• How To Wash and Care for Your Quilts

    Today, I would like to talk about washing and caring for your quilts. I receive many questions about what to do to prolong a quilt's good appearance and what instructions to pass along with the quilt so that non-quilters don't ruin it later on.

    There are many variables involved in washing or caring for a quilt. If your fabric was pre-washed, made with washable batting, and well constructed, there is no reason your quilt can't be machine washed on a gentle cycle.

    If your fabric was not pre-washed you might want to test your dark colors for fading. Rub the fabric with a damp white cloth or a cotton swab. If some of the dye rubs off you might want to use one of the "dye catcher" products available in the laundry section of the supermarket. They are disposable cloths about the size of a dryer sheet. You put them in the wash water and they absorb the excess dye that is in the water. These are helpful to use in the water with dark colors that might bleed.

    If your batting is washable and you quilted it as closely as the package specified you can safely wash your quilt. Some battings will shrink when washed so you might want to pre-shrink the batting if that is your preference.

    I wash the quilts I use regularly with mild soap or detergent on the gentle cycle of my washing machine. If your quilt is very large you might want to take it to the coin laundry and use a large front loader washing machine. The front loading machines do not agitate -- they tumble your quilt so this might be little better for your fabrics and stitching.

    A quilt should be line dried -- preferably hung over two or more lines to support the weight of the quilt so the stitches don't break. You could also dry it flat on a clean bed sheet. Do not place your quilt in direct sunlight because of fading. If you need to you may cover the quilt with another clean bed sheet. Drying quilts in the dryer is not recommended because it is the heat of the dryer that actually causes the dyes in cotton fabric to fade.

    To put this information on a label for the back of the quilts you give as gifts it might read as follows:

    Machine wash with cold or lukewarm water on gentle cycle. Line dry over two lines or dry flat out of direct sunlight.

    If you have an antique quilt, you must know that they are much more fragile than the quilts you have made recently from new materials. Soak your antique quilts in a bathtub of warm water and mild soap. Don't agitate. Drain soapy water and fill with rinse water and drain. Rinse and drain several times until all soap is removed. Squeeze, don't wring. Lay quilt flat to day between two clean bed sheets.

    Subscriber comments:
    When washing old quilts in the bathtub, I always lay them in a plastic laundry basket. Lifting the basket saves stress on the fabric and stitching when lifting and draining. The soaked quilt is always heavier than you ever imagined.
    And now a couple of fresh questions and answers.

    Hello. Can Robison Anton embroidery threads be used for general quilting or are they strictly for embroidery? Thanks
    To tell you the truth, I've never used the Robison-Anton brand, but I've heard that it is a very good quality thread.

    Aside from that, there are many threads available for machine quilting. If you prefer to use 100% cotton, that is your choice. Yet there are many polyester and rayon threads available. Many longarm quilters are using these threads with great success. The quilter who does my quilts usually uses rayon thread. If I want cotton thread I have to request it special.

    I have used 40 weight polyester embroidery thread (Isacord) for machine quilting at home. I like the fact it comes on 1000 meter cones so it lasts a long time. And considering the 'yardage' per cone it is a very economical thread to quilt with. I have found that when using the 40 weight thread it actually seems to 'sink' into the fabric and batting layers better than the 100% cotton. It is finer than the cotton which is a 50 weight.

    If you prefer the 100% cotton, then you would not want to use these other threads. Some say that the synthetic threads can 'cut' the fabric. Since the machine quilted layers are quilted with the lockstitch and much denser quilting than hand quilting, there is less chance of the thread 'cutting' into the fabric.

    I also would like to post some input from one subscriber, Kim, regarding this topic:

    We use it frequently in our long-arm business when doing dense quilting. I did however also use it to put some beads on a finished work and had multiple problems with it. It wasn't strong enough and it kept breaking, even when just tying the knot off. I think in a wallhanging this thread works fine, but maybe not with larger scale meandering over a large surface bed-sized quilt.

    Also, from another subscriber, Linda:

    I have a friend who bought a spool of the Robison-Anton 100% cotton thread and she LOVES it! She's always had trouble with lint collecting in the bobbin area of her Husqvarna and having to take it in for service just to clean out the fuzz. This thread is not that expensive and very nice.

    And from another subscriber, Karen:

    Regarding thread, polyester vs cotton only -- if the thread needs to be invisible against the 100% cotton fabric then cotton is the way to to as over time, the cotton fibers in both fabric and thread will lighten/fade/mellow. If you use polyester thread, it will not and over time, will become more and more visible. This is especially important if you don't use hidden stitches to do applique work with. Of course, if you are using white thread against white fabric, that won't matter, but other colors will .. even black cotton fades out over time. I don't know about wool fibers though.

    • • •

    Hello, I was wondering what the difference was between a four patch and a 9 patch?
    Thank you
    Quilters label different type of blocks as four-patch, nine-patch, five-patch, seven-patch and so on. Basically these blocks are formed on a 'grid' of squares. Thus a four-patch is two squares across and two squares down - four-patch. Some of these squares in the grid could be divided into half square triangles - but two triangles still making a square - and still a four-patch - even though there are more than four pieces in the block.

    A nine-patch is formed on a 'grid' of nine squares. Three squares across and three squares down. Again some of these squares could be divided into half square triangles - but two triangles still making a square - and still a nine-patch - even though there are more than 9 pieces in the block.

    A five-patch is formed on a 'grid' of 25 squares. Five squares across and five squares down. This might be a little confusing but it is also called a 25-patch.

    A seven-patch is formed on a 'grid' of 49 squares. Seven squares across and seven squares down. This is occasionally called a 49-patch.

    Many basic quilting books discuss the 'grid' system of naming quilt blocks and some internet sites also list their blocks according to this system.
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