IN THE KNOW
Our brand new columnist Suzy Williams aka Suzy Quilts has some crucial points to share for and against the pre-wash
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?
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?”
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.
PRE-WASHING CAN PREVENT REDS, PURPLES, AND DARK BLUE DYES FROM SPREADING
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!