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Thread: Washing before using your fabric

  1. #1
    Super Member Sierra's Avatar
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    Washing before using your fabric

    Almost every day there is an article that mentions washing, or not washing fabric before using it. That's OK, but there is a way to do it easily and w/o having to iron when you are done. AND you might ease some other laundry problems you have.

    When you wash BEFORE cutting and quilting you ensure that you won't have shrinkage and you catch any fabric which has a real "loose" dye problem. This scares me the most because my very first quilt had me in tears when I took it out of the washer (I wash a second time before I give a quilt because some of my work is on the floor, often unintentionally).

    So, why not wash your fabric? The most often reason given is that you have to use pinking shears or baste the edges before you wash so the edges won't unravel. That is a problem I've never faced because I don't use really loose fabrics for quilting; they will pucker later, also, if the quilt is used as a bedcover. I put all the fabric I use in the washer on "delicate" setting and hot water and have never had any unraveling except when the cut at the shop was way off the straight of the fabric weave. That's better to know than not to know about, isn't it? Also, I can glance at the edge of a piece of fabric I intend to use and see the little 1/16" frizz and know it's been washed (and thereby, tested).

    Another reason given is that some quilters like the antique look of fabric that has shrunk a bit when washed the first time after it is made. If you are using more than one fabric, or doing triangles, or ????, then you fabric may shrink in different ways and torque the fabric in mysterious ways. Another... some of us are allergic to the various acids, etc., used in manufacturing fabric and do better w/o having to deal with it.

    I dry the fabric in the dryer (if you don't think dryers shrink you should mark a tee shirt and never put it in the dryer and not mark another of the same and dry it, and then compare over time!). BUT, take your fabric out BEFORE it is totally dry!!!!! Drape it over the back of your couch if you don't have a drying rack. Clothes that are over-dried are wrinkly, and "over-cooked" fabric is a nightmare. Remember the "press, don't iron rule? To move you iron up and off, down and on something which has been torqued out of its mind is a time-consuming nightmare! Just take it out when it is warm, but still has obvious moisture in it (almost dry) and it will dry very quickly, and be very relaxed fabric... NO IRONING needed. This is true with all fabrics, even when they are clothes. (One of my daughters couldn't believe the mess her clothes were in after being washed and dried and the repair man told her it was a washer/dryer set up, and she was cooking her clothes. She was young and beautiful at the time, so it was all OK.

    If this helps some of you, I'll be happy. It seems sort of selfish not to share such a simply thing that could help others. I hope it does help someone.

  2. #2
    Super Member Teddybear Lady's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing this information with us.

  3. #3
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    Washing can sure minimize or prevent some unpleasant surprises!

  4. #4
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    thanks for your info/experiences
    Nancy in western NY
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  5. #5
    Super Member Deborahlees's Avatar
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    I only pre wash reds.....
    Yes that is a real picture of my hometown Temecula, California. We feature premiere Wineries, World Class Golf Courses, Pechanga Indian Casino and Hot Air Balloons

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sierra View Post
    When you wash BEFORE cutting and quilting you ensure that you won't have shrinkage
    This is exactly why I don't wash. I want the shrinkage. It gives character to the quilt. Doesn't matter to me if the fabrics shrink at different rates.

    A color catcher takes care of bleeding issues, I throw more than one in if I have reds in the quilt.

  7. #7
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    If you want to spend your time washing and ironing fabric go right ahead. I'd rather sew.

    Let me tell you some of the reasons I don't wash. It's not dirty. It comes shrink wrapped from the manufacturer. Fabric comes with a finish that helps avoid sun fading. Shrinkage is your friend and the batting has a lot more to do with shrinkage than the fabric. Even if it shrinks the bed won't mind. Since it's not clothing that has to hang properly the grain doesn't matter either. Even if it bleeds and something else picks it up it's still a quilt and will still keep somebody warm. I'm not allergic to fabric finishes.

    The biggest reason is I don't want to spend my time washing and ironing fabric.

  8. #8
    Junior Member msariano's Avatar
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    I only wash fabric that I think will run after the quilt is completed. Like the reds and some saturated blues, etc. Generally I don't like to prewash because I lose too much fabric. I tried cutting the corners and also cutting the edges with pinking shears but I still lose a lot of fabric--I hate losing 1" of fabric at today's prices!. I have never prewashed fabric that didn't unravel. However, I am scared that the bleeding reds will spoil the finished quilt.

  9. #9
    Super Member jcrow's Avatar
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    I just can't wash my fabric. I guess I could if it was really, really red, but not otherwise. I like how it feels right off the bolt. I like how it shrinks. I wash it when it's bound. That's good enough for me. If I had to wash my fabric, I'd never get any sewing done.
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  10. #10
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    Very good information. Also, I like to make sure all the falmaldehyde (sp) is washed out.

