Thursday, February 08, 2018

Fabric Washing Tips

Every quilter has his/her own fabric washing practices. Some never prewash, they just buy it, cut it, sew it, and when the quilt is finished they toss it in the sewing machine and hope for the best in terms of shrinkage and dye discharge. Other quilters prewash, and some even starch, every piece of fabric before they use it.
My habits lean more toward not prewashing but for block swaps it is usually recommended. I'm participating in Barb's churn dash swap so I wanted to prewash those fabrics and also threw in some fabrics from a kit I bought in December. I always use one or two colour catcher sheets in a prewash.
Just look at the dye it picked up! The sheets come out of the box white like the one on the left, and the pink sheets on the right show how much fabric dye was absorbed from the wash water. If the dye wasn't absorbed by the colour catcher, it would have likely run onto to other light coloured fabrics, turning everything a nice shade of pink.
But what really shocked me was that the fabric was a total mess and reminded me of why I dislike prewashing. It was a big wad of tangled, knotted threads and I had to use scissors to cut the threads to separate the fabric. Just look at the threads still tangled around the colour catcher sheet. It was like that with all the fabric. Then I read a brilliant tip from Carole about how to wash fabric yardage and gave it a try. It worked perfectly! Thanks Carole!

Summary of fabric washing tips:
Tip #1 - use a colour catcher sheet.
Tip #2 - accordion pleat the fabric and pin the selvage edges together.
Please pass along any additional fabric washing tips in the comment section.

26 comments:

  1. When I prewash my fabric, I don't use the washing machine. I soak in extremely hot water with a pail, just put the fabric in there and push down into the water, I use a wooden spoon because the water is too hot to use my hand. Let is soak for an hour or so, pour water out into the bathtub. If the water is red or pinkish, do it again and again and again until the water is clear. Your fabric will not tangle and end up a mess. I prewashed several yards of red fabrics I inherited from my mother. I think I soaked and dumped the water 8 times but the water was clear after the last soak. I do put the soppy wet fabric in the washer to spin the excess water out then hang on a clothes rack to dry so it doesn't get overly wrinkly.

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  2. Thanks for the washing tip. I usually prewash all my fabrics. Color catchers are a really great thing. But I learned the hard way, if you are washing a large finished quilt with dark colors in it for the first time, use 4 or 5, don't skimp. That would have saved me some grief the first time I tried it.

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  3. I agree to using 3-4 CC on a large completed quilt. Two would not do for me but I love bright colors. If I am just doing one large piece I sometimes put it in a zip laundry bag for delicates. It comes out not shredded on the edges. AND sometimes the CC is not colored very much and I reuse those and throw in a new one with it just to be careful. Thanks for the pleating idea. I will try that one. I hate the knotted mess on the takeout.

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  4. I always prewash my fabrics with Synthrapol and hot or warm water. If I suspect a fabric may bleed badly I'll soak it in the sink full of hot water with a tsp. of Synthrapol, then rinse until the water is clear. I only use color catchers on completed quilts in the event there is any residual bleeding.

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  5. Thanks for the mention! I just showed that tip yesterday to the guild.

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  6. I use colour catchers and I also clip a small triangle from each of the corners of the pieces of yardage. This stops the threads from unravelling in the washing machine.

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  7. When I wash yardage, I serge the ends. No strings. I was fat quarters by hand.and line dry to avoid strings and fraying. Hope that helps. If you do not have a server sew a straight line across the end to hinder fraying.

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  8. Been there done what you experienced! I have some yardage to wash and will try the safety pins. Much better than all the threads. I wash my fat quarters by hand and hang them to air dry. Great post

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  9. Sew the non-selvage edges together to prevent fraying. If you have narrow cuts of fabric, sew them together then combine the final edges in a seam. After washing, trim off the sewn edges. It takes an inch or 2 more of fabric, so keep this in mind, but it takes care of all that annoying fraying!

