Monday, February 4, 2013

To prewash or not to prewash?

Recently I read a post from Becky Goldsmith of Piece O'Cake Designs. She was talking about pre washing our fabrics. You should read it- it's good.

I always used to prewash. I was trying to think when and why I stopped. I think it was when I started using more precuts. How do you wash those and not end up with a mess?

Years ago I started a quilt and it ended up in pieces in the closet. It was a busy time; kids were little, I was working full-time outside the house.... blah, blah, blah. Then the cat peed on the quilt. Yuck. It was stored in an open plastic bin. I guess she got confused. So I had to wash all those little, cut up pieces.

Then we moved. And the bin moved with us. The cat was no longer with us, but we got a new kitten. And she got confused as well. More washing of little tiny pieces. I remember drying them on a drying rack.

The quilt eventually got made and quilted. The pieces did not fit together perfectly but, I figured, who cares?

It looks lovely on our bed- it is our wintertime quilt as it is backed with flannel.

So, back to pre washing. Do I start again or is it really not necessary? How to decide?

An experiment.
I had some fabric that was ready to go for the next quilt pattern. I measured the pieces of cut fabric so I could see if they shrunk and how much. But what about the charm pack?

Hmmm... I went and got a lingerie bag. I had one once, but where it got to after the move to Colorado is anyone's guess. This one is cute- and it has little plastic rings in it to hold it's shape. Cool.

Into the wash they went. I used regular detergent and put in a color catcher sheet.

And guess what? The stuff shrank.

Using the lingerie bag, the charm pieces were folded up, but not the shredded mess I thought they might be.

A quick press and they were ready to go.

But not at 5" square. They shrank, but not the same amount on each side. One side shrank a little more than the others.

And the fabric yardage? Well, how it shrank explains the charms. It shrank only a little lengthwise, so my 1 yard piece that was a little over 36" was now 36". But across the crosswise grain? It went from just about 44" to 42".

2" less. And yes, this was quilt shop quality fabric.

So, yes, it does make a difference and I am guessing I am going back to pre washing. And yes, the color catch caught some dyes.

I need to get to the bank and get more quarters. My washer and dryer are across the parking lot and they only take quarters. And I have more fabric to wash.

A lot more fabric. Thanks Becky.

happy quilting,

p.s. today's project is quilting this cute Valentine's table runner I made a few years ago. Probably not prewashed as I used a charm pack.

Guess I better not spill on it!


  1. Great information Kate! Moral of the story is do not buy clothes if they are slightly tight, as once washed they are outlandish tight!

    1. Oh- never thought about clothes! Good point!


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