Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Should You Pre-Wash Your Fabric?


Question:  Should you pre-wash your your fabric before you begin cutting and sewing?

Answer:  It's a personal choice.  Ask 20 quilters that question and half will say "Absolutely" and the other half will say "Nope"!  Some will have a fabric bleeding/shrinking horror story and others will have had no problems whatsoever.  It's a crapshoot.

I know that answer is a non-answer!  Here's my take on it.  Back in "the day" (i.e., 20 years ago), fabric manufacturing was much different.  The greige goods (or base cloth) was not as fine as it is today and the dyeing process itself left much to be desired.  The shrinkage rate on fabric was as much as 10-15%! Today's quilt-shop quality fabric is much different.  Shrinkage is down to 3-5%, and the finish process on the dyes is much more colorfast.  

Personally, I don't pre-wash my fabrics. I'm lazy.  I barely have time to wash my regular clothes, much less my fabrics!  I like the extra finish and sizing on unwashed fabrics for piecing, and I also like the shrinkage and wrinkling of the finished quilt when it's washed.  I hate the little strings that ball up on the cut edges of the fabric and I don't want to iron it all before I use it or store it.  In 20 years, I have had one little piece of fabric bleed, and it was in a scrap quilt where the fabric squares came from an exchange.  That particular quilt was so busy that I bet I'd have a hard time finding the problem fabric today!  However, I am talking about quilt-shop quality fabrics, not those found in discount and chain stores.  Prices on those fabrics are much less because the basic cloth is cheaper and the dye processes are not as complete. If you are going to use those types of fabrics (especially for an heirloom item), I would recommend that you wash them first.

However, the girls at Piece O' Cake Designs wash every fabric that comes into their studios.  Since they mainly hand-applique, they want to remove all the finish and sizing from their fabrics so that they will needleturn easier.

Many quilters only pre-wash red fabrics and hand dyed/batik fabrics.  These fabrics still have the potential to bleed dye.

I do recommend washing if the following conditions are true:
  • You are going to make clothing out of the fabric.  Nothing's worse than making the perfect garment that shrinks just enough to be uncomfortable!
  • You don't like the old-fashioned wrinkly-ness of a quilt after it's washed.
  • The fabric was hand-dyed (and this applies to some "solid" batiks).
  • (Maybe) If the fabric is an intense, dark color like red, navy or black.

If you are not sure if the dye is going to bleed or not, you can pretest it first.  You can moisten a q-tip and rub the fabric and see if there is dye transfer.  You can also moisten a square of white or muslin fabric, place it over the dyed fabric, and iron both until it's dry.  If there is dye transfer on the q-tip or white square, you'll want to pre-wash.

Okay.  You've decided to pre-wash.  What kind of detergent should you use?  We carry several kinds of gentle cleaners here in the store.  Most of my quilts that I am washing are made to be used and I just use the liquid detergent that I use on all my laundry.  We also carry a couple of products made specifically for fugitive dye situations.
The first product is Retayne.  This product is a dye fixative and is suggested for use with commercially-dyed fabrics (like those purchased in a quilt shop) before your fabric is cut out for a quilt or a garment.  It help RETAIN the color of the fabric.  You would use this when washing a single piece of yardage or small hunks of the same colors.


The second is Synthrapol.  This product is a surfactant, which in essence means that it removes and surrounds excess dye molecules and prevents them from re-settling on fabrics during the wash process.  It's used for washing hand-dyed fabrics, or finished quilts or garments with suspected bleeding fabrics.

To learn more about these two products and how to use them, read this.

So, the decision to wash or not wash is completely up to you.  I hope some of this information was helpful!

