Sunday, December 05, 2010

To Pre-Wash or Not to Pre-Wash

To pre-wash your fabrics or not to pre-wash your fabrics?  Isn't that a major question for quilters??!!  If you want to get a room of quilters divided in less than 5 minutes bring up the subject of pre-washing your fabrics sometime.  When I first started quilting everyone pre-washed their fabrics.  It was what you did.   Then several years ago books/people/magazines etc started to say that pre-washing wasn't necessary if you used only good quality quilt shop fabric.  And when the dye magnets hit the shelves many of us figured that throwing those into the wash would be good enough.  There are a couple brands of these on the market but they are still relatively hard to find.  Basically you put them into the wash and they catch any excess dye that might bleed out so that it bleeds onto the little sheet instead of your quilt.  So guess what?  I stopped pre-washing.

Well quilters ~ I have a confession to make ~ I have gone back to pre-washing my fabrics 100%.  I've had a few instances of colour bleeds outside of the washing machine.

First I was machine quilting a quilt and rubbed out a chalk line with a damp towel.  Walked away for a few minutes and guess what?  The red had bled into the cream fabric.  I got it out but it still made me start to think about my choice to stop pre-washing.

The next instant was with a little Christmas table-topper I made using unwashed fabrics.  We had it on the table and some water got spilled on it.  The red ran soooo badly and the green ran a bit too.  I scrubbed and scrubbed but that red dye remained no matter what I did ~ and so that quilt sat like that for over a year.

The last thing that happened to me, that really cemented my position, was when I had my scrap Christmas Quiltor close-up here, on the bed for the Christmas season.  I always sleep with a glass of water beside the bed and when I woke up to take a drink of water I spilled a little bit!  Ooppps!  Guess what?  In the morning the binding fabrics and boarder fabrics had bled into the white boarders.  I scrubbed and scrubbed to get it out but no luck.  That was the last straw for me.  Dye magnets would not have helped in this situation at all.

All fabrics now go through the washer before they get to join my stash.  I want what ever is going to happen to those fabrics to happen before it goes into a quilt.  I will even set my fabrics with Synthropol to make sure that they are really set.  And then I love Mary Ellen's Best Press to starch them to a nice finish.  Since I have started doing this again I haven't had any surprises and I am much more confident with how my quilts will hold up.

Since we are now getting to the Christmas season again I decided to try to get the dies out of the quilts again.  So I took a bit of a desperate step.  I used a Tide Bleach stick and rubbed it over the white fabrics where the dyes had bled into them.  I gently rubbed it in until the dyes went away then immediately submersed it into water.  And rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  I did this with both quilts then immediately got them into the washing machine.  As soon as the wash was over they went into the dryer so that they didn't have a chance to sit.  And guess what?  The horrible bleeding colour was gone and I didn't end up bleaching the colours surrounding it!!  Yey!  Two Christmas quilt salvaged and I am one happy but very resolved quilter ;)

So tell me?  Do you pre-wash or not pre-wash?


Kim West said...

I don't pre-wash. I hate the way fabrics behave when I don't. The only exception is when *I* hand dye the fabrics - and that is only because it is part of the process.

If there is any question that something might run, I will throw in 3 or 4 color catchers when I wash it.

I also only generally buy Moda Fabrics and I have not had them *knock wood* bleed. Not saying that they don't ever bleed; but I have been fortunate to not have them bleed (at least without the color catchers)

Vicki W said...

I prewash but that's mostly because I am very sensitive to the formaldehyde that is in the finish of the fabric. So I wash everything.

Julie Baird said...

Hi Katrina...

Thank you so much for posting on my website...I'm with 'ya on this one.

Prewash to shrink and clean and pretest to check for bleeding.

I've had the same problem as you, spilled water on a quilt and had the fabric bleed from that on a cute little penguin onto white.

So now, I always, at a minimum, prestest my fabric before it goes into a quilt.

My time's just to valuable to actually finish a quilt and then have the fabric bleed afterwards and wreck it!


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