Wednesday, July 4, 2012

no more Prewashing!

I'm over it. Done. Liberated!  Today I declare my independence from prewashing!  When fabric mail arrived earlier this week, it was all play and no work.  Just pictures and plans and making!

adorableness from Fabricworm!
Ric Rac Rabbits bundle from Fabricworm

Most of you don't prewash, so I imagine a collective "duh" may be buzzing around, but also perhaps a little "why now?"  Well, regardless, I have to tell you why.  Hehe.  That's just how I roll!

At a recent weekend sewing retreat, I observed many talented folks sewing and pressing and working away at their lovely projects.  It was a first "real life" sewing experience.  As I bounced between my projects and theirs, I couldn't deny the stark difference between the smooth, flawless allure of their fabrics and my prewashed/pressed/slightly wrinkly pieces.  No matter how well you press, using water, using starch, prewashed fabrics never look as nice as their original just-bought form.  That's because fabric manufacturers finish the fabrics with "sizing" chemicals and other concoctions to produce such flawless sheen.

Ric Rac Rabbits
Ric Rac Rabbits by Creative Thursday

I knew this. In fact, that's the biggest reason that I had been prewashing - to wash away those chemicals rather than handle them, breathe them, surround myself with them (you know, when I roll in my fabric stash.  What?  Don't you do that?).  I also prewashed to induce shrinking (so that finished items would remain the intended size) and to induce any color bleeding (better to ruin a batch of prewashing fabric than a finished quilt!).

Ric Rac Rabbits panel
Hold onto your Dreams panel from Fabricworm

Honestly, I still think these are all good reasons.  It didn't bother me to take the time to wash and press them.  And that's why it's pretty embarrassing to admit that the REAL reason why I'm done with prewashing is that I just want my projects to look prettier while I'm working on them.  Yeah, it's just that.  Shallow?  Agreed.  Reckless?  A little bit.

Here's when I'll still prewash:  making clothes (I really want them to fit), working with 100% linen in combination with quilting cottons (linen shrinks lots more), working with corduroy (I've had serious color bleeding) and working with any non-designer fabrics (it's the designer fabrics that are known to be so unlikely to bleed).

Summerlove from Canton Village
Summerlove from Canton Village Quilt Works

So, that means that most of my fabrics won't be prewashed any longer.  I'll be on the lookout for noticing any problems as I now will be combining prewashed quilting cottons with non-prewashed quilting cottons.  I've done this a lot when making do. Good Stitches quilts, since most of my circle mates don't prewash, and haven't observed any problems.  I'm optimistic about the transition!

Also, no more rolling in fabric for me.  Nosiree.  I'm going to have to behave now.

61 comments:

  1. I quit a while back too. I do sometimes prewash still (for example, when the lady cutting my fabric started eating chocolate covered peanuts-peanuts are a bad allergy risk in our family-while she was cutting. I washed that fabric). I don't mix washed and unwashed though. I haven't been brave enough yet.

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  2. Rachel, you have such a wonderful sense of humor. I just love reading your posts. I do not pre wash, either. My reason? laziness!!! pure and simple laziness.

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  3. I stopped prewashing a couple of years ago unless I am making clothes. Woo hoo! So liberating!!!

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  4. ha ha ha!! Welcome to the dark side...just kidding! I was wondering how long it would take you after all the talks about the pros and cons during the retreat.

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  5. Welcome to the dark side. lol.

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  6. lol - I just started prewashing :) Well, similar to you only in certain cases, clothes etc. However, a few tips I heard that seem to work are - use pinking shears on the cut edges of the fabric (this has really reduced the fraying)and also don't fully dry your fabric. If you take it out damp and dry iron it while it's damp - you still get a nice crisp non-wrinkly fabric after the ironing. I haven't had any wrinkliness and it works way better than ironing with steam or anything else.

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    1. I do try to take my fabrics out when they're not completely dry, but I get confused as to how dry to let them get, since part of the point is to induce shrinkage. I know they shrink in the dryer, so... But, even when I try to take them out somewhat damp, sometimes I forget. And then the wrinkles are SO set.

      Also, I prewash/dry in large lingerie bags to minimize fraying/tangling. That's effective on those accounts, but it does mean that the fabrics are bunched up while drying, which makes wrinkles too.

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  7. I have been sewing for over 10 years, and I still pre-wash all the fabrics. I know that it does not 'look' as good as straight from the bolt, but then, I like the crinkly look :D

    I liked your candid in sharing.... :)

    m.

