No, this isn’t another post about that scant 1/4″ seam allowance. This is about sizing and starch.
Back in the day… we used to pre-wash everything. You were considered foolish, reckless and a real risk-taker if you didn’t. Then fabric got better – much better. And we didn’t have the time… okay, we became impatient. We wanted to sew now. Then pre-cuts were invented and there was no turning back. No, you’re a rebel if you do pre-wash. Or a throwback… one of those.
I can’t remember the last time I pre-washed any fabric. I do occasionally test some fabrics – reds, purples and blacks – if I know I’m going to be using a lot of white or cream. Maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never had a fabric bleed or run. I also take precautions when I wash the quilts – I always use Color Catcher sheets and I don’t let the wet quilt sit in the washer. As soon as the wash cycle is done, it’s into the dryer.
But I still have to worry about shrinkage because I press with steam. A lot of it.
Yes. I know. Steam is the enemy. At least that’s what some quilters will tell you, and there is some validity to what they’re saying. As quilters, steam can be our best friend, and our worst enemy. It can press a block flat and smooth, and it can stretch it out of shape and distort it. It can help you improve the accuracy of your piecing, or it can fight you every step of the way… especially if your cut, stitched fabric decides to shrink after it’s been pieced.
So I size or starch my fabric ahead of time to pre-shrink the fabric. Whether I press it dry or allow it to dry and then steam-press it smooth, the fabric is shrinking. The smooth, crisp finish of the sized fabric also allows me to cut four layers of fabric easily, and it gives my pieced blocks the same look. In short – it works for me.
As for what to use, there are a lot of options. Some are fancy, some are basic, and they all work equally well. It’s simply a matter of what you like best and what works best for you. I like Mary Ellen’s Best Press – a lot. As much as I loved some of the scents, I used the Unscented. But I keep going back to regular starch and regular sizing, the kind I can get at the grocery store. Part of the reason is convenience and part of the reason is cost. I use a lot of it. I also use the Light Body Sizing or the Regular Starch.
On a side note, I have tried homemade starch, and Sta-Flo Starch Concentrate. Both work beautifully and some folks swear by it. I’ve also tried soaking the fabric, and putting it in a bag until I’m ready to iron it. I even tried putting the fabric in the freezer after someone suggested that. It worked but I prefer regular starch and sizing.
A huge part of the reason is the spray grip I heard about from Lisa Bongean of Primitive Gatherings. She’s a genius – she’s also a rock-star sizer.
Obviously, Rust-o-leum and Krylon created these for cans of spray paint. But it fits on the can and it works like a charm. They’re easily found most anywhere that sells spray paint and they cost about $3.00.
They’re a bit different in how they fit on the can but they work the same way. Beautifully.
And they let you turn the bathtub in the spare bathroom into a laundry room – drying room.
Gardenvale Layer Cake squares drying on the line… sort of.
This has been pressed and is getting ready to be made into half-triangle squares this week at retreat.
(If you follow @modafabrics on Instagram, you might see what the fabric in the other picture looks like later this week…)