To wash or not to wash

Ok at the risk of turning up someone's ire at bringing this up again, I just
have to do it. Yes I was reading another thread where it was mentioned. So
here's my dilemma. When I'm making a quilt top, I really like the feel and
handling of unwashed fabric. I have washed some in the past and just didn't
like the way it handled. It was limp and loose and flimsy feeling. It also
took longer to iron the wrinkles out before being rotary cut. So maybe I
just don't get it. You know, sometimes it takes awhile for something to
click and you just "get it". I just have to know though, what is the big
deal with washing or not washing the darn fabric? I can understand the need
to wash if someone has an allergy to the sizing or whatever it is they put
in fabric. But other than it just being a personal preference, what is it
that I'm not getting about washing the fabric?
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fabrics can and do shrink at different rates. fabrics can also bleed sometimes. consider the outcome of a newly made precious quilt when it is eventually washed.
if you prefer the feel of new unwashed fabrics, there is a solution. wash them, then use a spray sizing or spray starch or make up a light solution of starch and use that when you iron the fabric before you get around to the cutting. hth, jeanne
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I must confess. I also like to work with my fabric unwashed. I have run into problems with running but have used the cloth that sucks up the extra dye and washed the piece again and all the extra dye has come out.
Do what you want. If I am giving a quilt as a gift I wash it before I give it.
Kathy in NH
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My philosophy (which I *usually* follow, but not always) these days is to treat/mistreat/abuse the fabric as harsh or harsher than you will the final product -- you just need to know how it will be affected --
There is the shrinking aspect there is the running color aspect (just encountered that one for the first time -- two light colored fabrics now have a nice light green tint to them -- oh well -- I'm just thankful it wasn't in a completed project) There is the will it fall apart in the washer and/or dryer thing How wrinkly will it be when finished and how hard will it be to get the wrinkles out (primarily my concern with garment construction -- I hate high maintainence clothes -- but somewhat with WUH fabric)
I admit, unwashed is crisper -- that is why I inquired about starching or not starching a short time ago -- my solution to that delimma lately has been -- just iron the stuff fresh, together if you can, and do the best one can.
To each their own in the long run, but these days, my vote goes for WASH -- and wash hard to really test the fabric.
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As Jeanne said, there is shrinking potential, and colours can run - some more than others. I really prefer the feel of washed fabric, but that is a personal preference. The objective reason I wash fabric is because of all the places it has been, and handled and subjected to who knows what, (eg insecticide for storage), before it ends up in our shops. I wash my hands when I return from shopping (I was told it was a good way to beat infection?); so I am not going to voluntarily handle and fondle and stroke my fabric, until I know it's clean. I find that, if I use the water jet thingy on my iron, the crisp feel comes back to a small extent - it's definitely smoother if I do that. . In message , Mika writes
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I always wash. I use those dye magnet sheets, also. I have read 2 posts in the last 2 weeks in my groups about colors running when a quilt was washed after completion. They were pretty much ruined. (This isn't the first time I saw posts like that, but one was made by someone who had passed away and it can never be duplicated.) I figure I want to know what the fabric will be like after washing. If something is going to fade, bleed, tear, shrink or otherwise be a pain in the *** I want to know before I work with it. That includes fabric for wallhangings that aren't expected to be washed. I don't have any grand illusions that my quilts will last as long as the vintage 1900's quilt I bought at auction this year, but if one does survive that long I'd like to think it will be last as nice as that one.
I spray my bearly damp fabric with sizing as I iron it and I can get that slightly stiffer feel to the fabric, again. I have spray starch also and have started to use it some. Besides I like the smell of them much better than the sizing that is on some of the fabric I've purchased. Gina
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I now "manage" a communal stash that would rival many shops in size. I just bought something like 200 metres of fabric - most of it in 1/2 and 1 metre sized pieces, and I do this about 2 or 3 times a year.
There was a time when I washed everything, and ironed it and aired it and carefully folded it before putting it away. But no more. ROFL
I teach the possible consequences of NOT washing and leave it up to individuals. They are all aware that the stash is unwashed. If they ask specifically I recommend washing any large volumes of homespuns (or similar weave) to be used in a quilt because of the possible shrinkage issue (esp long borders and sashings), and I recommend washing any high contrast colour combos (eg. reds/purples/browns etc where they are to be matched with whites/creams etc) because of the dye run issue. Otherwise - look at the fabric, feel it, consider how much it cost and who manufactured it (and possibly where) and decide if you WANT to wash it.
And also think about the end-use of the quilt. If it is to be on your own bed and not subject to "quilt abuse" it is not likely to be washed frequently during its life. If it is to be a child's play quilt and dragged around on the floor and wrapped around favourite pets and smeared with spilled food and drink (the kind of quilts I just love to make) it will probably be washed regularly throughout its (possibly relatively short) life and any problems with some degree of colour run or shrinkage may pale to insignificance compared to wear and tear!
The only rule is - there are no rules! Just best guesses based on varying levels of experience.
Probably not what you wanted to hear but - (shrug and smile) - there are good arguments both ways.
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Cheryl in Oz
Howdy! When it's a squishie-- well, I don't care either way; washed or unwashed: Welcome All! ;-D
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I do not wash fabric for piecing quilts. I like the look, feel and cooperation of unwashed fabric. If I take the notion to do a kingsize heirloom in red and white, I might reconsider. On the other hand, if I am making a baby garment or fleece or flannel blanket, I wash the dickens out of those fabrics before I cut. Harshly. If it's going to pill, fuzz, warp, woof or shrink, I want the stuff to just go on and get it over with. Sometimes, the remains go straight from clothes dryer to trash bin. No detour. Maybe it's because I was way down on the list in the family and had lots of hand-me-downs, but something that looks and feels brand new still rings special to me. Of course, my quilts are going to childrens' shelters and I think some of them will know the quilt wasn't "used" but is theirs alone means something to them. Living dangerously, I know. Don't mess with us non-washers. We are armed with chainsaws for turkey carving right now. Polly
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Polly Esther
You non washers with chain saws can have/do anything your little old heart desires Polly : ) I was daughter 2 of 5. I consider myself lucky I was not further down the line for hand me downs. Taria
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I never started out to prewash, and am now highly confused how to suddenly start this practice (especially if I am using odds and ends of fat quarters and scraps, etc.). I never prewashed back in my clothes sewing days either. I was always too excited to start laying out my patterns and cutting and sewing.... and the washing was like work and a great delay in motivating energy. I also like to do wall hangings and have heard that the sizing helps keep them cleaner longer.
So since I am in this conundrum (sp?) I'm glad there aren't quilt police running around checking on me. If my quilts get a little puffy and the colors bleed, it will just be fine. And when the day comes that I have to make a quilt for the president of the quilt police museum, I guess I'll buy all new material and wash it.
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