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  8. I've never prewashed fabrics and use starch too...I guess those quilt police will really be after me one day!
    PS: Love those Ric Rac Rabbits!
    Toni
    www.lifeinapinkbunnysuit.com

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  9. Shout Color catchers work for grabbing up extra dye and I use it when I wash my quilts for the first time. If the color catcher comes out colored, I use it the next time I wash. I also enclose them when giving quilts away. I don't sell any so I don't have to worry about that, but Only one has required 3 times though the wash and it had a very saturated orange linen look quilting cotton. I had cut the selvage off so I have no idea where I got it, but even with the fading I loved it.

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  10. I only prewash clothing fabrics, deep red Q fabrics, cheap Q fabrics, and fabrics I'm going to incorporate into an embroidered Q. When I do prewash, I serge the non-selvage edges and it works great for detangling. I love to work with unwashed fabrics, but I will say my heart can barely take it when I put a finished Q in the washing machine for the first time. Even with the color catchers, there will come a day when an entire quilt will be ruined -- I know it. It's just a chance I prefer to take.

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  11. Ha, this is too funny! Of course I roll around in my stash, too!
    I stopped prewashing long ago-- I hated ironing everything before I could get to work. This might be something you already know, but whenever I wash a quilt for the first time, I add a shout color catcher sheet. I think this makes a big difference in catching any excess dye that is released in the wash.

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  12. I gave up prewashing years ago for most fabrics. One exception is flannel, which can shrink a lot. Other than that, the Shout color catcher sheets work great for washing completed projects. I like to consider how much water, energy, and time I save by only washing finished projects!

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    1. Ok, but just to be fair. The Shout color catches (such an effective product!) are likely not at all eco-friendly. Whatever chemicals make them work are probably not so nice to the environments in which they are manufactured. I'm not saying that I won't be using them; I'm just saying that I'm not convinced that it's eco-friendly to use them in lieu of prewashing. Something to think about!

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  13. Congrats--I was a pre-washer, too. I discovered I cut way more accurately if the fabrics weren't washed. So liberating, isn't it?

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  14. rachel, i remember being so surprised when reading of all of the comments in your comment section once from those who don't pre wash. could not believe it. i always, always, a l w a y s prewash. maybe it's because i am much more of a garment sew-er than a quilter. but some fabrics, like voile and flannel have pretty significant shrinkage, at least from the before and afters i've seen blogged in the past. i had never thought of doing it from the perspective of chemicals on fabrics, but after you mentioned it, it was just another reason why i'll always pre-wash. there will be no converting me! :)

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    1. Hold strong! It's a good way to go and I won't try to convert you =) This was mostly a confession.

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  15. I'm so happy about this. PHREEDUMB!!!!!!

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  16. Uh nuts, just washed a batch!
    I'm so glad I'm not alone with the after wash wrinkles!

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  17. Hahaha! Rolling in fabric that is too funny!
    I don't wash my fabrics I find it hard to get wrinkles out completely on washed items as opposed to ironing them after I get them in the mail. I iron them before using them as I like them to be flat =D

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  18. I was taught to pre-wash way back in home ec class. We had washers and dryers in the home ec room just for this purpose. But, the tangled stringy fabric and all the wrinkles got the better of me and I stopped.I cant even imagine washing jelly roll and charm squares. I really see no difference in good cottons. I just prewash flannel now or anything I know is going to shrink. Sides, my water bill prefers this method :)

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  19. Yes for no prewashing!!! I hear what you are saying about the look (yes, MUCH prettier), but my big thing is that it seems to be so much easier to sew with the fabric when it is crisper - especially since I like to do a lot of precision work. I'm not die-hard about it, though, and will prewash if I'm making clothes, using Jo-Anns fabrics, or using a TON of reds. And I'm always nervous when I was a quilt. I through in multiple color catchers and hold my breath until it comes out, but so far, it's been worth it!

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  20. You just got me in the pre washing band wagon and now you have hopped off.
    I'm going to keep pre washing because though I don't roll in my fabrics I usually wrap them around my head and dance around in front of the mirror. Don't ask me why it's just something I do.

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  21. I haven't pre-washed in probably 10 years. Not for quilts anyway, but I do if I'm making clothes. Oh or using flannel, which seems to shrink a heck of a lot more than regular cotton.

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  22. I prewash out of habit. However, I don't really wash. I soak the fabric in hot water with a small amount of soap for 20 minutes, spin out the water, rinse twice (soaking, no agitation), line dry, and then iron while still damp. This might be why I can't get anything finished! The fabric does keep its finish, though.

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  23. I read somewhere that if you store a fabric in your stash unwashed, it will deteriorate faster. I've been quilting 25 years and I do indeed have a number of fabrics that have been in my stash more than two decades. Is this really an issue, or a myth?

