Friday, February 14, 2014

To Wash or Not to Wash...

To Wash or Not To Wash...

This is my maiden voyage into the blogging hemisphere so be gentle with me here.  My quilting dreams have morphed from the brick and mortar store, to an internet store, to a presence on social media on the internet. 
So I thought Id talk about how I got to "here" and recent conversations on some quilting boards and in a class I was teaching earlier this month prompted me into my first Blogging subject - laundry.  Now there is dirty laundry, airing the laundry, do the laundry, clean laundry that my children return to the floor only to be washed again - you know the type.   No, this conversation began with, "Do I wash my fabric before I start quilting?"

The answer was a definite "Maybe" or "Sometimes."

If you are working with fabric that has been hand dyed, or may have dyes that are going to bleed on to other fabrics, the answer is "Yes, you should pre-wash."  Synthrapol is used in the dyeing process and can be useful for rinsing out excess dyes remaining in hand dyed fabrics.  Retayne is another product
that helps set colors in fabrics so that there is no further "sharing."  The idea is to remove any excess dyes that remain in fabrics - particularly reds, purples, browns, and blues.  If it's midnight, your LQS is closed, and you need to start tomorrow, you can always fall back on HOT water and white vinegar to set the colors.  And no, you can't put them in the same load.  You must wash colors separately.
So now you've washed your fabrics...

And that crisp finish is gone.  How do you get that back into the fabrics?  There are a few solutions.  First, there  is good ol' fashioned starch.  Remember that from laundry days past?  Well, you have to be my age or older.  For the younger crowd, you'll fine this product right in the laundry isle of your local grocery store.

 To give your clothes a crisp edge, simply mix equal parts of water and Sta-Flo® starch into a standard household spray bottle. For a light starch feel, add two parts of water to one part starch.

So, now, one word of caution, well, several.... If you are going to finish this quilt and not get distracted as we quilters do and move it to the UFO pile.  Don't use starch.  Silverfish, and yes, we all have them, will find your fabric!  Bad news!!  And if you do finish the quilt, it will need to be washed to remove the starch.

In recent online board conversations, several "recipes" for making your own "starch products" were shared.  I'll let you do your own internet searches.  I can't recommend or say I have tried any of them.  One included vodka as an ingredient.  Now if I were going to use vodka in my sewing room I certainly wouldn't be spraying it on my fabrics!

A better idea is to use something like Mary Ellen's Best Press Starch Alternative.  It does not leave little white flakes like starch and it comes in many delicious scents or unscented.  And best of concerns over bugs in your fabrics or quilts.

One additional thought on washed fabrics - If you are one of those quilters who wash every fabric as soon as you add it to your stash - how do you know for sure you washed it?  I run my fabrics' cut edge through the serger to prevent that hideous ball of unraveling that cottons are prone to form.  Don't have a serger?  Pinked edges or a zig zag on the sewing machine works just as well.  When I see that edge I know that a fabric has been washed.

But since I don't like to do laundry, and can't wait to cut into that pile of fabric I just brought home from the LQS, I seldom wash my fabrics.  

Your thoughts?

But all this talk of laundry has led me to the subject of my next blog - how much work the laundry used to be.  What a production it was!!  So stay tuned.  Until next week!


  1. Since I use thrift or used clothing as fabrics almost exclusively in my quilting and stitchery I always wash all my fabrics before they're even tossed into my fabric box. That doesn't mean I haven't had a bleed. A real old bright turquoise house dress from my grandma did bleed after being cut up and made into a quilt, but I just washed the whole thing a few more times. Now all is well. Maybe it was upset about being made into something else...ha. I also use washable markers when making my pieces , so that needs washed out after I make the quilt, too. Anyway I fall into the always wash category.

    1. I'll bet you get some very interesting colors and fabrics! I would tend to agree. Not knowing where fabrics / clothing has been or been stored, I would want to wash

  2. I always wash! Always! Otherwise you will have not idea if your fabric will shrink - and it will or if the color will bleed - and it will!

    If you don't wash, then the quilt has to be dry-cleaned. You will remember to dry clean it, but will someone 3 generations from now?

    If you don't prewash, you at asking for problems. At some point your quilt will be washed. And if the fabric is not pre washed, your quilt will be ruined.