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Washing fabrics

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Chloe03/06/2008 09:36:00
5 forum posts


 I'm very new to quilting (and sewing) and have a real beginner's question.  The instructions for the projects in PP all say to wash and press fabrics before using them - why do they need washing?  Also, when do you wash them?  When you've bought them or just before you use them?

Thanks, Chloe. 

Katy03/06/2008 09:54:00
8902 forum posts
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898 articles

Hello Chloe!

Most people wash their fabrics before using them for a number of reasons. Firstly, fabrics may shrink when you've washed them, and you really wouldn't want your freshly made quilt to pucker nastily the first time you wash it. Different fabrics will shrink at different rates, which would cause problems. Washing them before you start means the shrinkage has happened before you piece your quilt. The same goes for dye run, it would be awful to take months over making  a quilt, only for the dye to bleed from one fabric to another. Also some fabrics have a chemical finish on the surface, which you can feel, and you may want to remove that by washing before you start. When you come to quilting, the finish on the fabric may also cause problems. Pressing your fabric is very important, it is very hard to accurately cut, piece or quilt a wrinkly piece of fabric.

It would probably be sensible to wash your fabric just after you've bought it, as then it would be ready whenever you needed it, but I never have. I usually wash it when I'm about to make something. But I will admit that occasionally I have just started sewing, because I was too impatient to start! I haven't washed bought precut pieces, like jelly rolls. I don't know if other quilters do. I would be a bit worried about them fraying badly. I stopped washing small charm squares for that reason. So as usual it is down to personal choice.

I'll probably be shot for admitting to that! What advice does anyone else have?

Chloe03/06/2008 10:01:00
5 forum posts

Hi Katy,

Thanks for your advice - I'd thought about the dye leaking (that happens when I wash clothes anyway!) but I'd not thought about the shrinkage - that makes a lot of sense. 


Davina Thomas03/06/2008 11:15:00
41 forum posts
1 photos
29 articles

Hi Chloe, one good tip I read many years ago was to cut the selvedges off the fabric when you had washed it, that way you would know which in your stash was washed and which weren't!

(if you read the next issue not quite out in the shops yet - there is a book review about a book which makes use of all the selvedges you have cut off - I am persuading my local quilt group to collect them for me so I can try it out for myself)

Some quilters like a more antique look so leave fabrics unwashed and then when it is first washed it strinks and creates a softer look. It depends on what  effect you are after.

 Katy's point is interesting about Jelly Rolls, all cotton fabric shrinks up to 10% on the first wash so if you were making a Jelly Roll quilt then don't wash any of the fabric and hope for the best.

 If I am very impatient, I just dunk it it in hot water and swish it around a bit, then spin it and iron it dry!!!

 Red is the worst colour for running although juding from Gillians colour catcher quilt quite a few other colours do too.

Another point I have just thought of is the wadding, some cotton waddings are pre shrunk and some might not be - so that would have an impact too.

Hope some of this helps!


Chloe03/06/2008 12:04:00
5 forum posts

 Thanks! These tips are all great!  I've just looked at the photo of Gillian's colour catcher quilt - it looks amazing!

I've just got my fabric out for my first project and it's in the washing machine at the moment.  I hadn't even thought about whether the wadding is pre-shrunk or not, so that will go in the next wash just in case!

This may be another beginner's question but what is a Jelly Roll?


Davina Thomas03/06/2008 12:16:00
41 forum posts
1 photos
29 articles

Hi Chloe Jelly Rolls were first used by Moda fabrics. They are a bundle of fabric cut across the width using each design in a whole range and each piece is 2 1/2inches wide. You end up with 40 pieces of fabric about 2 1/2 x 40inches.

There are a few books now with patterns for using them and I am sure if you put Jelly Roll into google you will find a few shops with pictures. The Quilt Room in dorking cut a lot of their fabric into these rolls now as the owner and her daughter have just published a book about them.

Katy might load up a photo of her Jelly Roll quilt if we ask nicely!


Katy03/06/2008 16:02:00
8902 forum posts
5365 photos
898 articles



OK then! I had to take a photo of it first, as I didn't have one. It's very random, I started another one with a "proper" plan after this one, but I've not worked on it for a bit. The Jelly Roll was just so tempting I couldn't wait to start, and so ended up with a scrap quilt. However the second version has miles of extra fabric in it, it is probably only 50% Jelly Roll really. I would really recommend using a Jelly Roll pattern rather than going for the "I'm too excited and must start now!" approach like I did!

I prefer the back of this actually, the longarm quilting is so beautiful, varigated green paisley swirls. (No I didn't do it!)

ELAINE TOYNTON04/06/2008 08:13:00
2 forum posts

I am trying to find a book "Japanese Folded Patchwork" or similar.  I have tried Amazon, E Bay etc but it is out  of print.  Can anyone help please?

Babs04/06/2008 09:41:00
385 forum posts
74 photos
9 articles
I have a copy of Japanese Folded Patchwork by Mary Clare Clark which I borrowed from our local library. Ask the librarian to obtain a copy - from another branch if the book is unavailable at your local library.
Ruth Carter-Hale04/06/2008 16:56:00
43 forum posts
23 photos
Just a little more about washing fabrics, becarefull of washing then in the machine as threads can catch and run , wash them seprately by and then if one bleeds then it should not effect the others, i did read somewere that washing with mild baby shampoo is good but i have not tried that yet, when they are dry or a bit damp you can then use dylon starch spay to return the fabrics to that 'shop bought' feel it also makes them easyer to cut, have fun

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