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  24. You make me laugh! I just recently posted about the pre washing dilemma. I have been back and forth on this so much lately, but I'm sick of my fabric getting shredded in the washer, so I have been "forgetting" to pre-wash lately :)

    http://pileofabric.com/post/941962-to-pre-wash-or-not-to-pre-wash

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  25. Hahahahaha! I always feel a little guilty (just a little) because I don't pre-wash! I love new fabric and I love to feel its smoothness and it looks so yummy. I also don't cut into straight away, I like to "keep" it for a little while. I also love that my scaps still feel "new" when I dive into them. As for rolling in the fabric, I say you should still do that maybe just use a 3 second rule, No damage to you from chemicals if its just 3 seconds!

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    1. Laughing here! I had forgotten about the 3 seconds rule!!!

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  26. I flipped over here to read any comments you might have gotten (I don't prewash but I don't make clothes)because I just knew everyone would comment on "red" being the reason they would prewash. When I took a My First Quilt Class our teacher said yellow was actually the worst culprit in bleeding! Go figure.

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  27. I also use the shout color catcher. I pre-wash if my quilt has batiks or large contrast in colors.

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  28. LOL! I pre-wash most of my fabric......the BOM with Eleanor Burns or our local quilt shop, I didn't.
    Red always makes me nervous.....especially in threads like pearl cotton or floss.

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  29. Welcome to the dark side! ☻ I only prewash fabric for clothes and flannel when used as a backing because it shrinks more than regular cotton.

    I wash quilts with Shout Color Catchers to catch any dyes that bleed, and there is usually no color in the catcher when done washing; very, very, very few fabrics these days bleed because of stable dyes. But the one that does bleed says EEEEEKKKK, what have I done? ☻

    ♥ Mrs.Hearts ♥

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  30. I only prewash if it is vintage, linen or thrifted. Welcome to the club :) It will be nice to have ya!

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  31. i like to pre-wash...mainly to get the chemicals out and because i think the fabric feels better (softer, less slippery) in my hands and i enjoy working with them more. i also buy a lot of fabric from a local salvage store (mardens, yo!) and goodness knows where it has been! so into the wash it goes. :)

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  32. I use a lot of donated fabrics, so I don't always know the age or quality of fabric, but I don't pre-wash any of it. I just use Color Catchers by Shout when I wash the quilt - anywhere from one to three, depending on how much I think the quilt will run. I've not had any problem with dyes bleeding onto a quilt since I started doing that. And I had one quilt made totally of red and white prints, several of which I know were vintage - no problems at all!! And not pre-washing makes the quilts so nice and crinkly after washing!

    PS I also don't prewash because I'm lazy and I HATE to iron!! ;-)

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    1. Oh no... this will make my quilts more crinkly. AAAAAAAAAaaaaaah. I feel cornered.

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  33. I prewash and probably always will. I have had "quality" quilting fabrics bleed - always wash with the Color Catcher sheets and have had some very darkly colored ones emerge from the washer, with the white part of fabrics still pretty and white.

    I had an interesting experience with fabric shrinkage recently. I sewed quilted fronts and backs for pillow covers I am making as a gift, using all prewashed/preshrunk fabrics, a mix of quilting cottons and Essex cotton/linen blend.

    I have 18" pillow forms. I decided to wash the heavily quilted fronts and backs for the pillow covers one more time before cutting to sew the cushion covers - and I am so glad I did. After quilting I cut my pieces 20.5" square using a square ruler of that size. When I took them out of the dryer, all of the squares had shrunk to 19" square! I still have a bit of fabric to trim off before creating the pillow covers, but not much.

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  34. Congrats on your liberation from prewashing! I rarely prewash and have never had a problem with shrinkage or the colors running. For me prewashing is one extra step getting in the way of starting a project. And you are right, you can never get the fabrics to look as good as they do straight from the bolt!

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  35. You are so cute! I loath ironing, so I haven't been tempted to pre-wash. I think that you just have to do what works for you- so don't feel badly about changing your mind!

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    1. Thanks, Sherron. I mostly feel rebellious - kind of a teenage vibe. LOL. Guess it's good to feel young!

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  36. I've been seeing a lot of people writing about th pros can cons of pre-washing lately. I've been taking it as a sign to quite the pre-washing thing! So I think I might be joining ya!

