A Brilliant Tip

Sometimes you run across something quite by serendipity, and it turns out to be brilliant.  I was browsing around youtube last week as I was curled up in my chair with a quilt waiting for the anesthetic to wear off from the dental work I had to have.  I hate that miserable feeling and it usually takes several hours to recover, but my teeth are important and I want to keep them as long as I can.  So, I was trying to distract myself with quilting videos.  I ran across a Kaye Wood video with a brilliant tip for washing fabric.  I tried this later in the week, and was amazed at the results.  I am a dedicated fabric washer, I like that it removes any sizing and preshrinks the fabrics.  But, it usually makes a mess both in strings and knotting from raveling (no, cutting the corners never works for me) and twisting up the fabric, plus it creates creasing in wrinkles that are difficult to iron out.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

The idea came from Mary Jane Holcomb in Denison, Texas.  Begin by opening up the fabric and refolding it.  You need the selvedge edges on the ends.  This is really important to be sure that the next steps don’t damage the fabric.  So, open it up and refold it in an accordion or fan-fold.  I went the extra step of putting the cut ends into a fold, like the picture above.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

Now, using clean safety pins, pin the edges in several places going through all the layers, every few inches.  I used the quilting style pins with the bend in them. One of the comments on the video complained of rust, but I think that person must have used pins with existing rust inside.  As long as your pins are clean or new, without rust, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

I used just three on each end, next time I think I’ll do five.  Both ends are pinned through all layers through the selvedge edges.  It is important that the pins are in the selvedge ends, if you don’t refold the fabric, the pins could make holes in the fabric.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

I washed the piece with a couple of towels to make sure it could stand up to the abuse.  It came out of the washer like this.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

Then it went into the dryer, still with the pins in place.  It came out like this.  No hard wrinkles, no twisting!!

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

Removing the pins, and laying out the fabric, it doesn’t need any pressing at all.  Amazing!  Mary Jane says she washes up to 12 yard pieces with no wrinkles, twisting, or raveling!!  Of course, you’d need larger safety pins for a thicker folded piece.

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

Do you pre-wash your fabric yardage?

Fabric Washing Tip ~ From My Carolina Home

41 thoughts on “A Brilliant Tip

  1. Rosemaryflower

    Dental work…. I have plenty of that. Probably more than most people
    I just got my first implant!!!!!
    Anyway, I am going to try this out. I do not know which frustrates me more, all of the threads and pulling, or fabric that is just not squared up before and or after washing. Today we are getting a new dishwasher, after a very long wait, this afternoon I am having my very first visit to a retina specialist. I have taken both of my parents to this retina specialist group, and my husband is a regular attendee for over 20 years, so….. it is a three hour appointment — for real! I will bring all of my toys but even the receptionist snickered when I told her of my plans. She said, you will not be able to do much after they give you the drops. oohhh, yeah.
    So, Maybe I will come home and wash fabric. I can pin it all up while the dishwasher people are here….. #grandideas
    Happy Monday

  2. Great tip for washing. I have a front loader and have been very successful with using the hand wash cycle, and then lightly drying in the dryer, and remove to my drying rack for the remaining drying. (Lucky I guess). I am militant about washing new yardage coming in the house. My scraps however, are mostly acquired from friends, so scrappy quilts get washed after binding with 3 or 4 color catchers! Great tip.

  3. Lesley Gilbert

    I watched this video a couple of years ago. I had smaller pieces so after pinning I then put them into a net washing bag. I also put smaller cut pieces, without pinning, into a net bag before washing – saves all those threads wrapping round anything else 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  4. I pre-wash sometimes but it depends on the fabric and if I think it will bleed. I get a lot of pre-cuts and it suggest that you do not pre-wash.

  5. sharon schipper

    I do sometimes, esp if I’m mixing new and old fabrics, and I used to religiously wash everything. But I like to pick up clearance pre-cuts so prewashing is out for everything but fat quarters and larger, they just go completely out of shape.

    I do wash my baby quilts before gifting, with a color catcher, and I’ve not had an issue.

  6. Hi Carole,
    What a GREAT tip!! All the raveling is the reason I do not pre-wash . . . but this may just make me start again. I’m going to PIN this so that I remember it (and others can see it)! ~smile~ Roseanne

  7. Loris Mills

    Great tip! I use to pre-wash all my fabric but have gotten away from it after using precuts. I wash the quilts after they are completed with a color grabber. But I will prewash again at times and I’m going to use this tip as I hate those strings and wads! Thanks for sharing the idea!

  8. Judy

    Great idea, Thank you! I generally pre-wash fabric because I do not like post-wash surprises, either in color or shape. And I will surely try this next time.

  9. Phyllis Smith

    Good morning Carole, What a great tip. I also had another thought, if you are going to wash a lot of fabric at the same time shouldn’t they all be of the same hue so if there is any bleeding of the dyes it wouldn’t ruin any of the lighter colors? Just a thought to consider.
    Phyllis Smith

  10. Linda B

    Sounds like a great idea, and I will certainly try it. I wash everything, even the precuts! Ha! Hate safety pins, but probably easier than whip stitching? A sewing friend serges all her cut edges, but I don’t have a serger. Thanks for passing along the tip. Carole, and hope major dental work is behind you for a while. We had a terrible dental year last year…two root canals & crowns for me and a root canal, crown, and an inplant and crown for DH…but better than the alternative! 54 degrees over night here in St Louis, and sun this morning. What a change!

