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To Wash or Not To Wash....

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Kim Posted: Sat, Mar 6 2010 10:19 AM

Maybe this is all just a matter of personal preference, but I'm very curious as to what the rule of thumb is on whether or not  to prewash fabric.  Generally I have always done so.  However, recently I have been involved in block of month clubs with fabric kits which I did not prewash (I don't have the quilts done - they have never been washed so I don't know if there will be any fabric bleeding). 

I bought fabric today for the mystery quilt on the QCA website, so I'm trying to decide if I should wash the fabric or not.  Any advice??

Thanks!

~ Kim

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Thea replied on Sat, Mar 6 2010 10:54 AM

And the discussion continues!  I do not prewash fabrics and over the years that I have been sewing quilts up have only had a problem with 1 fabric and it was a blue one.  Fabrics are made so differently today then tehy were made years ago so this is no longer that much of a problem... fabrics don't bleed as much nor do the shrink as much.

It is a personal preference though.

 

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Gale replied on Sat, Mar 6 2010 12:48 PM

I have always prewashed. I used to sew clothes for my kids when they were little and it was just easier to wash first and get the shrinking out of the way. Then about a year ago I bought a jelly roll. Then I realized that I didn't want to mix washed and unwashed fabrics together so I had to buy all new unwashed fabric for the jelly roll quilt. So I vowed to never again buy a jelly roll. But I did and I had forgotten how easy it was to use the last time-so I may quit prewashing so I can buy more precuts.

I think I might quit buying cheap fabric too-I just ironed a bundle of fat quarters I bought at Joanns and about half of them shrunk into parallelogram shapes that won't yield nearly the amount they should have. Makes me wonder how wonky they would have shrunk up in a quilt but maybe the quilting would prevent that.

So my plan now is to use up as much of my stash as possible making Downy quilts and gift quilts and I can keep the gift quilts stashed up for when I need a gift for someone. Then I won't feel bad about buying precuts and all the new unwashed fabric I'll need to use with them. :D

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Eileen replied on Sat, Mar 6 2010 1:18 PM

Thea, you're right!  And I can't find the original discussion on this through the search function.  Ah, well.  Maybe some other people will add their opinions here!

I've had quilters tell me they always wash everything, they never wash anything, or it depends on the project.  I consider myself in the "depends" category, as there are some projects where you want the stiffness in there (Stack n whack is one - you're working with the bias & don't want stretchy fabric) and other times, like with fabric that might shrink or dyes that might bleed, when you want to prewash.  The one thing my "real life" quilt friends agree on is that with any given project, you either wash all of it or don't wash any of it. So, that's what I will try to live by from now on.  I did have to wash my entire stash last year as a squirrel was in the house and we - unfortunately - trapped it in my sewing room til we could get it out (nasty smell).

You will get varying opinions on here and I think in the end you'll make a decision that works for you!

Addendum: Someone - on here or in a magazine - suggested using a salad spinner for washing precut pieces, strips, etc - I haven't tried it but it sure would beat having to wash those tiny pieces in a washing machine!

 

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I have always pre-washed if it is a quilt that will be used and laundered ... don't pre-wash if it is a wallhanging and probably won't be laundered.  But, I recently read a section in Quilters Academy Vol. 1 by Harriet and Carrie Hargrave that has changed my mind on this.  I'll try to summarize the highlights.

  • You can't tell if a fabric will bleed just by washing it, in fact incorrect washing can cause stress, fading, or bleeding.  Shrinkage of the finished quilt is caused by the batting and the spacing of the quilting stitches, not the fabric.
  • Prewashed fabric is softer and has less body so it can be a bit harder to cut accurately.  When you are sewing, the pressure of the presser foot can distort the pieces slightly and pressed seams tend not to lie as flat and crisp as unwashed fabrics.
  • Store your new fabrics unwashed until you decide what look you want for the finished quilt.  If you want a quilt that looks vintage, like '30s repro, don't wash it until it is complete.  The vintage look comes from the shrinkage of the fabric and batting together.  The shrinkage is what makes the older quilts soft and cuddly.  If you want to make a contemporary wall quilt with no texture, then prewash and use spray starch.

They go into a lot of detail about the correct way to spray starch and when to starch.

Hmmm ... some things to think about.  This is a very good book and I would recommend it highly.

 

  

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Thea replied on Sat, Mar 6 2010 7:13 PM

Sandy, that is very interesting...nothing about the chemicals that are in unwashed fabrics. We have had that discussion before and was the only thing that made me think about prewashing... I used to get home and want to jump right in but now that I have such a stash have thought about washing them all to get rid of the possible chemical build - up.

 

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No Thea, they said nothing about chemicals in fabrics.  The did say that if you are allergic to the finish on a fabric or if you develop a skin rash from working with nonwashed fabrics, then prewash.

  

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Nana replied on Sat, Mar 6 2010 8:29 PM

I started out prewashing because that is what I was told I was supposed to do.  Now I never prewash and have not had a problem.  Decided it was a lot of work and really did not make enough difference in my finished product to matter.

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I'm on the don't wash side.

 


Gillette, WY

 

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Kim replied on Sun, Mar 7 2010 6:52 AM

Thanks so much for the information.  I'm leaning towards the 'don't wash' side of this debate - at least give it a try.  Maybe I'm just getting lazy, but why go that extra step if it truly is not necessary. 

 

~ Kim

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Kim replied on Sun, Mar 7 2010 6:59 AM

I just put a hold on my library's website for the Quilters Academy book you mentioned!  Looking forward to reading it.  Thx Sandy!  :-)

~ Kim

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Happy replied on Sun, Mar 7 2010 7:25 AM

I will always wash in because I would be very up set if I put all the time in to making a quilt then to have it shrink after it has been sew together so to safe the heart brake I wash it

Happy

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Maria replied on Sun, Mar 7 2010 8:04 AM

I was taught to wash and press all of my fabrics so that is what I have done, however with wallhangings I rarely wash if some of the fabric for it is new. I always wash if the recipient has allergies or is a baby and especially if I am using flannels due to the shrinkage. As always it is personal preference but this is what I learned.

Maria

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I wash anything over a yard of fabric and especially darks and reds. I don't use fabric softener and a lot of the stiffness remains. When I start a project, I press and heavily starch the fabric. Easy to cut and sew when starched. I also wanted to add not to prestarch and store fabrics. I read an article that the starch attracts bugs.

Something else to consider is that a lot of unwashed fabrics contain formaldehyde. I don't know if you've ever gone into a clothing store and your eyes start burning and nose runs. I prewash for the reason that I am one of those unlucky people with allergies.   

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Jill replied on Sun, Mar 7 2010 9:19 AM

I only wash fabric I'll be using for a baby quilt, and if the fabric is a dark color. I was taught to always prewash, but I always get in such a hurry and excited about using the fabric that I don't prewash much.

I've noticed a few comments about using starch. I use sizing and am wondering if anyone else uses it or is that something I shouldn't be using?

Jill

 

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