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  37. Oh you are so shallow and reckless!!!! I pre-washed because I was doing garments and I need to prewash that fabric, so I just kept it up - the reason I haven't stopped is because it'd be hard for me to keep track of what has or hasn't been washed yet (unless I make a giant quilt from my whole stash and start fresh! ;) )

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  38. Ha, I always prewash my clothing fabrics, but I only use cord and linen in bags and pouches, and if people want to wash them... well hell mend them as they say round here ;o)

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  39. Rolling in your fabric ~ teehee ~ too cute.

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  40. I'm too lazy to pre-wash most fabrics, but I will do it for any project where I'm mixing fabric types (Minky blankets are the worst), or for clothes. I also pre-wash ALL darks after almost ruining a finished art quilt when a dark blue batik ran into a yellow border. I just hate the ravely edges that come when you pre-wash (although it is an easy way to tell if they've been washed).

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  41. I'm still a new sewist so have been reading tons of the issue of prewashing since it is all still confusing to me. I gave up on prewashing quilting fabrics when I had a bit of a disaster with prewashing a charm pack - whoops! I was still worried about colors bleeding so always use the Shout Color Catchers the first time I wash a project. I discovered this product for knitting since some yarns tend to bleed a lot and I got a new washing machine which had a wool cycle so could do more in the machine. It is so satisfying to pull that sheet out of the wash covered in color!

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  42. This post makes me happy! I knew we could convert you! Yay for no pre-washing and for pretty, crisp WIPs :)

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  43. What Holly said. ;) In case you don't already use them, I highly recommend Shout Color Catchers when washing your lovely FOs. It's just a little insurance policy. Your new unwashed stash enhancements are awesome!

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  44. I've never pre-washed, and I've never noticed any negative results - knock on wood!! Mm those ric rac rabbits are giving me the spendies, better keep my purse out of sight today.

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  45. Well my comment being #52 would to continue to always prewash. Here's why:
    * all cotton does shrink some, it varies
    * dark colors are more suspect than light colored fabrics, so I have adjusted to a quick rinse under a running tap for the light ones and full wash without other light colors for the darker ones
    * I know what you mean, its harder to get that nice new look of cotton for sure, but it only took my one project of 'no washing' to remind me that pre-washing is best, think lovely crazy quilt and some red and purple colors not prewashed, then cry! It was my first crazy quilt and since has found a home in a third world country.
    * I'm not going to change now and I'm very happy with some real life crinkles and do eventually after multiple pressing throughout the whole project, all the minor crinkles do press out.
    By the way, fabric in Northern BC is selling in local shops for 12.50 to 25.00 per meter, its way too much money to loose in a color bleed that you won't know about until its crying time again! Love your new fabric!
    Thanks for the great discussion on this topic.
    Carli

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  46. I don't prewash except for the very bright pink flannel that I used recently. Didn't prewash on the first of the two quilts and it bled terribly. My white zig zags turned pink. I washed it before doing the second quilt...three times, on warm, with color catchers....and it still bled onto the white zig zags. Ugh...I won't be using that fabric again.

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  47. How come I have never thought of rolling around in my stash?? This sounds like so much fun :)

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  48. Yay, more validation for not prewashing!!

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  49. Hehehe! I've been thinking about the same thing! (not washing, not not rolling. ;)) So here's a (perhaps silly) question: Is it just the hot water in the wash that makes them shrink? I pre-wash all my fabric before adding it to my stash, but I don't think my machine even has a hot wash! :) So I've started to wonder if it's all a waste of time and if I should just add 'machine wash in cold' instructions to my tags.
    I'll be interested to hear your experience with mixing fabrics. I've been wondering the dangers of stopping suddenly (if shrinkage has occurred) Thanks!

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    1. And then, I just read your comment about drying in the dryer. It's drying that shrinks it? We don't really use dryers here in Oz. (The dark ages, I know, but much more environmentally friendly) And I don't even own one. So after I wash my fabric (in cold), I hang it on the clothes line. Does that mean I'm really, REALLY wasting my time? It also makes me a little scared about selling clothes...

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    2. Heat is essential to causing shrinkage. Specifically, heat, moisture and agitation in combination. Washing on hot might do it since you don't have a dryer.

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  50. heh, welcome to the club. i remember when i converted from prewasher to seat-of-the-pants non-pre-washer. it was such a glorious day in the studio. :o)

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  51. well I think there are some strong opinions about this subject but I haven't prewashed in years and years.....no problems.
    I just want to get to the sewing........forget all that washing ironing and refolding. :0) I say do what works for you but you'll always find folks that disagree with you no matter what.

    Happy Sewing

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  52. ha! i loved reading this post rachel! i hope you are happier this way and although it will be sad to not roll around in your fabric you will have so much more time to sew now that you aren't washing and ironing all of it before you start to cut and sew! xoxo

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