    Jeanne, you are very fortunate you haven't had any trouble with fabric bleeding.
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  11. #11
    Super Member Sierra's Avatar
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    Oh, I had to laugh at how inept my letter was to some.

    "I have never prewashed fabric that didn't unravel." And I have never had an unraveling problem! Are you using a "hand wash" or "delicate" setting on your washing machine?

    Reds were mentioned as a "running" problem; I just washed a blue African print shirt 3 times and finally decided it will just have to go into a "blue only" laundry load. I've had greens and blues and browns as well as red fabrics, regular and batiks, bleed like crazy. We all make up our minds of what level of risk we are willing to take.

    "If I had to wash my fabric, I'd never get any sewing done." It has saved me hours of "fixing" later!

    "If you want to spend your time washing and ironing fabric...." The point was NO IRONING!

    "Shrinkage is your friend and the batting has a lot more to do with shrinkage than the fabric." Then washing the fabric before hand doesn't hurt those who like the shrinked look.

    I think my problem is my letters are too long for busy people to read. Also, I experiment with all sorts of fabrics. Perhaps those of you who make your quilts all with one company or designer don't have to be so careful. But, anyway, if my ideas on this helped anyone, I guess it was worth it. Have a good day, all....
    Last edited by Sierra; 08-29-2012 at 08:10 AM.

  12. #12
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    I'm beginning to think prewashing discussions should be treated the same way political and religious discussions are... I'll do it my way, you do it your way, and we'll agree not to try and convert each other. Period.
    The Earth without art is just "Eh".

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tashana's Avatar
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    I learned just recently that pre washing may not be such a bad idea. I made pillowcases with flange(I think that is what it is called) and I made more than a few. I popped them in the washer/drier and when it was time to iron them I noticed that the pillowcase itself was quite a bit smaller than the flange, so now it looks like it has a ruffle. Why did this happen you ask? Well it seems that the flange fabric was a blend. Not 100% cotton and it does not shrink. If i just prewashed it this wold not have happened. Thank you for your post. It was very clear and more than helpful.

  14. #14
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    Pre washing is such a chore, but I do it anyway unless I'm doing a wall hanging that won't ever go into the wash anyway.

    Pre washing has saved me money before...I don't allow myself to put quilting fabric into my stash until it's been washed and my self-imposed rule is that I need to wash it the day I buy it, and some days that just sounds like so much work that I've passed up fabric I would have otherwise bought on a whim. It's kind of a test, I guess...if I'm too lazy to wash it, I really don't NEED it!

    I like the tip on hanging/draping the fabric when it's not quite dry. I use a lot of Kona solids and boy, when that stuff gets a hard wrinkle set in, it does NOT want to come back out! I'll have to try this tip and see if I can save myself some headache.

  15. #15
    Super Member Rumbols's Avatar
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    I always wash because of allergies and the fabric being dirty if left on shelf too long uncovered at LQS. Once got fabric in the mail and as soon as I opened the box, my allergies started. My husband had to take the fabric and wash it immediately before I could touch it. Once I wash, if I am not going to use the fabric, I just fold it up and put it in tub. If I am going to use the fabric, I usually make the staf-flo starch (1/2 starch and 1/2 water) and spray the fabric until very damp. Then I roll it up, put in a plastic bag and into the frig until I am ready to iron. My fabric is stiffer than store bought and much easier to use on biases.

    Thanks for the info on the drier, I am going to try that. You have lots of good info.

    And just an fyi, the quilt will have the wrinkled antique look when washed because the batting shrinks wrinkling the fabric. I always wash my quilts twice to make sure the are livable for whoever I make them for and to remove all the marks of quilting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrider View Post
    I'm beginning to think prewashing discussions should be treated the same way political and religious discussions are... I'll do it my way, you do it your way, and we'll agree not to try and convert each other. Period.
    Ditto.....this topic can go from nice to not so in a second.......Agree to disagree.......
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  17. #17
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    I think you should decide on washing or not washing based on who the quilt is going to and how it will be handled.

    If I plan on using fusible interfacing on it, then I wash without fabric softener and dry without a dryer sheet so the fusible will fuse. I had to learn this the hard way!

    About the wrinkles, a friend of mine who used to work in the fabric industry, told me to spray the fabric with a mixture of water and white vinegar before ironing. The smell dissipates after a while. It really does work. Especially on those fold lines when it's been on the bolt.

    Oh yeah, I always wash flannel before using it, sometimes more than once - that stuff really shrinks but feels so soft afterwards.

    Don't feel like you have to justify your method - when all is said and done - it's your quilt - you're the boss. And if you make a mistake, carefully make another like it and say it was intentional - I believe I got that bit of wisdom from Liz Porter!

  18. #18
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    As a quilter, I like pre-washed fabrics better to quilt on. The needle passes through the fabric more smoothly. I like sewing with pre-washed fabrics also. I don't like the stiffness some new fabrics have. I've also found, if I pre-wash my fabric right away, I can get a better idea of how the fabric will be in a finished product. And I LOVE taking my new fabrics out of the dryer after they've been washed. I think they look better and feel better and then I know they're all ready to go.

