Friday, June 16, 2017

Wash and Roll

My readers ask the best questions. Mary emailed me and asked why a quilter would wash a quilt after finishing it, other than to remove pet hair and dander.

Let me count the ways.

I always wash ALL my fabric as soon as I get it home. I never bring it into the studio unless it has been washed.

Why? When fabric is printed, the manufacturers use a lot of ink to fully saturate the the fabric and give it very intense color. Sometimes the excess dye can rub off right on your hands. (It's called "crocking.") Other times, simply wetting it can cause the excess dye to lift off. That's what happened on a lunch date with a boyfriend over 20 years ago. We were having lunch at the park, and sitting on a new quilt I had made. His water bottle fell over, and some of the dye from the fabric on the quilt stained his khaki pants. I had not washed the fabric before I made the quilt.

That was the last time I ever did that.

When I wash my new fabric, I always use detergent (a scent free detergent) and I always use warm water. A saleslady at a quilt shop was horrified when I mentioned it. "Lynne, this fabric is COLD water wash only."  The understanding was if I washed it in warm water, it would shrink.  Well, yes.

If I am going to wash a quilt in warm water when it's finished I damn well don't want the quilt to shrink any further, so the fabric has to be washed before I cut into it.  Well, wetting the fabric just won't do it. The detergent also removes the "sizing" that manufacturers use the keep the fabric stiff and give the surface a shiny finish, and that takes water that is at least warm.

I don't wash the "Art Quilts," the ones that are designed to hang on walls or get exhibited in quilt shows. They need to stay pristine looking. So I have to be careful when I handle them, how I pack and store them and where I display them.

After I finish a quilt, I bring it outside for "beauty shots." I have hung quilts in trees, thrown them on the ground in the woods, draped quilts over rocks and stone walkways, public pieces of sculpture, fences of all types, draped them over flowers in gardens and spread them out in driveways. I've even photographed quilts in the snow.

This is the "Grand Prismatic" quilt.

I've removed ticks from quilts, so YEAH, when I'm done with the photo shoot, the quilt goes directly into the washing machine, with detergent AND with Shout Color Catchers. (I usually use two.) And then they go in the dryer. Low heat.

Check this out:

These are the color catchers that were in the washing machine when I washed the "Grand Prismatic" quilt. That's a lot of dye floating around from fabric that was already washed. Good reason to use the color catchers.

I don't bother with the color catchers when I wash the fabric after I buy it. I separate my lights from my darks, and anything I think will bleed I wash separately.

Like Reds. I made this all red quilt several years ago, and although I washed all the red fabrics before I used them in the quilt, I had to wash the quilt FIVE times before color catchers came out without any excess dye on them. But seriously. It was a RED quilt, front and back. And it was a couch quilt, and it lives on MY couch, so I'm fine with that. And those five times I washed the quilt? They were about six months apart, or whenever I felt the quilt needed it (My cat Millie likes to nap on it.)

Sometimes you just have to get a grip and realize there are bigger problems in life worth worrying about.

Mary asked, "what do you do with the occasional fabric that bleeds like a turnip?" Actually, I've never had that problem, because I only use top quality fabrics (and there is one nationwide sewing shop that sells cheap imitations that I avoid), but if I had a fabric that bled like a turnip, I'd throw it out.

I wash my couch and bed quilts before they go to their new homes because a quilt gets all lovely, soft and crinkly after it is washed, and it is much more likely to get used.

When I give my quilts away, I include washing instructions. It's always this: "Machine wash, warm water, normal cycle. Tumble dry, low, remove promptly. Enjoy."

Because, seriously, if I make you a quilt, I want you to use it. Use it, love it, feel the love I put into it, let it keep you warm, sleep on or under it. It's OK if the dog or the cats sleep on it. That's what washing machines are for. Don't feel guilty. Bring it to the fireworks, bring it to the beach. Throw it in the wash. Wear it out.

I'll make you another one.

***By the way, Mary's quilt guild in Wolfeboro NH makes quilts for patients at the Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and their families who stay at David's House (think Ronald McDonald House). Patients often have compromised immune systems so quilts they receive are washed repeatedly and they need to be as colorfast as possible; be soft and cuddly; sturdily made so they can withstand the repeated laundering and rough handling. And of course, they should provide comfort, which is what quilts do.

