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To prewash or not to prewash and why

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Mz M Posted: Fri, Jul 29 2011 8:02 AM

I'm starting to think of the next quilt and I have a question. I always prewash the fabric for anything that I sew, with the exception of totes, but I have read and spoken with some ladies who don't prewash when making quilts. Are there any justifications for prewashing, other than shrinkage and color running, I should consider. I'm thinking maybe I really don't have to wash it first. Thank you for all your help!

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Vivian replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 8:05 AM

I never have prewashed.  I can't say I have ever had a problem with not prewashing. I seems to be a personal choice. 

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Nana replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 9:18 AM

Mz M

This topic has been discussed so many times.  You will find that everyone is very prejudiced to their personal choice....LOL>    When I first started quilting I prewashed everything because that is what the book said to do.   After watching Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson and hearing so many professional quilters say that they did not prewash I decided if they could do it so could I.   I haven't prewashed anything in years and have never had a problem with any of my fabrics.  I just wash my finished quilt before I use it because it has generally been tusseled all over the place by the time I have finished it...LOL>:

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Barbara replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 9:36 AM

MZM, I don't pre-wash anything, When I do wash I just use cold water and the gentle cycle on my machine . I have not had any problems as of yet. I don't prewash because I like the feel of the fabric better and find it easier to work with. I agree with Nana, It's a personel choice.. Barbara

Liberty,Missouri

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gini replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 9:56 AM

i prewash everything to get rid of the nasty chemicals in the fabric, pesticides fungicides, etc.  i like working with the prewashed fabric better. they aren't as stiff.

gini in north idaho

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Joy replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 10:28 AM

When I first started quilting I prewashed too...but not anymore! I found that its easier to cut, piece and quilt fabric before its washed. After I finish the quilt, I was it. I really like the way my quilts look when they are washed after quilting.It gives it more of an antique look. The other thing I noticed is that I get more use of my yardage. No shrinking, no fraying....which saves lots of money:)

As everyone else said its a personal preference. Try not prewashing and see if you like it or not!

Joy

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Linda R. replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 10:37 PM

It's a personal choice, and there are pro's and con's on both sides.  I never did until I saw a quilt my sister made - and did not prewash.  After some use she washed it in cool water and mild soap, and some of the colors ran.  It actually ruined the look of the quilt.  So now, I do prewash some of my bolder fabrics, and ALL my batiks.   I also like the fresh smell after they are done. 

Have a great evening Quilting :) 

Linda R.

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Mz M replied on Fri, Jul 29 2011 10:53 PM

Thank you ladies for taking the time to share your thoughts and advise. Since I have always pre-washed I am going to step out of my comfort zone and do something different by NOT pre-washing the next quilt. If I wash it in cool water and use a 'color catcher' the first couple of times I think I should be just fine. Again, Thank you! 

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Sandy H. replied on Sat, Jul 30 2011 3:30 PM

Something else to consider when making your decision to pre-wash or not is what you want the quilt to look like when finished.  If you pre-wash there will be little or no shrinkage when the completed quilt is washed.  If you do not pre-wash, when you wash the completed quilt there will be some shrinkage which will give the quilt an "antique" look.

  

Southwest Florida

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abcd replied on Sat, Jul 30 2011 6:04 PM

Sandy's right about the look of the quilt.  I have heard this so many times.  It depends on what you are planning to do with it.  Is it going in for a show? Then perhaps you want it crisp looking, and shouldn't wash it.  The THREAD will also shrink if it is cotton.  So if you pre-wash your fabric, and then sew the quilt with COTTON thread, then after wash it, the STITCHES will shrink to crinkle it.  You could also not wash, sew it and quilt it, THEN wash it, and the whole thing will crinkle then, too - and maybe you would like that.  If you are using POLY thread, the thread  won't shrink - but the fabric will. You will have a choice to wash AFTER, and the thread won't shrink, but the fabric will.  Also,  if you use poly and don't wash it, the whole thing will look crisp. (six of one and half dozen of the other)

ALSO - I have taped so many "Simply Quilts" episodes with Alex Anderson, and even met her once, where the question came up.  She admitted that she has so many allergies (as do I, especially with the dye for batiks) that her asthma kicks in, and her hands swell up when she handles the fabric.  So she ALWAYS PRE-WASHES her fabric.

So allergies can come into play, too... I always pre-wash, just to (literally) be safe.  When (IF) the time comes that my quilt should look absolutely crisp, THAT will be the time I will NOT pre-wash. (dust from factories and trucks in transportation, dust mites, dye odors, blech!) 

:D

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Love this thread. It reminds me of a column Ann Landers had many years ago. Someone asked if toilet paper should hang down the back or over the front. Oh, my you'd think it was a question of National Security! She got so many responses from people who felt strongly how toilet paper should be hung.

So, pre-wash, not pre-wash? No good answer. Like many have already said, it's a matter of preferences (and perhaps worry over a fabric bleeding). I love crinkled quilts so I don't pre wash. Besides, wouldn't the batting shrink no matter what? That's not prewashed.


In the beautiful Pacific Northwest!

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Pamela replied on Sat, Jul 30 2011 8:00 PM

I don't believe that the answer is one or the other. It can vary from one quilt project to another based on many factors including quality of fabric, concerns over allergies, bleeding, and desired finished look. Quilting is so diverse. We all make the decisions about our quilts based on our own prefernces.

Interesting that someone pointed out prewashing of batting. That doesn't usually come up in the conversations about prewashing. Ever read the label of Hobbs 80/20 batting? Harriet Hargrave provides information on how to properly wash & dry batting before use if you wish to avoid puckering. She also notes how different combinations of new or pre-washed fabric with new or pre-soaked batting produces different effects.

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The only thing I pre-wash are flannels and I wash those twice before using.  I'll also starch the flannel before cutting, just so they have a little firmness, because flannels are so soft after washing.  Other than that, I don't pre-wash anything anymore.  Of all the quilts I've made I've only had one that bled - and wonder of wonders - it was a green print  instead of a red.

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MNnancy replied on Sat, Jul 30 2011 8:49 PM

Pamela:
Interesting that someone pointed out prewashing of batting. That doesn't usually come up in the conversations about prewashing. Ever read the label of Hobbs 80/20 batting? Harriet Hargrave provides information on how to properly wash & dry batting before use if you wish to avoid puckering.

These days, I always bring up batting shrinkage in the prewash discussions.  Yes, the Hobbs label warns of 3-5% shrinkage, and I have a quilt hanging on the wall that provides visual proof.

The Harriet Hargrave information... available via a Google search or is it on QNNtv?


On the banks of the Mississippi River in north central Minnesota (Brainerd lakes area)

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I follow the same school of thought as gini. Get rid of all the nasties that are in the fabric before using. The only time I don't prewash is if I am making a sample for the LQS. The shop owner never prewashes.

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