Saturday, April 16, 2016

Wash Your Fabrics, Dearies

We get asked, often, if shoppers should wash the fabrics before they use them. The answer is usually: yes. But it occurred to me that a picture is worth a thousand words so here are my thoughts on this subject. Oh, yeah.... and a few pictures, as well.

Back in the day when I first started quilting, the Rule of Thumb was to wash your fabrics, every one.

I diligently followed orders, tossing into the machine yardage as I arrived home, lest any one of them managed to infiltrate my stash. But the years marched on; as I became more lax and the stash grew out of control, another element entered the picture: Pre-Cuts.

What to do with those jelly strips, layer cakes and, yoikes! charm squares? How should we handle these delightful little gems? They'd all end up in shriveled shreds of their former glory!

There are ways to think about and deal with the dilemma and everyone I know has their way of doing it.

About four years ago, I started on a Judy Niemeyer pattern which was to be entirely made in Batiks. Most of them were from the Hoffman 1895 collection which are primarily solid in nature; rich drenched color which is so important in the JN look I was aiming towards. 

Alas, I did not wash the fabrics. In my haste to get started, I sliced up, (as per her instructions) and made 24 units... and then put the project aside. Life had other plans for me and now, years later, I dredge the project out and pick up where I left off.

And looking at the units I made and ALL THOSE chunks of batiks, I realized with a foreboding sense of doom doom doommmm, I didn't wash them! Oh What To Do, Indeed!

"WHY!!?? These are dyed and washed batiks! They get washed and washed during production, right?!" Yeah, you'd think so.... but  Red and Black batiks are the least stable and you should always expect some of the dyes to release from the fabric. And that's not all...

The first thing I did was to take all the uncut yardage and give them a good soaking in hot water, one by one, to see what would happen. I started with the reds and blacks  (I'm not going to bore you with the obvious results there) and worked my way through to the purples and blues and found some interesting results.

I did all the purples and set them aside. 

This is a brilliant blue batik and LOOK at the amount of purple dye releasing! I was shocked. When I dropped that fabric into the hot bath, I was NOT expecting anything to come out. 

 This is after the 2nd rinse.... still a lot of dye is releasing....

 This is after the THIRD!!!!!

And this is in a cool water 4th rinse. 

So, with that result, I went to place the wrung-out pieces into the spin cycle and as I picked them up, I noticed one of the purples had left a mark on the counter.... it was STILL releasing its dye! I put it back in hot water and THIS happened!

Ok, so are you with me? Are you thinking what I'm thinking right about now?

I'm going to have a BIG problem with all the units I have already made when I go to wash this quilt some time in the future. 

But all is NOT lost. There is a product out there called Color Catchers and they look like dryer sheets. You can find them, usually on the top shelf, with the fabric softeners at any grocery store. They will be your Best Friend in the laundry room if you have done what I have done.  

Place one of the sheets IN with the quilt when you wash it and MOST if not all of the releasing dyes will be captured in this sheet. I do NOT recommend using hot water to wash any quilt..... cool is fine. And if you prefer to wash your quilt in a bathtub, I would still toss in a Color Catcher.

Additionally, once the spin cycle is completed, quickly remove the quilt and open it up so that no fabric is pressing against another. This is the opportune time for colors to transfer to another part of your quilt, not just leach out into neighboring areas. So, you really want to avoid this.

Now, what about those pre-cuts? Well, you can leave them as they are, make your project and wash them with the Color Catchers. Or (and especially in the case of batiks, which really are drenched in dyes), you can soak them gently in a basin of hot water, rinse in cold water and carefully press the excess water out and let them air dry. I don't recommend using the tumble dryer.... you will not like the result. 

So, I learned a lesson (the hard way. As usual). It's back to washing the fabrics for me. I wish I had not gotten out of the habit.
Up-date: Yeah, I didn't have enough fabric to have the 'scope' I was wanting so I came home with more of the darks. These and all of the light batiks have now been washed, rinsed and dried. I have a few more, shall we say 'surprises'? to show you.
This is another dark blue fabric which has released more purple dyes. 

The take-away from this is: regardless the color your former tidy-whities might appear after an errant sock or tshirt got tossed in with them, it don't mean there was something in that load that looks like the color they all are now. Dyes are funny creatures.

And do NOT let your guard down on the lighter colors, either. Here are some oranges and yellow which let go of their dyes, big-time.

Before Water


(no effect!)

 Now, they might not effect dark colors in future quilts, but they sure would spread their love onto any whites they might find themselves rubbing up against.

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