It's why we make them, and give them away.


Nancy J said...

" I'll make you another one" those are the best words ever. I was all my batiks before I use them, and reds, separately every time. Love your post today, full of cheeriness and happiness, and just to see the photo of two sleeping one with comfort on top and one with cuddliness under, beautiful.

The Selvage Fairy said...

I had a theory that one reason finished quilts get scrunchy when washed is that the fabric was pre-shrunk (before sewing), but the batting shrunk after the quilt was made. So I took a piece of Warm and Natural batting and threw it in the wash by itself. Sure enough, it did shrink, but it did not turn into the matted mess I feared. So, I know if I make a 90x90 quilt, it will stay 90x90. This sort of thing is important to compulsives like me.

Pat said...

Great post! I do not pre wash my fabrics but I DO wash all my quilts before they are gifted and I include the same instructions along with a box of Color Catchers. My sister recently sent me a photo of a very light yellow quilt I had made with a very big black dog taking a nap on it. Made me laugh. :-)

Quiltdivajulie said...

Excellent post - I agree on all points (including the turnip fabric comments). Love seeing the quilts as illustrations.

Bobbi said...

What about precuts? If you wash a jelly roll, you would end up with 2" of fabric not 2 1/2".

I must admit I no longer wash fabrics - I've noticed the quality of fabrics and dyes has improved over the last 20 years or so - but if I made a red/white quilt, I probably would wash the reds as they are notorious still for running.

But very curious about your use of precuts.

Millie said...

Bobbi, I never, ever, ever buy or use precuts.

Nancypatt said...

I stumbled onto your blog one day and have read it everyday since. You are truly an inspiration! You have so much experience/information and are so good about sharing it. I enjoy your sense of humor. You are bright (obviously) and write well. I trust what you have to say. I also enjoy your
snippets about your family. Your baby granddaughter is beautiful as is your DIL. I am new to quilting. I wish I had not purchased so many
pre-cuts before I knew anything at all but now have quite a lot invested in them. (I hadn't found you at that point). I have so much to learn still. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you. Thank you. Nancy Walker, Alameda, California.

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Great post today, full of extremely valuable information! Maybe the best thing to remember is your wise advice to "use the quilt, wear it out, you'll make another". It's why we make quilts after all. Hugs to you, my friend~

stitchinpenny said...

I tell people I make quilts for that their quilt will be loved into rags. There are not many gifts that last as long as a quilt and few offer the tangible love and comfort. I am making a quilt for a family that has 3 children now. They have a quilt for each one (almost not mailed yet). They love them and look forward to receiving them. They were such a hit, I made her sister's 2 babies quilts also. But they will fail with intense love and that will warm my heart.

QuiltSwissy said...

Thanks for this post. Having just had to wash all my quilt and every piece of fabric (over and over again)that was saved because of the flood, I was surprised that my stuff was continuing to bleed on those color catchers. Big question is.....what do you do with all those great color catchers that turn these marvelous colors? I have a stack of them that go into my art quilts from time to time!

Susan ACEVEDO said...

Hi...thanks for the inspiration..2 questions..what is the pattern name for the red quilt? And would you share the name of the national retailer selling imitation fabric
I just love your taking fabric and pushing the construction and inspires me greatly
Thanks again

Aunt Deb said...

I admit, I do NOT wash my fabric. But, I do include instructions for washing the quilts, and include a colour catcher as well.
Have never had a problem, and I do source my material from good quality places. Or at least I think I do - please share the name of the national retailer selling less than first quality fabric?
And as for replacing a worn quilt, yes, that means it was loved!

mpv61 said...

I wash my fabric before I use it, sometimes multiple times, with a Color Catcher. I usually wash it in cold, except reds I'll do in warm to "get the extra color out faster." I didn't know that it took warm water to get the sizing out. Fabric will now be washed in warm to start off.

I wash the quilt after it's made, except the two art quilts I've done. I include a label with washing instructions -- "Machine wash on cold with a Shout Color Catcher. Tumble dry low." Sometimes I include a box of Color Catchers.