Should you wash fabrics before use?

 

Washing red fabrics.JPG

I’m just back from one of our twice-a-year quilting weekends away, which was thoroughly enjoyable. The journey to our quilting destination always involves visits to quilt shops en route and I usually buy fat quarters and scrap bags to stock up the ‘baskets of colour’ kept on the shelves behind my work table. There are currently 17 in all: red (2 baskets), blue (2 baskets), yellow, green (2 baskets), orange, purple/mauve, pink, peach, grey, black, white/cream, brown/fawn, multi-coloured (so useful having this as a separate category!) and a small basket for novelty prints of any colour.

Purple and mauve colour basket

In these baskets are pieces from varying in side from small scraps up to fat quarters, so that when I am designing and making, I can just reach for them, in the same way that I would for a tube of watercolour paint. I know many quilters talk about their ‘stash’, but it’s not a word I use. That speaks to me of keeping something you don’t use, whereas these baskets are in constant use and so I refer to these baskets of fabric as my ‘stock’. Larger pieces of fabric live in a small cupboard about five feet from my work-table (my studio is small) and once again, I go to it constantly.

Many quilters like to use new fabric without washing, and certainly in some class situations, this is the only option. However, if I am using the fabrics myself I always wash them, usually by hand, first, as I want to see how the fabrics behave. Lights and darks are washed separately and the red fabrics are done on their own, as red is a loose dye, as you can see from the photo at the top of the post. These particular red fabrics took about six rinses after washing until the water was completely clear. It’s important to remove excess dye at this stage. Imagine if you had a red and cream quilt and only found out with the first wash that the red was bleeding into all the cream areas. Actually, I did design a quilt like that (click here to see the post about it) and yes, I did wash every fabric first, including the backing fabric which was solid red.

winter-roses-quilt, designed and made by Amanda Ogden

I also like to look out for fabric from charity shops and recently picked up some vintage Laura Ashley fabric (dated 1981 along the selvedge!). This definitely needed washing and very many rinses as it poured dye from the light mustard-coloured background.

fabric from Laura Ashley.JPG

Everything is hung out to dry naturally. I wouldn’t put small pieces in a tumble dryer – it would put too much stress on the fabric. There is a good range of different drying racks in my household to accommodate all manner of textile items:

Hanging red fabrics out to dry.JPG

I mentioned buying a ‘lucky bag’ in a recent post about Bristol (click here if you missed it). And I couldn’t resist buying another one at ‘Fat Quarters’ quilt shop in Blackhall Mill. Even the very small ‘lucky bag’ items fit on this rack – and what a lovely range of prospects they suggest…

Hanging lucky bag pieces out to dry.JPG