Thursday, April 23, 2020

How to Wash Your Quilt?

I was asked yesterday how do I wash my quilts, after an instagram post of quilts on my washing line. I thought about my response and I realised that the answer went beyond just the how and included my view of quilts generally.  Which has led me to write here.

Let's start right from the beginning.  I don't pre-wash my fabrics before making a quilt.  I am at heart a lazy person and I don't need the extra work and I hate the fraying at the edges.  The only times I pre-wash is if I don't know the origins/quality of the fabric or if I am making a garment that is fitted. (I don't want my perfectly fitted skirt to feel like I have eaten all the pies after I have washed it for the first time, so it is better to get any shrinkage out of the way first!)

A lot of the quilts I make have been gifted and before I gift a quilt I wash it.  There are a few reasons for this - one I like the recipient to know it has already been washed so they don't worry about that first wash, two I love the softening and wrinkly look a quilt gets after the first wash and thirdly I want to make sure if there are any issues eg colours running I have dealt with them.  Yep that's right, although I don't think colours will run, I prepare for and manage for the worst case scenario.

For this first time wash I use the washing machine on a normal warm cycle with a delicate washing liquid (you know the kind you use for your woollens), colour catchers and fabric softener.  Colour catchers can be bought at the supermarket and they do what the name suggests, they catch any colours that may run from a quilt.  For a small quilt I will use 1 or 2 and a larger quilt 3 or 4.  I use fabric softener because I like the smell, not necessarily because I buy into all the advertising.  I remove the quilt immediately from the washing machine after it is finished - you don't want it to sit wet.  I dry the quilt in the dryer on a warm setting.

My reasons for doing this are I want my quilt to be used by the recipient.  I don't want them to be afraid to use it or wash it.  I don't expect them to treat it like a family heirloom that only comes out once in a while.  And I know everyday use may include some abuse - especially if it is a baby quilt!  I would much rather that a quilt is used (and abused) with the understanding that if it were to die, I will make them another one, rather than have it sit in a cupboard.

The quilt I made for my Dad in 2015 returned home to me almost 2 years ago.  It has been washed and dried in the big commercial machines at the Rest Home he lived in, with very little care for sorting of colours in the wash.  It led a hard life and was used a lot.  It is buttery soft, the colours are faded, but it has character of its own.  It did its job and still has snuggles left in it.

The quilts that were on my line yesterday sit on the sofas in our lounge.  One of our cats, Marco only has 3 legs and he does not jump onto the sofa, he grapples his way up using his front paws (and claws) to get onto the sofa.  The quilts see their fair share of cat fur,  biscuit crumbs and the occasional bit of chocolate.  They get washed in just a normal wash, with normal washing powder and fabric softener. 

The quilt on our bed for winter is my liberty quilt - the reason is the dark background hides the muddy paw prints better.  And yes Marco grapples his way onto the bed too.  

I love making quilts.  I love fabrics and the process of choosing fabrics and my next project.  I love the look and feel of quilts.  But they have a purpose and they need to be used and (occasionally abused) to fulfil their purpose.  That means that they need to be washed easily to get rid of the muddy paw prints and biscuit crumbs (Mr S stop feeding Marco milk arrowroot biscuits on the sofa!) to fit into my lifestyle.  I can always make another one.

P.S. the quilts on the washing line - the plus quilt is 6 years old and the log cabin is quite a bit older and they are used every day and are still good for a lot more use and cookie crumbs!