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Woven Fabrics | The Great Pre-Wash Debate

At Sublime Stitchery we've got a few Woven Fabric choices and we're about to have a whole lot more as Fableism Fabrics start to arrive in store. Woven fabrics have an undeniable allure. The intricate patterns, rich textures, and durability make them popular for quilting, garments and sewing projects. However, to keep your woven fabric stash, works-in-progress (WIPs) and finished projects looking their best, it's essential to understand the art of woven fabric care. This leads us straight into the great pre-wash debate in the world of fabric! 🧵 I used to be firmly on Team "Skip the Pre-Wash," but lately, I've been making exceptions, especially for those tricky loose-weave wovens that are like mischievous little fabric gremlins. 🙈

Some fabric houses call them wovens, others - cross-weaves, or yarn-dyed wovens, but no matter what you call them, they have a shrinkage and colour run factor that can make your heart sink when you see your quilt post-wash. Fabrics houses like Robert Kaufman, Ruby Star Society, Fableism and even the ever-so-classy Essex Linen, are all prone to a bit of shrinkage and dye leakage.

With these fabrics, I've jumped on the pre-wash bandwagon and played it safe. You don't want a quilt that goes from king-sized to crib-sized in the wash, right? Or bleeds those vibrant colours onto your pristine white background fabric.

Whether you plan to hand wash and dry or use the greatest machines ever created, here's how I'm dealing with the shrinkage shenanigans and bleeding debacle:

Pattern Planning: Like actors in a blockbuster movie — wovens will steal the show if you let them. So, when you pick your quilt pattern, factor in their tendency to shrink - add a little extra to your fabric requirements!

Fabric Testing: Before pre-washing the entire fabric piece, cut a small swatch and test it for colourfastness. Dampen the swatch, press it between two white paper towels and check for any colour transfer. If the colours bleed, you'll need to take extra precautions when washing the fabric - I use colour catches (and lots of them) purchased from my local supermarket.

Stitch It Up: Secure those frisky edges with an overlocker or zigzag stitch before tossing them into your washing machine. It's like giving them a safety net. You could even get away with a good ol' straight stitch.

Bag It Up: If using a washing machine get yourself some fancy laundry bags! They're like the velvet ropes of fabric care. Separate your fabric pieces before popping them into individual laundry bags and voila, no more fabric spaghetti!

Cold Water and Gentle Cycle: Use cold or tepid water on a gentle machine cycle to prevent unnecessary bleeding and wear and tear on the fabric. Choose a mild detergent (like SOAK) specifically designed for delicate fabrics. Avoid using harsh chemicals that can weaken the fabric's fibres.

Sink or Swim: Consider giving your wovens a spa day in the sink with a gentle hand wash. This is my go-to: A tepid (erring on the side of cold) water soak with SOAK!

Air Drying Alternatives: While I think it's best to air dry woven fabrics, (preferably away from direct sunlight) you could also use a tumble dryer on a medium or low heat setting for a short time cycle. The heat and agitation of a dryer can cause additional unnecessary shrinkage and damage through agitation. Another alternative is to lay your fabrics flat on a clean towel to dry. I don't allow my fabrics to dry completely. I like to bring them inside just before they are dry and immediately give them a warm iron (and sometimes a spritz of starch) before cutting. Planning is everything!

Ironing and Steaming: When ironing woven fabrics, use a low heat setting. High heat can scorch delicate fibres and leave permanent marks.

If your completed project - be it a garment or zippered pouch - has wrinkles, consider using a garment steamer instead of an iron. Steam can help relax the fibres without the risk of burning.

Starch: For projects large and small I like to starch. Any old starch will do, you don't have to get all fancy. Stabilising your fabrics with starch before cutting and help them to be so much more manageable - especially for smaller piecing projects.

Storage: Before storing woven fabric items or fabrics for your stash, make sure they are clean and free from any stains. Stains left untreated can set over time and become more challenging to remove. Give them a quick shake before folding. (Anyone else singing Shake It Out now?)

Fold, Don't Hang: Woven fabrics should be folded and stored flat, in a cool, dry place. Avoid hanging them for extended periods, as this can cause stretching and distortion. Think: strange shoulder humps in your favourite me-made tunic with a sad-face hem line. Eek!

So there you have it, my tips and tricks on how to best care for and prepare your Woven Fabrics, ensuring you get the best results in your quilting and sewing projects. Regular quilting cotton might not get this special treatment from me any time soon but when it comes to wovens, I'm rolling out the bleed-proof and shrink-proof red carpet. 🧵✨


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