Our brand new colum­nist Suzy Williams aka Suzy Quilts has some cru­cial points to share for and against the pre-wash

Love Patchwork & Quilting - - FEATURES - suzyquilts

Our brand new colum­nist Suzy Williams aka Suzy Quilts of­fers her take on de­bate over whether or not to pre-wash, with help from Qual­ity Con­troller Scrappy the dog

A wise woman once said to me, “Suzy, the very first thing you should do when you get home from a shop is throw all of your new fab­ric into the wash­ing ma­chine. Pre-wash­ing is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial.”

An­other wise woman also said to me, “Pre-wash­ing?? I ain’t got time for that.” Thus be­gan my in­ner de­bate – whether to pre-wash or not to pre-wash?

Rea­sons for

Those who pre-wash have their rea­sons. It pre­vents bleed­ing. Pre-wash­ing does more than just fluff up your fab­ric. One of the most im­por­tant things wash­ing your fab­ric can pre­vent is the dreaded bleed. For those who’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced a bleed­ing quilt, thank the sewing gods for your good for­tune. How­ever, if you HAVE watched in hor­ror as navy dye seeps into a once-cream fab­ric, raise your hand. You, my friends, don’t need me to tell you that pre-wash­ing fab­ric can pre­vent vi­brant dyes from spread­ing onto other fab­ric. Reds, purples, and dark blues are the usual sus­pects. In my case, it was a fab­u­lous navy with beau­ti­ful metal­lic gold dots. Thanks to colour bleed, that fab­ric ended up be­com­ing my en­emy.

To help pre­vent this bloody tragedy (Can I say that? If it was once bleed­ing, that makes it bloody, right?) add a cou­ple ta­ble­spoons of Re­tayne to the wash. Re­tayne might sound a bit scary, but it’s prob­a­bly sold at your lo­cal quilt shop, and is just a chem­i­cal that helps to lock fab­ric dye in place.

Sen­si­tive skin, any­one? If you have a propen­sity for itchy, ir­ri­tated skin, then you may want to con­sider jump­ing into the pre-wash camp. By wash­ing your freshly pur­chased fab­ric be­fore sewing with it, you are re­mov­ing any siz­ing (more on this starch-like sub­stance later) or chem­i­cals ac­quired dur­ing its time in a fac­tory.

Plus, shrink­age. This word is go­ing to make an ap­pear­ance in both the ‘Pros’ and the ‘Cons’ list. Ba­si­cally, fab­ric shrinks once it’s been washed and dried. Yes, yes, I know you al­ready know that. What you may not have thought about is how this rad­i­cally changes the look of your quilt if the ma­jor­ity of the shrink­age hap­pens af­ter it’s been quilted. By pre-wash­ing your fab­ric, you are de­creas­ing the crin­kle ef­fect – sim­i­lar to the but­ter­fly ef­fect in that this one de­ci­sion can be world chang­ing… Think about it.

So ask your­self, “Do I want my quilt to shrink up and look in­stantly vin­tage and crin­kled af­ter it’s been laun­dered?” Or “Do I want it to look more-or-less the same as when I first sewed it to­gether?”

Rea­sons against

Pre-wash­ing? Not­gonna­hap­pen. It takes too much time. Also some­times you for­get! Also some­times you are run­ning home from the fab­ric shop be­cause it is im­per­a­tive that you be­gin cut­ting into that fab­ric you just pur­chased im­me­di­ately. Like world-end­ingly im­per­a­tive that not a sec­ond is lost.

What I’m say­ing is, some­times life gets busy and you just want to quilt! For those of us who are not great at plan­ning ahead (rais­ing my hand), pre-wash­ing feels like the step we for­get to take un­til it’s too late.


Be­cause once that ro­tary cut­ter is in hand, noth­ing else mat­ters.

Re­mem­ber those chem­i­cals? We ac­tu­ally like some of them. As men­tioned pre­vi­ously, siz­ing finds its way onto fab­ric fresh from the fac­tory. Siz­ing is sim­i­lar to starch in that it adds crisp­ness to the fab­ric and re­duces wrin­kles. This stiff­ness makes it eas­ier to cut and sew.

Shrink­age. Oh, hello again. Fancy see­ing you here. If you love the look of a fluffy, puffy, puck­ery, cosy, cud­dly quilt, then pre-wash­ing fab­ric is not for you. Fab­ric is go­ing to shrink af­ter that first wash, so if it’s now part of a quilt, it will slightly pull at that stitch­ing – giv­ing your quilt max­i­mum crin­kleage. And that’s a word. Just don’t look it up.

Now go forth and pre-wash! Or don’t. It’s to­tally up to you. As you can see, Qual­ity Con­troller Scrappy the dog is happy ei­ther way.

“Some­times life gets busy and you just want to quilt. We for­get to pre­wash be­cause once that ro­tary cut­ter is in hand, noth­ing else mat­ters!” SUZY QUILTS

Above: Suzy’s faith­ful side­kick Scrappy gives these un-washed fab­rics her seal of ap­proval

Be­low: There’s lit­tle bet­ter than a soft crin­kled quilt fresh from the dryer!

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