** Edited to add on 5/31:  NEVER put precuts (jelly rolls, layer cakes, or charm squares) through the washing machine if you are going to use a published pattern with them (or at least read the pattern carefully before washing to ensure that you will have enough fabric left)!  Most patterns utilize the complete precut, and washing will warp/shrink/fray your precut to render it unusable for that purpose.  If you are REALLY concerned about pre-shrinking a precut, Carrie Nelson of Miss Rosie's Quilts suggests ironing it/them with a hot steam iron to "preshrink" the cut.  Be beware of the result becoming slightly smaller than may be required for a particular pattern.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One Week, One Thing - May 28

Today is Memorial Day - please take a moment to say a prayer of thanks to all our servicemen and women who have sacrificed to make this country great!

I did get to sew a little bit this week.  Saturday I taught my Liberated Piecing class and decided to play with my scrap pile of solid fabrics, making this mini quilt. What do you think?
Yesterday, I cut out and began sewing on a sample for Market Review.  I think you're going to love this pattern - it uses Fat Quarters and easy strip piecing to make a quilt that looks way more complicated than it really is!  The photo shows the first set of strip-pieced panels, which are then subcut crosswise.  Shuffle and sew!
Lastly, I've been embriodering at night with the new technique I learned at Quilt Market called Twilling.  It's fun!
Pardon the lumpy shadows.  This photo was taken with the embroidery across my lap!
My goal this week is to at least finish the blue/green batik sample.  Who know what else I'll get into???

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Using Beeswax for Hand Sewing

Today's tidbit comes with a bit of a history lesson.  Back in the day, when our grandmothers gathered around the frame to spend the day quilting and gossiping, thread was just thread.  In order to get the thread to pull smoothly through all 3 layers, they would run it over a hunk of beeswax.  This gave the thread a nice, even coating of wax as well as strengthened the fibers just a bit.

Fast forward 50 years.  Threads made specifically for hand quilting come already treated with a coating to make it nice and smooth as it drags through the layers of a quilt.  But, what if you want to hand quilt using one of the newer, fashion threads?  Beeswax to the rescue!  (BTW - NEVER use thread marked "Quilting" in your sewing machine.  The factory coating can damage the moving parts.)
Using a larger quilting thread (like perle cotton or 12wt Aurifil or Sulky) is a big trend in the modern quilting movement.  I have used both and running the thread over the beeswax made it quilt up just fine.  I also use it when I am English Paper Piecing - I use a thinner, 60wt thread (so my stitches won't show), and I sometimes had a problem with it knotting or shredding.  Not any more! 

We carry a product in the store called "Mind Your Own Beeswax", and each package contains 1oz of pure beeswax molded into the cutest shapes!  You'd be surprised how just a little bit of beeswax on your thread can make your hand sewing and quilting more enjoyable.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One Week, One Thing - May 21

I literally just got out of the car returning from Kansas City and Quilt Market!

I did manage to quilt our Quilt Blocks sample on Monday evening before I left town.
It's a very simple and graphic quilt, and the best part is that the Flying Geese strips are PRINTED on the cloth!  There is no intricate piecing to this; just strips and rectangles!  We have kits just like this available in the store and online

I know I'll be sewing this week; it IS after-market, you know.  I just don't know what yet.  It'll take me a day or two to sort and decide.

How about you?  What did you accomplish this week?  Are you still trying to be deliberate with your time and sewing?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - How a Sewing Machine Works

Last week I talked about how important it is to perform simple maintenance on your sewing machine on a regular basis to keep it in top shape and running smooth.

But do you know how a sewing machine actually works?  I found this great video (from The Science Channel, of all places!) that explains the basics.




Pretty cool, huh?  Here's a link to an animated graphic that really shows how the needle and the hook work together.

There are three things I'd like to emphasize with this video.
  1. With a mechanism moving 14 times per second, it's imperative that you keep the bobbin case/race area clean of lint.  Severe lint buildup will interfere with the needle/hook interchange and prevent you from getting a nice, clean stitch.
  2. If you break a needle, make sure you check/clean your bobbin case carefully to remove any broken needle bits.  You don't want them to fall into your bobbin assembly.
  3. If you run over a pin at a fast enough speed, you can actually push the metal of the pin into the hook mechanism with the needle and knock it out of "time".  The needle will no longer be perfectly synchronized with the hook and you won't be able to pick up any stitches.  You're dead in the water.  Don't ask me how I know this.  And don't ask me how many times I've needed to learn this lesson.  The remedy for this is a visit to the sewing machine hospital and around $100.  The only upside to knocking your machine out of time is it forces you to go ahead and get that professional tune-up that you should be doing once a year.
I hope you find this information helpful, and give your sewing machine a big hug for working so hard for you!