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  10. I prewash all my fabric. I have allergies and this is a must for me. I use color catchers too. I also overlock all my fabric before washing. No tangled up threads and messes that way.

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  11. When prewashing fabrics, I like to use the mesh bags for the fabrics. It does control the thread issues somewhat.

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  12. Yeah, I don't prewash. But when washing a quilt, I always throw several color catchers in there. When doing QOVs, I use 4-5 CC's and always amazed how much color they do catch! When presenting, I give a baggy with 4 or 5 CC's and instructions to use when washing.

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  13. I LOVE getting all the tips and tricks. Color Catchers are great and I usually put fabrics in mesh lingerie bags and that helps a lot. Reds, Blacks and Navys seem to be the worst with having excess dye.

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  14. A box of color catchers is relatively inexpensive and I've been known to use six or seven when washing a lot of bright fabrics. I'd rather waste a few extra CCs than ruin fabric. I prewash everything except precuts. I haven't tried the serging or finishing edges to prevent the fraying like some describe but it sounds worth a try.
    Barb

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  15. I prewash cuts of 1 yd or larger. I use the pinking blade on my rotary cutter and seldom get those pesky thread nests. I put smaller cuts of dark colors or deeply saturated pieces in mesh zip bags. Hot water and color catchers for everything! Haven't tried the accordion fold tip yet, but it's on the list.

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  17. Interesting comments... I use about 1/8 - 1/4 c of the original blue Dawn liquid dishwashing soap, hot water, color catchers, and the lowest (delicate) wash speed. I let it soak for maybe an hour, agitating with a wooden spoon, then spin out and do it over again without additional soap, until color catchers aren't picking up more dye. There was a discussion of this at Vicki Welsh's website awhile back. I prewash all my fabric.

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  18. I don't actually pre-WASH my fabric. I send it through a rinse and spin cycle instead so the fraying is at a minimum. The color catchers can go through a rinse cycle as easily as a wash cycle. If there is too much on the color catcher I'll go ahead and wash it. But, that seldom happens.

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  19. I rarely prewash my fabric, and I buy most of it used on eBay so I have no idea if it's been washed before or not. I use color catchers when watching the finished quilt and let the chips fall where they may. The fabrics all shrink a little differently, and that's OK with me. After over 75 quilts, I've never had a dye bleeding problem. I guess it's better to be lucky than good :)

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  20. Inquiring minds just wondering...how do you wash your fabric in the "sewing machine"!!!
    HAHAHA
    Thinking faster than the fingers can type...been there done that!!!

    Tehehe in Trout Creek
    Your Northern Blog Stalker!!

    P.S. Great information but I don't prewash. I just wash the quilt once it is finished.

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  21. I have done the pinning technique before prewashing. It is a bit time consuming if you are doing a lot of pieces but so worth it for quarter yard or similar yardage pieces.

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  22. Great tips! Color catchers are a life saver, and I know some also clip off a triangle at the corners to prevent fraying. And to help reduce hard to iron out wrinkles, I remove the fabric from the dryer while it's still a bit damp - just needs a quick iron then instead of a workout!

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  23. I also a prewash/presoak. Fat quarters are hand soaked. The fabric was purchased because I liked it so I do not mind the extra handling of it. One yard or longer cuts go into the washing machine with clipped corners or pinked edges. Lots of time goes into quilt making and I rather not have an unpleasant surprise at the finish. Google why Becky Goldsmith, Piece O Cake, prewashes.

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  24. I clip the corners on all my fabrics before washing. I also use the speed wash with hot water and cold rinse so that they are only in the machine for 15 minutes. I also use Color Catchers, but have been having trouble finding them in my shopping store. Any one know who carries them in the Kitchener Waterloo Guelph area?

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  25. Sobeys carry Dr. BECKMAN colour catchers which I have used for ages.

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  26. Yes, I prewash. I handwash fat quarters and half yards, use a lingerie bag for up to 2 yards, and for the bigger cuts I pink the edges and throw in with a load of laundry.

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