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  • Ellen

To wash or not to wash?

To wash or not to wash?

Some people shiver by the thought of using unwashed fabrics, others get frightened that their fabrics get soft and wrinkly after a wash.

There's no right answer to the question whether to prewash your fabrics or not. It's mainly a question of preference.

Having that said, you can often find drying racks filled with fabric in my garden :o)

When I started quilting 28 years ago, I remember washing fabrics (mainly the darker colors and reds) over and over again to stop the bleeding of the colors.

Over the years, the knowledge of printing fabrics and the quality of the dies have evolved so much that (specifically for the specialized high quality patchwork fabrics from our own EQP brand as well as several other established brands) the colors don't bleed anymore.

Washing a quilt that contains fabrics that haven't been prewashed, therefore shouldn't be a problem. You can add some color catchers to your laundry load, just to be sure you catch any exces dye!

So while washing isn't required anymore to avoid bleeding of the fabrics, I do keep in mind that the fabric will shrink a bit. This is due to the manufacturing process of the cotton and it's usually about 2 - 3 %. By prewashing the fabric, I make sure to shrink the fabrics before I use them in a block, so that my final block or quilt will not change shape anymore when being washed.

Speaking about manufacturing... During the entire process, from growing and picking the cotton to the fat quarter or yardage that ends up in your sewing basket, the fabric has been handled by many different people and machines, has been treated with chemicals to be transported, has been stored in different countries and places,...

I like to compare it to buying clothes: I would not wear a dress or top that I bought without having washed it first. Although it wouldn't hurt me in any way if I did wear it right out of the store, I do like the thought of having it washed to be all fresh and clean before putting it on.

The same goes for my fabrics: I like them fresh and clean before starting to create something beautiful with them!

So that's about "why" to wash or not to wash your fabrics, but what about "how" I wash them?

First of all, I sort the fabrics by color. Depending on the size, I either wash them in the machine (pieces of 1 meter and up) or in a bucket.

In the washing machine I add white vinegar instead of detergent and I wash on a short cycle with a light spin.

In a bucket I add a good splash of white vinegar to hot water, add the fabrics and let it soak for about 1 hour. After that, take the fabric out, softly squeeze the water out and hang them outside to dry.

Now whether on our face or in fabric, we don't like wrinkles ;o)

Most wrinkles will be blown out by the wind, but to avoid them completely, I take off the fabrics from the line just before they're dry and iron them (on "Cotton"). The damp will make the last wrinkles go. If you still have some stubborn wrinkles left, you can also use a little bit of spray starch to make them disappear completely.

Once ironed, my fabrics are fold, color sorted and stored neatly in a drawer, where I also store some lavender and pieces of Marseille soap to give my fabrics a lovely smell.

So there we go. That's how I like to treat my fabrics before they end up in a quilt.

Let me know if and how you prewash your fabrics by dropping us a line!

Happy quilting!


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