Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Quilting 101: Washing and Ironing Fabric

Thank you so much for coming back for my latest Quilting post! It's been a long time since the last one, so in case you need a refresher, you can go back and read all about what to do "Before You Get Started" and also learn "The Tools of the Trade".

Oh, and this post is a bit longer than I'd intended. It's hard to cram 2 topics into one! I'm sure you'll forgive me.

If you're ready to go, then let's move on to part 3!

Believe it or not, there is a great debate in the Quilting Universe.

Sure, everyone have their preferences on thread, fabric, needles, sewing machines or even the proper way to bind a quilt. For the most part no one really cares if another quilter chooses a brand or method that we don't prefer. But there is one thing that actually causes us to cock our heads, stare blankly at fellow quilter and think to ourselves: GASP! "She's doing it all wrong!!"

Wanna know what it is?

It's epic. Life altering, even.

Wait for iiiiiiitttt...

To pre-wash or not to pre-wash.

Yes, really.

To those of you who are just starting out, this may sound silly, but to the avid quilter, this is apparently a life and death issue! I find it a bit humorous how people on both sides are so adamant! Me included!

I'll share with you both sides of the debate and you can choose for yourself.

But, really you should choose my side...or you'll be wrong. ;0)

*Side Note* For the quilt I'm doing now, there really isn't any artistic genius involved in fabric selection. My youngest son Joseph outgrew his quilt a very long time ago and I've been putting it off for too long. His will be the one used in the rest of the Quilting 101 series. I chose to stick with solid colors so it wouldn't distract from the comic fabric. He was super excited when I brought it all home!

If you can see the white is actually white on white polka dots. It reminded me of the retro comics with the dots in the drawings. Doesn't the red and white star fabric just scream"Captain America"?!

Here are the benefits of pre-washing:

*Fabric is coated with chemicals to keep them from wrinkling and fading in transit and to keep them looking nice on the shelf. These chemicals can be an irritant for some. They also create less friction when piecing, causing the fabric to slip. A run through the wash will easily get rid of these.

*Prevent bleeding. I cannot tell you how much extra dye is in some fabric. I have had to run a few pieces through the wash 2 or 3 times before getting the fabric ready for quilting. The last thing you want is for the fabrics to bleed all over each other! Talk about a ruined quilt!

*What I consider to be the most important reason to pre-wash is to get as much shrink out of it as possible.

Here is a picture of some of the fabrics used in this quilt post wash/dry.

These fabrics were all listed as 44" wide on the bolt. Now, the black one is super close to 42" which is a common width. I easily could have read it wrong. But check out the yellow fabric. It's half an inch shorter! The blue one isn't too much off, but there is still visible shrinkage. Flannel is the worst!! You could easily lose an inch or more when washing! That could be the difference in having enough to finish the project!

When to pre-wash: 

*Always. Can you tell this is my method? lol!

*When the quilt will be used a lot. Especially for baby quilts or quilt for those who have sensitive skin.

 *If you don't like that "antique" or "old fashioned" look. Seriously, it bugs me. I am far to OCD for that.

*When you are working with contrasting colors. I absolutely love the look of black and white with a bright pop! How awful would it be if the blacks or pinks in this quilt would have bled into the whites?!

Here are a few reasons some chose to not pre-wash their fabric:

And by some, I totally mean crazy people. ;0)

*To keep the colors vibrant.
*Fabric is "crisp" when it's fresh off the bolt and that is beneficial when cutting pieces - especially when cutting on the bias.
*Letting the fabrics shrink in washing causes the quilt to have an "antique" or hand stitched look. A lot of quilters prefer this.
*If you have tested swatches of the fabrics, and they did not bleed, feel free to skip washing.

When to not pre-wash: 

*If you are not going to wash the quilt. If you're project is going to be used for decoration, there really isn't a reason for the fabrics to be pre-washed.
*If you really want that "old fashioned" quilt look.

That's basically it. I can't think of any other reason. lol

How to wash & dry your fabric:

*Most quilters use an anit-bleeding rinse and wash with Synthrapol or a color catcher. I just wash with my laundry bombs. (I'm so cheap! lol!)

*Avoid softeners. Especially if you'll be using fusible web for applique! It creates a film on the fabric and causes slipping. If there is softener in your detergent, you should be fine. But, don't add any more!

*I prefer to wash mine with warm water & dry warm. I feel like doing this will get as much shrink as possible out of the fabric. But! Most quilters will say to wash cool and dry low. If you are not using 100% cotton, follow the washing/drying directions that are printed on the end of the bolt.

*Snip the corners of the fabric. Why? If not, the ends will fray in the wash and you will end up with a matted mess. I have spent far too much time untangling fabric. The untangling process usually involves scissors and or tears in the fabric. 

*Remove from the dryer as soon as the fabric is dry. Otherwise, it will sit, wrinkles will set in, and  it will be a PAIN to iron! 

*Smooth the fabric out by shaking it, then put it somewhere for ironing.

Now that your fabric is washed & dried...

How to iron your fabric: 

*Grab your ironing board, iron and spray bottle. 

*Turn your iron to a steaming hot setting.

*Mist the fabric with water, then iron.

*Be careful to not distort the fabric as you iron!

*Gently fold the fabric and set aside for cutting. I highly recommend washing, ironing and cutting (at least the major strips/squares/etc) in the same day. This will help avoid creases in the fabric while they wait to be cut. 

I hope this post was a help to you!

Please feel free to ask questions in the comment or message me on the facebook page. I'll be glad to answer to the best of my abilities.

Join me next time for part 4 where I'll tackle cutting.

Once again thanks for stopping by! Your continued support is an encouragement to me!


  1. I would have never thought of this - but then again, I'm not a quilter. It was really interesting to read, and you gave good reasons for pre-washing - I think I'm on your side! (Found you on the DBB!)

  2. I don't currently quilt...but it's something I've always thought about...so thank you for the tips! Pinning! :)

    - Brooke -

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for pinning!