    I guess it's whatever you're used to and personal preference. Oh, and I never wash my quilts before giving them...maybe because they fabrics already been washed? I've started giving my clients a little sample sandwich that's been washed and dried with instructions so they know what their quilt will look like when it's been washed.

    I've been doing a lot of Quilts of Valor quilting and am surprised at how few people pre-wash their fabrics...all those red, white and blues...I'd hate for them to fade or run in the wash cycle, but once it's pieced, there's not much that can be done.

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    I,too, wash all the fabrics that come into my home. I have serious allergies, so everything,fabric and any clothes that I purchase, go directly go into the washer and dryer. I was talking about pre-washing with one of the owners of my nearest LQS,and she told me that very few people pre-wash anymore. I held up a bolt of fabric to her and told her that the fabric has a odor and I have to get rid of the smell. She agreed that for me,it's my only option, but that most people don't have my allergy problems. So, to each his/her own. For me, it's not even a question,pre-wash for me.

  20. #20
    Senior Member batikmystique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrider View Post
    I'm beginning to think prewashing discussions should be treated the same way political and religious discussions are... I'll do it my way, you do it your way, and we'll agree not to try and convert each other. Period.
    I had to laugh at your reply...although I'm sure you were serious. No disrespect, it was just funny to read after reading the whole thread. Seems like there are a lot of topics that just can't be debated anymore. I can go either way on whether to pre-wash or not to pre-wash, depending upon the project's purpose and overall desired end look...except when it comes to batiks. For those who have used these you KNOW what I'm talking about. These are a MUST for pre-washing unless you are just going for that "I purposely wanted my colors to bleed all over each other kinda look"...
    Creative clutter is better than idle neatness.

  21. #21
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    Newbie here! Hi

    Haven't introduced myself yet, but instead have been reading for a gazillion hours since finding the forum!
    This is a burning question I have. IF I were to wash my fabrics before jumping into my first piecing project, would I combine ALL the darks like blacks, blues, greens, purples, ect in one load and ALL the bright colors in another or would I have to wash one color at a time?? Seems like washing a bright yellow with a red would look like a hot mess! I keep getting conflicting answers from books, google, ect. Nothing I've read has ever really said much more than "prewash darks and brights" without clarification. Then whats more, I watched a Fons & Porter episode about fabric selection and it was mentioned that the way a fabric is made (dyed, printed, quality, etc.) is a factor in how much if at all they bleed. Ugh! So confusing.

    Thanks

  22. #22
    Super Member irishrose's Avatar
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    Sew-Silly, you can wash different colors of similar value together. The reds, blacks and dark blues, etc, can go together. Just use 2 Color Catchers and do not leave the wet fabrics lay in the washer touching each other. It's into the dryer as soon as the washer stops. Wash your lights in a separate similar manner.

  23. #23
    Junior Member Bataplai's Avatar
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    I pre-wash my fabrics. When I first started quilting I didn't. Taking it a step further, I also starch the fabrics before starting a project. I find they behave better and are easier to work with. I don't like the smell of unwashed fabric and now I can tell a difference.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sew_Silly View Post
    Newbie here! Hi

    Haven't introduced myself yet, but instead have been reading for a gazillion hours since finding the forum!
    This is a burning question I have. IF I were to wash my fabrics before jumping into my first piecing project, would I combine ALL the darks like blacks, blues, greens, purples, ect in one load and ALL the bright colors in another or would I have to wash one color at a time?? Seems like washing a bright yellow with a red would look like a hot mess! I keep getting conflicting answers from books, google, ect. Nothing I've read has ever really said much more than "prewash darks and brights" without clarification. Then whats more, I watched a Fons & Porter episode about fabric selection and it was mentioned that the way a fabric is made (dyed, printed, quality, etc.) is a factor in how much if at all they bleed. Ugh! So confusing.

    Thanks
    With new fabrics, I act 'as if' each and every one will be a bleeder.

    Therefore, I will only (usually - I have occasionally goofed up) put similar fabric together to soak in hot water (or the washing machine)

    Dark reds with dark red, dark greens with dark greens, etc.

    I might put very dark greens, dark blues, and black together - because if there is some loose dye, it may not appreciably affect/afflict the other pieces of fabric.

    I go by the color of the water - if it is some color other than clear, I try to isolate the color contributor and rinse that one piece until the water is clear.

    I do this because I have had some bleeds - and I didn't find it entertaining at all to try to deal with them.

  25. #25
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lap quilter View Post
    I had to laugh at your reply...although I'm sure you were serious. No disrespect, it was just funny to read after reading the whole thread.
    On the contrary, not intended to be serious at all. I have a rather dry wit. It was intended to be light...but, then, isn't there always that little bit of realism beneath the humor?
    The Earth without art is just "Eh".

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