Throughout the process I learned a lot about sewing and quilting and I thought I would share some of them with you. Please keep in mind I have never taken formal classes but I have been given help and advice from Ann, my future mother-in-law, Ginny, my fiancé’s aunt, and other quilters.
Lesson 1: -wash your fabric. I recently skipped this process when I used jelly rolls for a specific quilt where I knew I would be using all of the fabric but I don't recommend it for your "stash" fabric. I think most people would agree that you should either -wash all of your fabrics or none of them but there are some definite benefits in washing them ahead of time.
First, there is sizing in your fabric as a result of the manufacturing process. This substance can drastically change the way your fabric feels and even how it looks. It can also be smelly and cause damage to your iron. Some people even claim that ironing the sizing has had adverse health effects on them. I have noticed that the sizing seems to oxidize on my iron a bit and smells but so far I haven’t felt sick from keeping it in the fabric.
Second, your fabric may be 45" on the bolt but may shrink down considerably after it is washed. It's better for it to shrink down before you cut rather than after because once you start sewing your fabrics together they may shrink differently and cause your creation to warp or pucker.
Third, most high quality manufacturers follow processes to minimize bleeding but it still happens. I highly recommend getting a dye-grabbing cloth in the wash. makes a wash-cloth good for 30 washes and Shout makes a disposable cloth that looks like a dryer sheet that is good for 1-3 washes (I am not sure if it says this on the box but that was my experience). You'll be shocked at how much these bad boys catch!
Are there drawbacks? Definitely. For example, the more raw edges on your fabric, the more likely the fabric will fray in the wash therefore the best time to wash your fabric is before you start cutting it. Also, when the fabric frays it can lead to a THREADED MESS! Get it? My blog name? The loose threads can tangle and knot and it’s sometimes difficult to get all of your fabrics straightened out. This can be avoided by hand washing but I don’t usually have time or the patience. If you do use your washing machine and you do get a threaded mess, try to use scissors to cut the tangled threads instead of your hands. It can be very painful if the threads cut your skin (trust me) and pulling on the threads can cause your fabric to get pinched along the edges. Another option to avoid the threads getting tangled together is to put the fabrics in a cloth laundry bag that ties at the top much like you would for delicate lingerie.
Lesson 2: Dry your fabrics until they are almost dry but still a little damp and then iron them. A little bit of moisture in your fabric will help you keep your fabrics from wrinkling before you iron them dry. Your iron should be on the setting best suited for the fiber content of your fabric. Since I mostly use 100% cotton, mine is usually on the highest or second highest setting.
Lesson 3: “Measure twice, cut once.” This is something Ann told me as I was first learning how to measure and cut fabric for Leslie’s quilt. I learned how to cut fabric using a cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. Some people may not have access to these tools right away but they are a really good investment and will help you keep your edges crisp and cut quickly. For you quilters/sewers out there, what are your favorite brands for cutting mats, rulers, and rotary cutters and why?
Lesson 4: Don’t try to cut too many layers at once. The larger rotary cutters are pretty popular now because they allow you to cut through several layers of fabric in one pass. I think they are great but they lose their effectiveness as the layers of fabric increase. The fabric shifts under the ruler and you end up with edges that curve or angle in or out.
Lesson 5: Don’t stress! This is probably the most important lesson I learned. Sewing and crafting are fun! I definitely made my fair share of mistakes as I was cutting my fabric but thankfully Ann was there to remind me that everyone makes mistakes while cutting and that’s . Instead of getting upset, I saved the fabric for later use. One of these days I will show you what I made with my mistakes!
More to come!