Washing Fabric – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about why we pre-wash our quilt fabric. Today I’m going to show you how I do it. If you look at the photo from yesterday’s post, you’ll see a square gallon jug. That is a jug of Orvus Paste (aka Quilt Soap). It’s a sheep shampoo and I buy mine at Tractor Supply. I’ve used it for years and have been very happy with it. I found an informatinve article at Hart Cottage Quilts.

I use warm water. It doesn’t take much Orvus per washer load. I wet my hand in the washer water and dip it into the jar and scoop a bit out. In reading that article I find I should be wearing gloves. Oh well.

As the washer is filling, I grab my fabric with wet hands. It’s a real hassle to unfold fabric and get it in the washer with dry hands. Wet hands can grasp the fabric better and that saves a lot of time and energy. As my hands get dry, I stick them back in the washer water – with the lid up, my washer won’t agitate. NEVER stick you hands in a moving washer!!!! (See note below.)

Once the washer is done, I pull the fabric out of the washer and put it in the dryer. I cut the tangle of threads free from the fabric. I view this as a cost of doing business – it’s just part of the process. You could get creative and do something with these threads. I know I never will so I throw them away. I’ve tried all sorts of tricks to cut down on the threads and none have worked for me. I’m too lazy to serge or re-cut the edges with a wavy cutter. But that’s me – one of those tricks might work for you.

I dry on warm. Once the fabric is dry I pull it out and fold it. I don’t iron fabric until I’m ready to use it in a quilt.

Now – about that note… When my brother was 4 (I was 8), he had to have surgery. We lived in Oklahoma City and he went to Children’s Hospital there that is affiliated with the University of Oklahoma medical center. I’ll never forget my mom telling me about a much bigger kid (he was 18 I think) who was on the same floor with my brother. He had been doing laundry and he reached into a spinning washer to pull something out. Instead, he lost an arm and they were doing their best to re-attach it. I don’t think any washers then had the switch that is supposed to stop the spinning when the lid is up.

I decided to look to see if I could find a reference to this incident online and I didn’t find one – but I did find a link to this story dated March 25 of this year! It has happened again. And there are links to even more. So, let me stress this again – NEVER reach into a moving washing machine!

I really thought, until today, that all washers came with the safety switch that stopped all spinning when the lid was up. Be aware, as I am now, that they don’t all come with that safety feature.

Washing Fabric – Part 1

Linda and I always pre-wash our fabric – meaning that we wash it before we cut it up and use it in a quilt. Always. We wash in a washer and dry in a dryer.

I spend time in every class telling students why I wash my fabric and it seems like a good topic for the blog. So, why wash?

  1. Cotton shrinks when washed and dried. Not all cottons shrink at the same rate. For example, a batik shrinks less than most cotton off the bolt. If you construct a quilt with batiks and other fabrics, and then wash, your quilt can draw up in some areas and not in others. This often looks bad. You should also be aware that not all regular printed cottons shrink at the same rate either.
  2. Cotton can bleed. It is our experience that this is mostly due to water chemistry. Fabric washed in one place may bleed and it may not in other places. We think it’s much better to know if there’s a issue before you sew a problem fabric into your quilt. FYI – use Synthrapol, Retayne, or the Color Catchers made by Shout to control bleeding.
  3. In our opinion, pre-washed cotton behaves better. It tends to fray less because it has been pre-shrunk. It has a better hand. We have each used starch in the distant past but don’t any more because we haven’t noticed a need to use it.
  4. Pre-washing removes the chemicals and finishes from the fabric. Because I know quilters who can’t touch unwashed fabric, I asked my dermatologist about it. He said that, yes, these chemicals can cause problems for some people. He also said that some of these chemicals out-gas and that the fumes (that don’t bother most people) can be a problem. It’s also important to remember that most of our fabric is imported and that shipping containers are treated with insecticides and some of that residue could end up on your fabric.

So that answers the “why” question. Tomorrow I’ll answer the “how” question.

Becky’s new quilt…

We don’t often (or ever) post photos of our quilts in progress. It usually takes 1 year from the time we finish a quilt to the time when the book is at the quilt shop. It is frustrating to people to have to wait so long for a pattern. But blogs are all about sharing what’s going on now. So, while I can’t show you the whole quilt, I can show you selected parts of what I’m working on now.

I am using these pieces from Jinny Beyer’s Palette Collection. The greens laying on the diagonal are the block and border backgrounds. I’m piecing them. I’ll show you a pieced block background later next week.

Quilter’s often want to use exactly the fabrics that we used when they are making their quilts. This collection and these colors should still be available in 2 years – and even longer. Here’s a question for you: If I added a few prints or dots just for fun, and those fabrics were not available in 2 years, would you be unhappy? My thought is that there is always a fun substitute and finding those substitutes is a great way to make a quilt your own. Is that what you think too?

I really would like to know what you all think so please leave comments.

A new iron….

I am an iron killer. I don’t know how I do it, but irons just don’t last at my house. It probably has something to do with the fact that I tend to knock them off the board and onto the floor every now and then. Seriously, don’t you think an iron should be able to take that sort of abuse?

I bought a new iron yesterday to replace my now way-to-leaky older iron. Because I do tend to kill irons, I don’t spend a lot of money on them. I found a Shark Professional model for under $50.

So, I read the instructions (I really did) and plugged it in. I turned it to its highest heat setting and started ironing. But it wasn’t gliding the way it should… It took me a bit to actually look at the sole plate and to my horror I saw a sticker that I should have removed before ironing. Where was that in the instructions!? I let it cool and scraped off what I could (see photo).

I tried heating it back up and using an iron cleaner to remove the remaining goo – that didn’t work. I let it cool again and finally got it clean with Goo-Gone. I can now say that it’s a very nice iron! It heats up quickly, is heavy, glides well, and the steam works. Oh happy day!


Last fall we planted one lonely broccoli plant just to see what it would do. It’s been making broccoli! Since I had no idea what broccoli ‘in the wild’ looks like I thought that some of you might not know either.

Ours is wispier than I thought it would be, probably because we aren’t watering it. But we have been eating what the plant produces. Next year we’re going to plant more.

Little Man at dinner…

The organizers of the Pigeon Forge Quiltfest took us to dinner one night at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe. The actually make things from clay in an adjoining shop. We all we given a hand-thrown Quiltfest mug. That’s Little Man holding my mug!
Lila, one of the event coordinators, was nice enough to have her picture made with Little Man.