Sunday, April 29, 2012

To Wash or not to Wash--The Fabric: It's No Longer the Question

I fell for it again!  I read all the pros and cons about pre-washing fabric before sewing and let myself be lulled into a sense of security about not washing--as long as you buy the "good" fabric.  Joann's fabric is all lumped into the "not good" fabric despite the fact that the store is selling some good stuff.  (In fact, I seldom come across a fabric in Joann's that is so low quality that I don't want to use it)

Back to the pre-washing.  The "good" fabric is the stuff you get in quilt shops or online quilty stores.  I bought a bunch of pre-cut squares a few years ago from a quilt shop and made a quilt that had some serious issues with colors bleeding the first time it went into a cold water wash.  I managed to get most of the mess out, but swore there would be no more unwashed fabric.

HOWEVER, there was an ongoing argument in a online class recently about whether or not to prewash .  With so many people saying they don't prewash and so many places selling the charm packs, jelly rolls, etc.,  I decided to try again.  I bought a few packs of Barbara Brackman's Robert Morris squares and some matching Bella yardage to make a special quilt.

I cut and pieced the squares and started embroidering the solid squares.  While ironing out the folds in the solid fabric, though, I noticed that spots were developing in some areas where I sprayed water, kinda like sizing was puddling.  I didn't want to start washing some of the fabric since I hadn't done the other, but after the third square, I knew I needed to get whatever was creating the spots out.  This is the fabric prior to washing.

(Yes, I can see that my embroidery puckered a bit.  The designs are quotes from
 literary greats inside silhouettes.  I really wanted to use them, but didn't want to use
 a heavier fabric.  I was willing to put up with a little puckering which I figured I could quilt into
submission later)

This is after washing in cold water and drying on a low setting.

Steam from the Rowenta was not sufficient to get out the wrinkles.  I had to get it soaking wet with spray to iron it out.  The 44-45" wide fabric was down to 42 inches after ironing, too.  I've had fabric from Joann's that didn't wrinkle this much that was half the price before using a coupon.  

So now, I have the Morris fabric squares and 3 embroidered squares-- that each took over an hour and a half to complete-- on unwashed fabric.  The rest will be preshrunk.  This was going to be a really special quilt--lots of time into the embroidery. I fear what this thing is going to look like after it is washed!  Never, never, never will I use unwashed fabric again.

Anyway, I do love these embroidery designs.  They are perfect for my bibliophile son.  The stitching is very dense--like patches really.  (I think there is a way to cut back on the density with Embird, but I have no idea how.)   They'd be perfect on tan denim.  I may make some library bags for my book club.  Check the designs out here at the Embroidery Library if you have a book lover.  The packages start at the third one down.  There are two separate packs in two different sizes or you can buy them individually.  I waited for one of their dollar sales and bought them individually.  There are 13 in all.  Twain, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell, Dickens, Austen, Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, and those below.

Emerson's quote would be fitting for any good friend.  I love that one--so true!

Oh yes, I vote for washing the *#@%*  fabric.


  1. Oh how disappointing! I'm so sorry! I learned that lesson a long time ago and I wash everything now too. On the other hand...oh my gosh!! You're embroidery is so lovely and I adore the idea of quotes from authors!

    1. The quotes are wonderful--I wish the designer would come up with a few more!

  2. Oh no, what a pity! But your embroidery is absolutely gorgeous!

    1. I'm always amazed to watch the little machine turn out beautiful pieces! My machine is practically an antique according to my machine shop guy, but it works so well, I am NOT replacing it.

  3. I'm a pre-washer too. With new fabrics I zigzag the raw edges, then I wash/dry before it goes into stash. The only exception is pre-cuts (not FQ's - I just zz and wash them, no problem) - working with charm squares and jelly rolls presents quite a dilemma! You can't really prewash them, but we know what can happen, between shrinkage and colours running! I'll tell you my solution - I just don't use my pre-cuts - I save them and fondle them and admire them, but never ever use them, LOL!! Well - I didn't say it was a GOOD solution! The only thing I've come up with, should I actually break down and SEW with my pre-cuts, would be to use only unwashed fabric with them so they can all hopefully shrink about the same amount, and to wash them with Colour Catcher sheets (which we can't yet get in Canada). Not a perfect solution, but it's all I've been able to come up with!

  4. I ALWAYS pre wash. I spent a good 2 hours ironing fabric for quilting on the weekend. But compared to how long I spend on a quilt? Not even a question. I'm not going to spend hundreds of hours (I hand sew and quilt), making a quilt to have it ruined the first time I wash it by the colours running!! And as you say, the price of a fabric is no indicator of how much the dye will run.