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Pre-Washing Quilt Squares

I have done a lot of sewing, crochet and embroidery, so I have experience with materials. I recently picked up a lot of quilt quarters at a yard sale for almost nothing. I've always wanted to try a quilt. I've picked out a fairly simple pattern and plan to modify it to my wants. Most of the quilting websites say that if you plan to hang the quilt, just use the materials as is, but if you plan to use the quilt, you should pre-shrink the squares, then iron them flat before doing any cutting.


I understand this and agree, but I've never pre-washed any thing as small as this and I worry about strings from ragged edges. Should I baste the edges first, or use pinking shears or is there a secret to pre-washing quilt squares? Or, should I actually pre-shrink them at all? I do plan to begin a quilting class at my local senior center, but I'd like to have my squares and appliques cut before I go. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Di from Wilsonville, OR

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September 2, 20080 found this helpful

You will want to wash and iron all the fabric before you create anything, if you want to be able to wash it without spoiling the finished quilt. If the fabric is not pre-washed, it can shrink at varying rates causing lumps and puckers all over your quilt.

The fabric will ravel a bit in the washer, and you can just cut any tangles apart afterwards. Remove the fabric from the washer before it is completely dry, as ironing it will be easier if it is still slightly damp.

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September 2, 20080 found this helpful


You can wash or not wash -up to you. If you don't wash before hand, your quilt will get a delightful crinkly look which I like, but others don't seem to like.

To reduce the frays you can try a few different things.

1. cut a small triangle off the corners of your fabrics.

2. use a mesh bag

3. wash on gentle

4. hang to dry on a clothesline or tumble until still damp, then press dry.

hope this helps.

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September 2, 20080 found this helpful

I have been quilting for more years than I care to tell. The best thing to do is to wash the fabric while it is still in yards, not made into squares. It is handy to go on and washthe fabric when you buy it then whenever you are ready to sew your fabric will be ready also.

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September 3, 20080 found this helpful

What I've done several times is sew the quilt top together, then serge (or zigzag) around all edges. Then wash.

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September 3, 20080 found this helpful

I'd recommend washing and drying in a hot dryer, while the fabric is still yardage. It's the hot drying that really will do the shrinking (even if it's harder to iron afterwards).

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September 3, 20080 found this helpful

Try washing the squares on a gentle cycle. This should help with the fraying, from the agitation during the wash cycle.

I agree with taking them out of the dryer slightly damp. Hand-press them down, letting them finish drying. Then, you can press them with an iron, if you like.

The problem with not washing them is, if you ever do wash the quilt, the pieces could shrink at different rates, kinda warping the quilt. You'd hate to have all your hard work be wasted, due to any uneven shrinkage.

If you wash them prior to quilting, those pieces that shrink too much, can be discarded or you can use them in another project.

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September 4, 20080 found this helpful

If you let all those pieces soak in the bathtub in hot water for a couple hours, would that do it?

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June 25, 20090 found this helpful

You can also put your squares in some water in a salad spinnner and then dry. It works.

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October 7, 20090 found this helpful

Di, I know this is late but I hope you see it. If you cut a small triangle off of each corner, the fabric will not unravel very much. I've been doing this for years. I don't remember where I heard it. Hope this helps.

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April 26, 20110 found this helpful

I haven't been horribly successful with cutting off the corners of the fabric to reduce the fraying (maybe too small of a piece?). When I used pinking shears it worked out much better. Just take your shears to the dryer so you can cut the threads off as you fold the fabric

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