Continuing from last week’s post on color choice, I wanted to talk about how much fabric to buy and how to prepare it for your project.
How much do I buy?
Unless a pattern specifies that the fabric amounts listed include a little bit extra, I like to add about 10% to the amount I buy. If a pattern calls for 1/8 yard, I’ll buy 1/6 of a yard. If it calls for 1/4 yard, I’ll buy 3/8 yard. It never hurts to have a bit extra and you can always use the leftovers to build your stash!
I do this for several reasons.
- When squaring up the fabric, it’s possible to lose some of the length if the fabric was wound a bit wonky onto the bolt.
- Or if I decide to pre-wash my fabric, there could be shrinkage.
- Finally …. Cutting errors. We all have them!
By the way …. My patterns as written include a bit extra in the fabric requirements.
Pre-Wash Fabric or Not?
Now that you have your fabric, do you pre-wash or not? There are pros and cons to both. Many quilters swear by it. They wash all their fabric as soon as they get home from the fabric store. Others do not. It tends to be a personal choice for each quilter based on their experiences, the types of quilts they are making and how much time they have. I prefer not to pre-wash mine because I like the stability of fabric that’s not pre-washed. To me, it’s easier to cut. Also, I like to wash quilts after quilting to get the “antique” look.
However, pre-washing can alleviate fears of color transfer when you wash your finished quilt. Although many fabrics today do not bleed like those in the past, some quilters prefer to wash before cutting just to be safe. If you do not like how the fabric feels after the pre-washing, spray it with starch when ironing it. This will add stability for cutting.
Here are the pros and cons as I see them:
Some Pros to pre-washing:
• All the fabrics that are going to shrink will shrink so the finished quilt pattern is not ruined by fabrics shrinking differently.
• Certain fabrics might bleed, like purples and reds, and transfer to other parts of a quilt when the finished item is washed.
• Chemicals used in the processing of the fabric, perhaps an irritant to some quilters, are removed in pre-washing.
Some Cons to pre-washing:
• It takes time. The extra step of washing adds time to the prep when getting ready to make a quilt.
• It washes out the sizing. Some quilters like this sizing which tends to make the fabric easier to cut.
• Most of the quality fabrics today do not shrink much and the fabric dyes are much more stable to prevent bleeding.
• Fabric edges fray.
As an added protection, when I wash a large quilt that I have made, I use Shout® Color Catchers and I have experienced no color transfer. I always wash the quilt on the gentle cycle with cold water. I dry it on low for about 10 minutes and then lay it out flat or gently over a drying rack to finish drying.
If you decide to pre-wash fabric, you can prevent most of the fraying by cutting a corner off the fabric or cutting the non-selvedge edges with pinking shears.
I have washed fat-quarters and fat eights as well. To keep them from fraying, I use the techniques shown above. I also use lingerie laundry bags (the small net bags with a zipper) for these so they do not get all tangled together.
When I wash fabrics, I separate them by light and dark and use the gentle cycle with cold water. I use the Shout® Color Catchers here as well. I dry them only briefly and then hang the pieces on a drying rack to finish. I then fold them and put them away, saving the ironing for when I am ready to use them.
So, do you pre-wash? Or not? Share your experiences and your pros and cons. That’s the way we all learn!
**Winner of last week’s drawing: Nancy N!**
I pre-wash all fabrics. We bought rainbow colors in kona cotton for a quilt. I picked up some Shout color catchers. The reds bled and bled. After a while I called the quality control department at the company and asked why it was bleeding so bad… and that i was using color catchers. He said it should not bleed…and to use a piece of white kona with the reds. After the wash cycle the piece of white kona was white as snow. He explained the color catcher was catching fabric dust(?). I’ve continued using a small piece of white kona with all new fabrics.
Deanne A Eisenman says
Nancy N says
I need to pre-wash whenever possible, as those chemicals do trigger my asthma. If I am working with the smaller sized pre-cuts, I just keep my inhaler handy. I used to iron before putting away, but lately have just been folding into storage size and then press/iron before I use the pieces.
That’s a good point. I didn’t think about the chemicals in the fabric. I know someone personally who also had that reaction to unwashed bolts of fabric.
Brenda Prieksat says
Coming from a clothing construction background, I always prewashed my cotton fabrics (you don’t want to make a dress and then have it shrink) so it was natural for me to wash fabric when I started quilting. It is more work, but I find it calming to iron fabric while watching a movie.