Monday, May 14, 2012

One Week, One Thing - May 14

It was a slow sewing week for me - what with a birthday celebration (not mine!), AP porfolios and testing, and Mother's Day events in my world.

But I DID get the Vintage Rouge BOM sample quilted and bound.  It is now hanging proudly in the shop if anybody wants to come see it in person.
The colors are much more vibrant in person!

I also spent a little bit of my late evening times working on a multi-year English Paper Piecing project of mine.  It's totally scrappy and uses 1/2" hexagons.
It's built in "borders" of lights and darks, kind of like a Trip Around the World. 

We leave Wednesday for Kansas City and Spring Quilt Market.  I'm not sure if I'll get any time at the sewing machine before I leave, so I guess my goal for this coming week is to add a few more pieces to this project in our hotel room.

How about you?  Did you sew anything fun?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Tidbit - Sewing Machine Maintenance

Question:  How often do you change your sewing machine needle?
Answer:    "When it breaks" is not an acceptable answer!

Did you know that you should change your needle every 4-8 hours of sewing?  How often do you oil it?  What about cleaning out the thread lint?

There is a fabulous article from Threads Magazine that will walk you through basic preventive maintenance for your sewing machine.  Your sewing machine is your number one tool for sewing and quilting, and getting into the habit of a little TLC will keep it running in good shape for many years.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TQA May Days Event - Final Day!

It’s our final day (Day 8) of our May Days event at The Quilt Asylum!

Today’s Deal is:  Dritz Medium Sewing Basket
Regular price:  $20.00      Today’s Price:  $15.00

With all the notions and doodads that we quilters collect, nothing’s better than have a cute sewing basket to put them all in!  These baskets are great for sewing on the go, or for having one tidy place to keep our handwork projects.  We were able to make a special purchase of these cloth-covered baskets, which measure 11-1/2” x 6-3/4” x 6-3/4”.  We received an assortment of colors/fabrics; we’ll choose one for you!

This Daily Deal is only good for today, May 9, 2012.
  •    If you would like for us to put one of these items in your gift bag, you can send us an e-mail, call us at 972.562-2686, or order it online and we will hold it for you.  You must provide a credit card number with the first item you select – we will hold all your information and bill you once on the 10h.  If you choose to place your order online, you must complete the process and SUBMIT your order; don’t place it in the “Wish List”.  A “Wish List” is not sent to us and we cannot see what’s in your basket.  You may miss out on a deal by using that feature of our webstore.
  • You do not have to purchase the deal each day; you choose only those items you’d like to have, but each deal will ONLY be offered for one day.  Available quantities are limited, and if you snooze, you may lose!  

  • On May 10, you can come in and pick up all your goodies packaged in a gift bag!  Or better yet, send your family to pick it up so that you can be “surprised” by their thoughtful and useful gifts!  All online orders will be shipped on the 10th as well.
  • Our May Days promotion will run May 1 – 9, skipping Sunday the 6th.  There will be 8 great items offered, with a new item offered each day.

We hope you have enjoyed participating on our May Days event.  We wish all of our friends the happiest of Mother’s Days!

Susan

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Week, One Thing - May 8

Yeah, yeah, it's Tuesday - not Monday.  But I'm here this week reporting on my One Thing from last week.

Actually, I got a lot more done than that one thing. I went on a quilting retreat!!  First time in many years, and it was fun to get away from the "real world" for a couple of days and sew with some great friends.

My goal last week was to complete putting the Vintage Rouge BOM top together.  I was determined to do that before I left so that I could spend the weekend sewing on "want to do" instead of "need to do".
Got that accomplished by Thursday morning.

