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Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Quilt Class: Preparing Quilt Fabric

To Wash or Not To Wash

If I were to tell you I ALWAYS prewash
my quilting fabrics, I would be lying.
Often I'm at a class or at Me Time and
I purchase fabric and use it right away.
Even if I bring fabric home, sometimes
I can't wait to dive right into a project.

But I'm not saying I'm right.

In a perfect world, I would prewash
all quilting fabrics that came into
my studio.  Yet none of us are perfect...

So here are a few things to consider
and you can decide for yourself.

Fabrics can release (or bleed) their
dyes, it happens with our clothing
and it can happen with our fabrics.

Fabrics shrink.  If you make a quilt
and then wash it, it may pucker due
to shrinkage.  Some people do this on
purpose because they like the antique
look it gives, which is fine if that is what
you are going for.  But if you are not, you
won't be happy.

Different fabrics shrink differently.  So if
you have 5 fabrics in a quilt and they all
shrink differently, you could end up with
a mess.

Fabrics have a variety of chemicals on them,
from starches to sizing to bug repellants.  I
don't want to snuggle with a chemical laden
quilt.  Also if you are allergic to such things,
it would be better to get rid of them.

When I do wash fabric I make a
diagonal cut on all 4 corners.  This
helps prevent thread loss and knotting
in the washer and dryer.  This also
indicates the fabric has been washed.

When I wash, I always put fabric in
the dryer so the heat will shrink the
fabric.  When I take the fabric out of
the dryer I hang it on a line in my
laundry room until I can get around
to ironing it.

Nowadays ironing fabric is a breeze.
A few years ago we were driving down
a street when I called out, "Stop!"
There on the side of the road was a treadle
machine base, I had the guys put in the
trunk and I made myself this great
ironing table, so much easier than an
ironing board.

This is a quilt I designed recently.
There were many batiks in this
piece and I wanted to do a test
patch before I committed to buying
all that fabric.  I made up a block
(without prewashing) and as I was
pressing the finished block I added
some steam and the blue ran into
the white.  What a lesson I learned.
I washed every piece of fabric for
this quilt before making it.

The fabrics, batting and quilting
cost over $500 for this quilt but
more importantly I worked on it
everyday for a month and would
have been devastated if it were


  1. Better to be safe than sorry. I also use Shout Color Catcher sheets with good success so far. I'm pretty much a wash it when it comes into the door kinda gal. I'll try the diagonal cuts on the corners next time because jumbled thread masses are a pain!

    Donna K. from N. TX @ http://www.quiltingbeargal.blogspot.com

  2. Great info! I too wash (most) of my fabric when it comes home with me. I need to clip the corners too - those wash threads and tangles are a mess! I absolutely love your "road side treasure"! I have one of those out in our shed. I really need to clean it up - it too was a cast off that I "inherited". Thanks for sharing. HUGS... and stitches