  11. Deanna Bishop

    I have always done this. I don’t know if someone had told me or if I just figured it out for myself. I love the fact that the fabric isn’t all twisted up when you pull it out of the washer or the dryer. Some people run a zigzag stitch which to me is just a pain in the rumpus.
    I’m glad that you came across this tip Carole and that you posted it for everyone to see. I had told Brenda about doing this a long time ago.
    Well off to go do some sewing since I have to go home this afternoon. The both of us are working on a quilt for Project Linus. Im doing a girl one and she is doing the boy one.
    Hope you have a great day today Carole.

  12. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole; This is a great tip! Deanna showed me this after she had washed and dried a large yardage amount of fabric for a backing. I was astonished at how fabulous it all came out without wrinkles and shredding. So, just like you, I was hooked on this method of washing/drying fabrics from here on out. Sorry to hear about your dental issues, but understand wanting to save them for as long as possible. I am still trying to figure out my issues, but know it will all work out! Have a great day! If I miss commenting, my lap top crashed and will not be fixed until after the first of the month.

  13. Great tip, unfortunately I have some big pieces in the washer right now- should have read this first. My problem is, I can wash new yardage, BUT I get a great quantity of my fabric from donated scraps and washing them would be a logistical nightmare, so I don’t wash them. Have not figured out how to solve this. I am not handwashing 9 million scraps.

  14. Pam

    I have been fan folding and washing fabric 15+years. I pin parallel to one selvedge only. I have not watched the video.

  15. kathyinozarks

    this washing tip is brilliant! when I was allot of quilting yes I always washed the fabrics first. but with my hexagon quilt I decided not to for better cutting for me I do need help perhaps you help me I need to cut yardage of strips to make all the background hexies. I am afraid of how to do this so on grain-I have three 4 yard cuts and I need to start cutting off two yards of strips for each of the three thanks

  16. VickiT

    Wow! That’s an awesome tip. Thank you for sharing with us. I had never seen this before, but wish I had as it would have saved HOURS of my time. Yes, I do prewash my fabric; most as soon as they hit my back door. If I am purchasing fabrics locally, they are put into the washer almost the second I bring them into my house once they’re separated by colors as best as I can and put the color saver sheets in. They don’t get into my sewing room until they’re washed. I do not open fat quarter bundles to wash those however, and haven’t done any charm packs or smaller sized packs either.
    The reason I say this tip would have saved me hours is because after they are all washed and dried, I then ironed each to remove any wrinkles so those won’t be in the folded fabrics, and then folded each around my 6 x 24 inch ruler to make uniform sizes and folded them lengthwise into smaller squares. Doing it that way made it easier for me to store each into the containers I use. Removing the first few steps as I have been doing them, and using the tip you’ve given will be SO much faster.

    Thank you SO much.

  17. That is an awesome tip! I wash some of my fabrics and always dread having to then iron yards upon yards of wrinkly fabric before I can put it away.

  18. Donna Weeks

    What a great tip!!! Certainly will eliminate all the tangles,loose threads, as well as, cutting down on pressing time. Thanks for sharing.

  19. I only prewash yardage I use for backing tshirt quilts. My method was to sew the two raw edges together with a zigzag seam before washing (like a big folded tube of fabric). After wash/dry I would just cut off the seam; that means I waste about 1/2″ of fabric but I usually buy a little excess anyway. Thanks for this tip, I’ll try it next time!

  20. kim

    Carole~ Thanks for sharing the tip on washing new fabrics. I have washed for years 20+. After watching my grandmother make beautiful quilts in her favorite browns and reds, and then seeing those colors bleed, I vowed to always wash yardage before use. Then the fabrics are folded around comic book cardboards. It makes for a very uniform storage and display.

    Thanks for giving us such an informative and entertaining blog. I look forward to it…daily!

    Regards, Kim

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  22. Judyk

    Tried your method for washing some large pieces of fabric I wanted to starch (using it for tiny piecing). After washing I took the damp fabric and dipped it into diluted liquid starch then drip dried. Because of the drip drying method I had a few wrinkles, but if it had been dried in the dryer I am sure it would have been better. I will be using your method again.

  23. Marsha

    I don’t usually prewash but today I am prewashing flannel for a quilt back for my mom. She will be going into hospice at some future time this year and I wanted something cozy for her. I know flannel shrinks like mad and I knew I read about this on your blog. I prewashed flannel pieces last week-what a mess. Thank you for your tutorials, they are such a help.

  24. Janet E

    I have been washing my yardage this way for close to 30 years or more. Have washed 25 yard lengths and it always comes out looking great.

  25. I don’t prewash fabric for quilting, but I’ve just bought some linen/rayon fabric for garments and plan to wash that before sewing. I’m so glad you shared this just now!

  26. Jodi Burton

    Hello! I saw this fantastic tip at a quilt quilt meeting you spoke at. I just tried it out today and it didn’t work out for me so I am here looking it up to see what I have done wrong and can’t figure it out 😦 I washed several different fabric yardages in red hues in one load and there was no inter-tangling at least but I do have gobs of thread knots on the edges that were tucked away inside the fanfold prior to washing. I forgot to add the towel so I’m sure that has contributed to wrinkling but I’m more concerned with how I ended up with all the nests of strings and knots along the edges

    1. I don’t know. This method always works for me. Perhaps the fabric itself wasn’t woven as tightly as mine. Or if you are using a front loading washer, this will put more strain and friction on the fabric. I have a top loading machine.

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