The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
My Prewashing Odyssey:
It’s an ancient debate amongst quilters: Do you prewash your fabric?
I answer “yes” to that question now. But for the first seven years of my quilting life I answered “no,”,and this is a very unusual situation. Let’s examine why.
The First Rule of Prewashing states:
“If thou wilt prewash some of thine fabric, thou must prewash all of thine fabric, for prewashing is preshrinking, my sisters, and if you preshrink some of your fabric and not all of it, when you eventually wash your quilt you will cry and cry and cry and never stop crying because now the non-prewashed fabric has shrunk against the prewashed fabric and threads are stretched and everything is all weirdly puckered and [EXPLETIVE, EXPLETIVE]!!!”
Now that we have reminded ourselves of this rule, answer a “True or False” question:
Any self-respecting quilter who has been making quilts for seven years has a lot of fabric. True or False?
So armed with our givens (you have to prewash all your fabric if you prewash some of it, and a quilter seven years into quilting has tons of fabric) when I tell you that I wasn’t a prewasher and then I became a prewasher seven years in, we must logically conclude that I put my entire fabric stash through the laundry late last year.
You have concluded correctly. And you are very nice to look at me with concern and then turn to your friend and ask quietly, “Is Mary...okay?”
I’m okay now. But I wasn’t for awhile, and now I shall choose to share why I prewashed my entire fabric stash beginning in November of 2015. I will also share in Part II of this tale the many tips I have for prewashing (or not prewashing) our beloved quilt fabric.
I also use rattan baskets for larger cuts. Laundry baskets, too. Photo: Mary
In the spring of 2015, Cupid zapped me with an arrow. This is never good. It is always, always bad, because love messes up all your plans. Let’s call the fellow I met in Chicago “Kryptonite.” Kryptonite and I fell madly in love. Dang it!
When Kryptonite got a job at a fabulous startup in New York City a mere seven months after we fell madly in love, I was devastated. He had to go for it. But what of us? Call me jaded, if you wish, because I am jaded when it comes to long-distance relationships. I’ve done them. They’re the pits. And more often than not, they don’t work out.
So I decided to go with him. I’d always wanted to try living in New York City, after all. My older sister lives in the East Village. I can work from anyplace, as long as I have a laptop, a sewing machine, and an airport nearby. We decided to go for it, to have an adventure together. We’d give New York City a year and see if we liked it. I’d have to rent my condo to afford this adventure, but that didn’t seem so bad.
St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, NYC. It all looks so civilized. It’s not, really. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
Within weeks of posting, three sweet, studious, perfectly normal med students from the University of Chicago had signed a lease for my furnished apartment for one year. Remember, this was temporary — and no apartments in New York have room for a couch. They would use my kitchen, my couch, my back bedroom...
...and they would have to work around my fabric. There was no room in a tiny East Village apartment for all my fabric (there’s a lot of it) and there was no room left in my storage locker in Chicago. It was all contained in the cabinet in the front room (see picture) and folded neatly in the biggish closet.
The cupboard of fabric I left behind in the living room. It was originally used to hold dress patterns in a dry goods store! Photo: Mary
“Please don’t touch the fabric,” I said to my tenants. It felt like I was new mom leaving my newborn with a babysitter for the next year. “Just…just don’t use it or anything.”
The med students looked at me like, “Don’t worry, lady. None of us are going to take up quilting this year.” I mostly believed them.
But when I got home, I found that my fabric had indeed undergone a change. What kind of change? You’ll have to tune in next time to find out.