WARNING: This post is long and somewhat whiney. Now you HAVE been warned so proceed at your own discretion!
I’ll admit… I DEFINITELY land on the “pre-wash” side of the fabric fence. I am adamant about it, and I make no apologies for it. Those of you that feel just as strongly about not washing, I am not throwing stones at you, I am just sharing my experiences. For those of you that are “on the fence”, perhaps this will help you decide.
I LOVE fabric… all colors, patterns, designs. Even BEFORE I began quilting, DH’s Mom told me, “Always pre-wash your fabrics.” Now why did she say that?
She had made a beautiful (and very colorful) maple leaf quilt to commemorate a trip to Canada. Please consider that this was back around 1990 and quilt shops were few and far between. Her only fabric source was Wal-Mart, and I am not knocking that… she used what she had access to. She purchased very rich, vibrant colors for the leaves…. red, orange, purple, green… they are BEAUTIFUL! The quilt was made and folded, then placed on a table in the guest bedroom, right under the window air conditioner unit. (I can see your mind is racing ahead of me, and you can imagine what happened next .)
Yep… the AC was turned on, and as they sometimes do, water condensation dripped onto the beautiful quilt. This resulted in colors running onto the white background fabric.
She was VERY upset that the beautiful hand-quilted treasure was now streaked with colors. THAT is why she gave me the pre-wash advice. (DH and I now have the quilt, and I debated over trying to wash it and get the excess dyes out, but opted to leave it as it is… I am so afraid of totally ruining the quilt Mrs. E. made!)
As a rule, when I purchase fabric I set it on top of the washing machine so it will be pre-washed before even bringing it into the house. Although I KNOW to do it, sometimes it just is not practical. FOR INSTANCE: jelly rolls. I LOVE using them… they make such fun, quick quilting projects without having to break the bank to purchase a variety of fabrics. I have considered several ways I might could prewash and preshrink them, but when it gets down to it there is no way to keep those cut edges from fraying away, and preshrinking would mean your pieces are the wrong size for patterns intended to be used for jelly rolls. This CAN AND WILL jump up and bite you on the … ummm … rear end!
The special Christmas surprise quilt I made for my Mom and Dad has done just that. It was made from a jelly roll, so the fabrics were not prewashed, and the border fabric also was not prewashed so they would shrink at the same rate.
I was really concerned about the red fabrics, but THEY are not the problem children… it is the fabrics with the black backgrounds.
I used a rather light lining fabric because that was all I had, and a Christmas Eve deadline was looming so there was no time for getting another lining fabric. (Remember we are in the boonies, and the nearest quilt shop that carries lining fabrics is about 1 1/2 hours away.)
I gave them the quilt Christmas Eve, then brought it back home to finish the hand-hemming, wash the quilt (because I had used the blue fabric marker to mark centers on blocks), and put a label on it. That was done, and as I was sewing the label on the back I noticed these “shadows” on the lining. The black dyes ran through to the lining side where the quilting was. It’s not REAL bad, but I notice it in lots of places on the quilt, not to mention the outer border (all one particular black background fabric). BUMMER!
So I am now wrestling with whether to try washing again in synthropol to get the runs out. It would probably take several washings in HOT water, and is a very scary thing to me. Mom probably won’t notice or care that there are shadows of color on the lining, but it sure does bug me.
I guess the reason this REALLY bugs me is because I took the time to tie thread tails on this quilt, which I only do on show quilts. But since this was special for my Mom and Dad I decided to do it because those backtracks REALLY showed up on the light colored lining fabric. (Lesson learned again… choose your lining carefully!)
OH WELL… there is not a life involved here, and so in the big picture of things, WHY AM I WHINING? ANOTHER lesson learned: I will proceed VERY cautiously with pre-cut fabrics. I think I will just cut my own jelly rolls from my already-prewashed fabrics! But then I will miss out on all the oh-so-wonderful new fabrics. (Side-bar: another quilt I did with a brown, green, and blue jelly roll did NOT have color runs.)
Now… off to quilt on Gussie Fay. I have not turned her on since I brought her home, so today is the day!
And if you have any advice on whether to try and get the color runs out, I would love to hear it!!