Saturday, 18 February 2012

Wash or don't wash, that is the question!

I'm just going to put it out there, because in all the blogs and posts I have come across, I haven't actually read this anywhere.

So many quilters say they prewash their fabrics before working with them.  All the reasons seemed pretty sound.  I thought I agreed with the whole feel, shrinking, dye and sizing issues.

So here is the BIG question:  Do these quilters avoid precuts?  I can only assume the "prewashers" must totally avoid jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, noodles, turnovers, etc.  Please enlighten me on this burning issue.

When I started quilting, my tutor told me to wash fabrics and I certainly did.  But when jelly rolls and such precut treats started to become so popular, I threw the whole prewash idea out of the window.  But let me say that it was not before I actually washed my charm squares!!  The very first charm pack I bought was carefully separated into like colours and placed in those little mesh bags that used to come with washing tablets.  Can you imagine how difficult that was, to dry and press all those little squares.  I must have been mad! LOL!!

Well that made my mind up for me.  I came to the conclusion that if these precuts did not get washed, why was I going to waste my time washing my yardage fabrics.

I never prewash my fabrics.  To date I have had no problems often associated with not prewashing.

Before I cut my fabrics, I always spray starch and press carefully.  This gives the fabric great body and a slight firmness that makes cutting more precise.  The starch I use is from Lakeland Ltd.  It doesn't flake and is not heavy.  Also makes the fabric smell lovely.

It is alway good to hear other opinions and experiences.  Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this subject.


  1. Yep....I must be mad! lol Because I wash everything! And yeah, I put anything smaller than a fat quarter into like colors, and then into the mesh bags for washing. Even scraps and strings! The pressing doesn't bother me, cuz then I get a really good look at the fabric, and can then decide where it gets put on the shelves, or maybe cut smaller into usable pieces. It's also another chance to oooh and aaaah over the!

    I've washed everything from the beginning, and a LOT of my fabric comes from outlet-type fabric stores, and/or leftovers from friends projects. The stores are not very clean, and even in the nicer shops, the bolts sit on the floors sometimes.....yuk! When I wash it, the wash water is a disgusting grey. Also, some of my friends who have gifted me their scraps must keep there stuff in the basement, cuz it's smelly! I know I've heard of all the chemicals used in the fabric making process, and that some folks are sensitive to it....I'm not, but I like that they're out of it after washing, too.

    So yeah, I just prefer to use clean, sweet smelling fabric when I don't worry about colors running, since I use a lot of dark fabrics.

    And about whether I shy away from pre-cuts like jelly rolls and such.....I've never made a quilt based on a fabric line or color scheme like that, so I've never bought one of the precuts. Plus, I figure if I'm liking a particular fabric, I want at least a fat quarter of it! A 5" square.....that's just not enough to play with! lol

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I can see where you are coming from on that. The grey wash water may not all be from dirt. Some of that may be the dye, which is also why it may need washing.

      Like you I always buy yardage. As a beginner, it was safe to buy ranges of fabrics because the thought of mixing and matching fabrics was just a bit scary. Now half the fun is mixing and matching, seeing what combinations work well and what doesn't. Oh, that is why I love this wonderful craft!

  2. I pre-wash everything I can. When I started quilting I was told that is what you did ... so I did it!! With yardage I pink the edges and machine wash with colour catchers. I've had yardage that shed a lot of dye and one piece (several years ago) completely changed colour after picking up dye from another piece, which is why I now use colour catchers! For 1/2 metre and less I hand wash and that way I see if there is dye leakage. Often there is none, sometimes there is shed-loads!! A couple of these pieces were 'fixed' by a soak in vinegar water, a couple of scraps were unuseable. I don't buy pre-cuts for this reason. The pre-washing is a pain, but I don't iron at that stage. I smooth, fold and store, then iron as I need to use it :)

    1. Thanks Helen. It's the ironing I hate. I'm glad to see that someone else is up early on a Saturday morning!

  3. I pre-wash yardage but leave the pre-cuts alone. I like the process of ironing the freshly washed fabric and seeing all the colours and patterns as I press it me weird :o)

    1. Thanks Jane. I quite like that fresh washed feel. Reminds me of my mum. She ironed everything that came off the line.