The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
My Prewashing Odyssey:
[Note: If you are just joining us, make sure to read Part I of my harrowing — but ultimately redemptive — prewashing tale.]
I must back up just a little.
New York was an unqualified disaster. Kryptonite and I were not ready for such a huge move — literally and figuratively. I realized there were systemic problems in
Our apartment was 800 square feet and cost $3,000 a month. From the moment I got there, I had a low-level resentment of my new home because of this. Wouldn’t you? And Kryptonite’s job wasn’t nearly as fabulous as advertised. I was teaching quilting and lecturing on the road at least twice a month, and getting in and out of New York City is
I was miserable. It was wrong. I broke up with Kryptonite. It was very sad. And I had to get out of New York, but I couldn’t go home to Chicago, yet: there were medical students living in my house, remember?
A friend suggested I move to a city, any city, while I waited to go home. I moved to Washington, D.C. and I had a wonderful time there. I even thought about staying for good, but no. Chicago is my home and I moved back to my condo—and there was my fabric, waiting for me.
At home in Chicago, finally, writing under a quilt. Photo: Ebony LoveThe medical students took good care of my home. They didn’t touch the fabric. But when I opened my closet and my drawers, I felt sad. I am not a woo-woo kind of gal, but there was some kind of psychic disconnect going on. So much had happened since I last saw all my beautiful material. I was different. It was different. I needed to reconnect with
I decided to wash it. All of it.
You see, I had always secretly been jealous of you prewashers. There are always a couple of prewashers in a class; when they would take out their fabrics, I loved to touch them. Prewashed fabric has the loveliest nap. Prewashed fabric is softer, fuzzier in a good way, than non-prewashed fabric. It sticks to a design wall better. There is not the tiniest concern of dye bleed when you eventually wash your quilt.
But I wasn’t a prewasher and the only way to be one is to be one from the start. Otherwise, you’d have to spend two months washing your entire stash and why would you go to all that trouble unless you had to?
Fabric detail from my Small Wonders fabric line — prewashed, of course. Photo: Mary Fons.
I had to.
Basket after basket, IKEA bag after IKEA bag, I hauled hundreds and hundreds of yards up to the laundry room of my building. That made a big difference. There are six washers and six dryers on the 20th floor; I made use of them over the course of a couple months, working in batches. (If I had just one washer/dryer, I doubt any of this would’ve been possible.)
Here’s what I learned, prewashing my entire fabric stash:
- Some fabric manufacturers’ fabrics bled more than others.
- Cutting a dog-ear-sized snip off each corner of a piece of fabric eliminates most “thread hell.”
- Do not, under any circumstances, try to wash a jelly roll. Ever.
- You can get a lot of fabric into a washing machine; quilter’s cotton is not denim, or sweatpants, or terrycloth, after all.
- Sitting in your favorite chair, folding fabric straight from the dryer, thinking about your life and all the quilts you want to make is a very healing thing to do.
Would I do it again? It’s a good question. I felt really, really happy when I was done. Think ecstatic. But I’d do it again. Look, I know my fabrics intimately; as expected, I love the way they feel. I got rid of anything I wasn’t in love with, so every fabric is my favorite — no “wonder fabric” (which refers to fabric so unattractive you wonder what you were thinking when you bought it.)
Could’ve been worse…Woman with Eval washing machines, 1960. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
But the real reason I’d do it again is because life is short and love doesn’t always last, but fabric and quilts — and sitting quietly with both — are forever.