3. How to sew a swimsuit.

2. How to Square a Back 

1. PreWash or Not?

Soaking in the sink
Since my Grassy Creek--Preparing For The Start post, I've fielded questions from one of my small groups about my fabric preparation. Some people purchase good quality cotton fabrics and sew the fabrics right from the bolt. Sometimes, I am that person; but, more often, I am not! There are generally at least two sides to an issue. In this case, one's answer is a matter of preference and not a matter of right or wrong.   

Why prewash? I tend to prewash my fabrics for two reasons. First: I want to know if that fabric is going to bleed when washed. If it is, I'm going to treat the fabric so that when the recipient washes the fabric, they don't get a surprise. Our city water has chlorine in it. I once pre washed a bunch of batik fabrics for a project. It took me several years to finish the project. When I washed the finished quilt, I was surprised that some of the batiks ran. The likely reason was that our water changed. When we first moved here, the water was untreated. Later, chlorine was added. The additional chlorine affected the colorfastness of the fabric. This made me think about water in other places where the gifted quilts would live. With quilts I give away, I tell the recipient washing instructions as well as include six Shout Color Catchers in the package. 

Second: I've learned over the years, some fabrics shrink more or less than others. For example, the gray fat eighths, that I purchased for Grassy Creek, shrank from one quarter to one half inch in width. Once I've washed the fabric, I dry it in a hot dryer. I do like the crinkly look of a quilt. I achieve that look using a batting that has some cotton in it. I like an 80 percent polyester and 20 percent cotton batting. The fabric doesn't shrink; the batting shrinks about three percent. For me, I'd rather not see some of the fabrics in the quilt more crinkly than others. Please note, some people preshrink their batting so the quilt won't have that crinkle look. Again, there is no right or wrong, rather preshrinking fabrics is a matter of preference!

Fabric liberally spritzed with starch
How do I prewash? I start the prewash in a white sink with hot tap water. I unfold the fabric and push it under the water. After 10 minutes, I check it. If there is color in the water, I drain the water, refill the hot water and add either Retayne or Synthrapol. Retayne fixes the dye to the fabric. I use that product on commercially printed fabric. Synthrapol is a special detergent that suspends the dye particles so they don't reattach to the fabric. I use Synthrapol on hand dyes and batiks. I follow the directions on the container. Once I've rinsed the fabrics, I refill the sink with hot water and let the fabric sit in the water for another 10 minutes. I continue to test and wash until the water is clear. If I still get bleeding after three "washings," I toss the fabric. Sometimes, the dye in the fabric isn't stable and I wouldn't want someone else having an unhappy experience! I dry the fabric in a hot dryer. This process removes the sizing from the fabric which makes the fabric soft or limp.

Why do I starch? Fabric from the bolt contains sizing. The manufacture adds the sizing to the fabric to aid in the weaving process. The coating helps the weft yarns withstand the tension of the weaving process and to reduce breakage of the yarns. That sizing or coating also gives the fabric body which makes it resist wrinkling as well as helps keep creases sharp when wearing a garment. Sizing is a resinous product made from polyester or vegetable sources or a combination of the two.

Starch is applied to collars and cuffs to stiffen them. Too much starch will result in the garment wrinkling during wear. Starch is made from a vegetable source. It is cheap and simple to use. I use starch to add back that "crispness" that was in the fabric originally. My cutting and stitching accuracy is better when I work with crisp fabrics.

Crisp uniform components
Why do I use liquid starch? It is cheap when compared to the spray sizing in the cans. I can easily adjust the amount of crispness I want in my fabric. It is easy to mix. I find a ratio of one part starch to two parts water provides the right amount of stiffening to the fabric. Sta-Flo is the brand that is most available to me. It is stocked at the local grocery store. 

I mix the starch in a spray bottle. I place the fabric in my shower and I spray the fabric until the starch has soaked all the fibers. I have found that a half yard of fabric fits perfectly in the shower. I will add layers of fabrics. Perhaps, I will process the red fabrics one day and orange fabrics the next. Once the fabrics are starched. I leave them for several hours or overnight to allow the fibers to soak up all the starch. Then, I hang the fabric to dry. Once dry, I iron the fabric. Now, the fabric is ready to be used in the project.

Does all of that effort help? Absolutely! I know when I wash the finished quilt, I have less chances of color bleeding in the quilt. I know that my quilt with crinkle equally as the batting shrinks. I have better cutting and sewing accuracy using the stiffened fabrics. My blocks tend to be right on the pattern size especially when a block has a lot of pieces in it.

Are there cons to this process other than time involved? This is the one question that I haven't received! Yes--because starch is a vegetable product, it is important to wash it out when the project is finished because bugs tend to be attracted to the starch. When bugs consume the starch, they will create holes in the fabric. I live in the northwest part of the United States. Bugs aren't such an issue here as they are in other parts of the U.S. or the world for that matter. 

In the end, do what works for you. If the process I've described here will zap the joy out of creating, don't do it. There are products and methods that do a pretty good job of removing the wayward dyes. Vicki Welsh has a wonderful post about what worked for her.

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