Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fabric Friday: To Prewash or Not to Prewash

That is my question. Every time I pick up another quilt book, magazine or look at something online I hear a different opinion. Over the years I've developed a few rules of thumb.
What do those questions mean and why do I care? Let me explain.
Does the quilt have any red fabric?
Dark colors – especially red – tend to run when washed. How heartbreaking would it be to spend countless hours piecing and quilting the perfect quilt only to have one of the colors run all over your treasure the first time it’s washed? I like to know ahead of time if one or more of the fabrics is going to run. Then I have options. I can simply choose not to use that fabric unless it’s a red and black quilt or one that will never be washed (such as some wall hangings). I might use one of several methods to better set the dye in the fabric. Or I could try Shout Color Catchers in the wash. Some quilting friends swear by them but I haven’t tested them myself yet.
This fabric was a solid sunny yellow before
washing with red and gray fabrics
Are any of the fabrics from different manufacturers or lines?
Not all fabric is created the same. Different weights, weaves, processing and fiber quality means that some may shrink more than others. If I make a quilt with different fabrics and then those fabrics shrink at different weights it’s going to end up cattywompus for sure. I often buy all of the fabric for a quilt from one line (same manufacturer, same designer, same line of complimentary designs and colorways). I have also made quilts from a variety of fabrics I've pulled from my stash or that I thought looked good together at the quilt shop. In this case I always prewash.
If the quilt shrinks will it still be big enough?
I learned this lesson the hard way. I measured twice before designing a quilt for the full size bed in our guest room. Who still sleeps on a full size bed you may ask? Well this art deco suite was my Mom’s when she was a single gal back in the early 40s, and I love it. I lovingly designed, cut, pieced, quilted, and washed. Only to find that between the quilting and fabric shrinkage, the quilt hangs about two inches short of covering the mattress on both sides. Sigh. Prewashing in hot water would have solved most of the problem, but don’t underestimate how much shrinkage will occur with dense quilting either.
Does the grain of the fabric appear true?
Looks perfect right?
Pull a thread from the cut edge of the fabric to get a view of where the grain of the fabric runs. An even easier way to do this is to rip a small strip off the end of the fabric. Yes as in cut a small snip at the edge, grab with both hands and tear away. Now line up the edges of that pulled thread. When you hold the fabric on that fold (selvages down and fold up) does the fabric hang straight or is it skewed? Often when fabric is woven, dyed, processed and wound on the bolt it can become quite skewed. If it’s washed the threads relax back into true grain. However, if you cut skewed blocks to piece and then wash after the quilt is assembled. You guessed it. Cattywompus.
What a difference
Will the fabric be difficult to work with without sizing or starch?
I love cotton lawn or Kaffe Fassett’s soft shot cottons, but truth be told these fabrics can be a real challenge because they stretch just a bit. Talk about cattywompus! Even some lighter weight quilter’s cottons can be challenging. However all of the above issues may also apply. What to do? My solution is to prewash and then to iron them again with lots of starch. That will help to stabilize the fabric for cutting and keep it from stretching out of shape when you press seams.
This is the version with sizing washed out before cutting
That’s my two cents. Do you have more guidelines or suggestions? Love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. I wash pretty much everything, except jelly rolls and charms of course..I used to get color catcher sheets now I throw in an old dish rag. it's a pain of panels or striped fabrics because it often skews the lines or panel a smidge, but I still do it