but many "nowdays" fabrics do indeed bleed. I think shop owners are just trying to give the impression that their expensive fabrics are extremely high quality.

  21. #21
    Super Member caspharm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stitchnripper View Post
    Agree with suern3. I'm not a prewasher except for flannel. There have been many discussions about it if you wa t to try the search function
    Same here. I only wash flannel.

  22. #22
    Super Member quilting cat's Avatar
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    I almost always wash new fabric before it goes in my sewing room. Small pre-cut pieces are different, as they my fray enough to be unusable. Shrinkage is more worrisome than bleeding, and I trust that just wetting with hot water should take care of that.
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  23. #23
    Super Member Jeanette Frantz's Avatar
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    I have posted before on this thread, so I apologize for getting on here again. I have asthma, so I DO wash everything that comes in this house. First, I test my fabric for bleeding. I've bought (recently) some very high quality 10% cotton for borders for a red and white quilt I made (all the fabrics in that quilt had been treated to prevent bleeding). So, I tested this red and, brother, did it bleed? YES, Yes, Yes! I treated that fabric also. I have to be very careful what I have in my house -- air freshners are a no, no, as well as some hand sanitizer (because it's scented), I stopped using cologne several years ago because it precipitated asthma episodes. And, like another poster on this thread, I've had almost every color in the rainbow bleed, and bleed and bleed some more. Still, even after treating the fabric to set the dye, ANY quilt I wash will be washed with color catchers. Discretion is the better part of valor -- after putting all that work into a quilt, I won't risk ruining the quilt. Likewise, I won't take an unnecessary risk for an asthma attach -- people do die from asthma attacks. There are too many things "out there" in our atmosphere that precipitate asthma episodes or attacks. Something simple such as washing fabrics -- that's a small price to pay and not so very much work, either! I agree that precuts and small pieces for BOM Blocks would probably be damaged -- fraying and shrinkage -- and I won't risk an asthma attack -- so I don't buy them! I would point out that the product I use to "set" the dye has no scent and does not emit fumes -- that's why I use the product that I use. If you don't wash and ultimately have a bleeding quilt -- that's your choice, and you assume the risk of a damaged quilt. The risk would not just be to my quilt -- it's literally a risk to my life -- an unneccesary risk. Another reason I wash -- you don't know who may have handled the fabric you buy -- my cousin had a quilt shop in Oklahoma -- she caught people wiping their noses and wiping their armpits with "new" fabric -- fabric she could no longer sell. You never know what bacteria or disease folks who do such disgusting things might carry.

    There are also other measures -- I love music concerts, but I have to make certain when I go to a concert that it is a "smoke-free" atmosphere. Fortunately, in Florida, smoking is limited -- permitted in some bars, based on food preparation, etc. but not allowed on the college campus or public school campus, or in restaurants. If I went to some location where smoking was allowed -- I'd be assuming the risk -- and that's a pretty big risk.
    Last edited by Jeanette Frantz; 03-18-2017 at 09:46 PM. Reason: additional content

  24. #24
    Senior Member petpainter's Avatar
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    I'm just about to start another kingsize quilt hand pieced- all kaffee fassett fabrics. I had a lot of his fabrics on hand- some precuts, some scraps etc. I serged all the edges of my new fabric and all the pieces of the precuts except the jellyrolls. I did toss in couple other pieces of Asian fabric, too. I put a colour catcher in the washer and dryer and got colour on both(colour catchers). No red fabric in the pile either. I'm an old school washer from making garments, but I don't like taking a chance when I spend nearly a year making a quilt and having it ruined. it's a simple step. Then I do starch to death! What ever makes you happy is my motto- we all have out quirks. We all don;t like the krinkled look after a quilt it washed depending on the pattern.

  25. #25
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    What about mixing the washed & not washed fabrics in the same quilt? does the shrinkage of some fabrics not washed become a problem with the washed fabrics, or does it kind of blend in overall once the whole quilt is washed? I have been wondering this for awhile now.

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