Over the weekend, I made my Block Swap blocks which are due this Friday.
I still have to bag and tag them, but that won't take long.

I put together my Drunkard's Path circle quilt from last month's Marti Michell club.  The fabrics are Covent Garden by Benartex with Bella Solid "American Blue" as the background.

I then set together my "Granny Square" blocks for a baby quilt due in August.  Fabrics are Backyard Baby by Michael Miller.

I also made a quilt top for my daughter's 17th birthday which is today, but it's a surprise so I can't show it here.  I hope she likes it!

Needless to say, the pile of tops needing quilting grew by 4 last week.  I guess I need to get busy!  The Vintage Rouge quilt is top priority; I intend to quilt and bind it this week.

How about you?  What did you get done?

TQA May Days Event - Day 7

It’s Day 7 of our May Days event at The Quilt Asylum!

Today’s Deal is:  Moda Muslin Mates Charm Pack
Regular price:  $10.00      Today’s Price:  $7.50

This charm pack contains (42) 5” charm squares of tone-on-tone fabrics in ivory, white and cream.  Think about how much faster you can be sewing if your background squares are already cut for you!  Great for Nickel Quilts or any other charm-based pattern!

This Daily Deal is only good for today, May 8, 2012.
  •    If you would like for us to put one of these items in your gift bag, you can send us an e-mail, call us at 972.562-2686, or order it online and we will hold it for you.  You must provide a credit card number with the first item you select – we will hold all your information and bill you once on the 10h.  If you choose to place your order online, you must complete the process and SUBMIT your order; don’t place it in the “Wish List”.  A “Wish List” is not sent to us and we cannot see what’s in your basket.  You may miss out on a deal by using that feature of our webstore.
  • You do not have to purchase the deal each day; you choose only those items you’d like to have, but each deal will ONLY be offered for one day.  Available quantities are limited, and if you snooze, you may lose!  

  • On May 10, you can come in and pick up all your goodies packaged in a gift bag!  Or better yet, send your family to pick it up so that you can be “surprised” by their thoughtful and useful gifts!  All online orders will be shipped on the 10th as well.
  • Our May Days promotion will run May 1 – 9, skipping Sunday the 6th.  There will be 8 great items offered, with a new item offered each day.

 
Until tomorrow’s deal-
Susan

Monday, May 7, 2012

TQA May Days Event - Day 6

It’s Day 6 of our May Days event at The Quilt Asylum!

Today’s Deal is:  Fiskars 8x8 Rotating Mat
Regular price:  $14.00      Today’s Price:  $10.50

I bought one of these rotating mats when I began using my Marti Michell templates.   Cutting the engineered corners off of the templates is a breeze by simply spinning the mat instead of trying to bend your arm at odd angles!   Its 8”x8” size also makes it handy for trimming up scraps for your scrap bin.

This Daily Deal is only good for today, May 7, 2012.
  •    If you would like for us to put one of these items in your gift bag, you can send us an e-mail, call us at 972.562-2686, or order it online and we will hold it for you.  You must provide a credit card number with the first item you select – we will hold all your information and bill you once on the 10h.  If you choose to place your order online, you must complete the process and SUBMIT your order; don’t place it in the “Wish List”.  A “Wish List” is not sent to us and we cannot see what’s in your basket.  You may miss out on a deal by using that feature of our webstore.
  • You do not have to purchase the deal each day; you choose only those items you’d like to have, but each deal will ONLY be offered for one day.  Available quantities are limited, and if you snooze, you may lose!  

  • On May 10, you can come in and pick up all your goodies packaged in a gift bag!  Or better yet, send your family to pick it up so that you can be “surprised” by their thoughtful and useful gifts!  All online orders will be shipped on the 10th as well.
  • Our May Days promotion will run May 1 – 9, skipping Sunday the 6th.  There will be 8 great items offered, with a new item offered each day.

 
Until tomorrow’s deal-
Susan

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