Friday, November 12, 2010

To Prewash or Not - An Easy Way to Dye Your Underwear

Last weekend I bought 1 & 3/4 yards of a dark red cotton print for a quilt I'm going to start next month. I really love the fabric and it works great with the other colors I'm using.

The first thing I did when I got it home was to toss it into the washer with warm water and detergent, but then I forgot to turn the agitator on, so it soaked all night. I've never had issues with red fabrics before so the next day I was very surprised to see a tub full of red water! I'll give this fabric another chance (wash cycle)with a cup of vinegar but I'm not sure I'll use it in my project. I just don't trust it not to rub onto my other fabrics. I am glad that I took the time to find out that it bleeds before I sewed it into a full-size quilt. So a word to the wise quilter--prewash, unless you like to live dangerously.

Last summer, I asked a busy quilt shop owner if the fabrics in her block-of-the month kits were pre-washed. She hesitated a minute before responding to my question, as if trying to understand what language I was speaking. I guess it was a stupid question but I've asked the same question several times since and been told by both quilters and shop owners that the better quality cotton fabrics have very little shrinkage so they don't really need to be prewashed. There are also some quilters who just like the vintage look that puckering gives a quilt after a wash or two.

If there's any shrinkage or color bleeding that's going to happen, I'd like it to PLEASE happen BEFORE I start sewing. How embarrassing would it be to gift a quilt or tablerunner and have it bleed in the recipient's wash? Think lots of pink underwear for an entire family!

You'll probably think I've got a compulsive disorder but I even prewash my scraps, sometimes by hand if the pieces are very small. If I can't wash it, I'll steam it with my iron a couple of times using the cotton setting and lots of steam. Yes, It's an extra time-consuming step when I'd rather be stitching but I think it's worth my "piece" of mind [pun intended] :)


  1. I prewash my fabrics too, though not to the extent that you do. And I don't prewash fat quarters. I do like the look of a quilt after it's made and washed and it's shrunk a bit. We have a product in our stores called Shout Color Catchers. It's with the laundry stain removers and comes in a box like the Bounce dryer sheets. You put one in the wash and it soaks up the stray bits of dye that come out of fabrics or clothing. You can wash white underwear with a red piece of fabric and the color catcher sheet will come out red and the underwear white. It's a miracle! When I buy red fabric I always wash it with 2 or 3 of those sheets just to be safe. blessings, marlene

  2. I'm right with you on the prewashing, even of fat quarters and BOM pieces, for the reasons you list as well as for another more compelling reason for me: I'm allergic to the sizing on the fabrics! Even the expensive ones. It takes about 5 minutes, flat, for my sinuses and lymph nodes to go painfully crazy if I have to sew on unwashed fabric. Kinda kills all the fun with the precuts that are flooding the industry.


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