Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ASK DANA: Prewashing fabrics and overwhelmed with projects?

It's been a while since an Ask Dana post.  But I've been stockpiling your questions.  So here we go!
I bought some great flannels to make my daughter a chenille baby quilt. I dutifully machine washed them before starting. Now I'm reading blogs all over the place that say never pre-wash the fabrics and my heart is sinking.
Is this a total disaster or is there something I can do?
Thank you very much,

Don't fret!  Your blanket is going to be fabulous and wonderful and far from disaster.  In fact, it's typically best to pre-wash your fabrics before getting started with a project. But there are always exceptionsSo let's talk about it....

• The reason for pre-washing fabrics is simple.  Many fibers, such as cotton, linen, and wool will shrink when washed.  So if you're making something that may require washing down the road, it's best to pre-wash the fabric before sewing so your finished product doesn't shrink.  I've had this happen to me and it's totally frustrating. So I've learned to not be such an antsy pants and now I pre-wash most fabrics right when I get home from the fabric store.  This way the fabric will always be ready for me when I want to grab it and sew. 
• Some fabrics should not be pre-washed.  Yes. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, which is why it's good practice to check the fabric bolt for washing/care instructions.  Some silks and wools should not be washed; some fabrics should only be dry-cleaned; and some can be washed by not dried in a dryer.  Of course my book, Fabrics A to Z has info on that very subject, for every type of fabric! 
• Some projects don't require pre-washing.  I'm not really a "quilter" but I do know that part of the quilting charm is to wash your fabrics AFTER making the quilt.  Quilts are put together first by "piecing" the fabrics together, then they are "quilted" over the top with a decorative design.  Once this is done, washing and drying a quilt helps the fabrics shrink together a bit, giving it that good cozy aesthetic.  But there's no right or wrong answer here. If you're a person who likes to pre-wash fabrics before quilting, excellent!
I will say this though about the faux chenille baby blanket....what makes that blanket wonderful is all the washing.  The fabrics start to curl up and become softer and softer with time.  So if you've already washed your fabrics before sewing, then you've only gotten the ball rolling.  Have fun sewing!

How do you keep fabric edges from fraying excessively in the washing machine?

You mean, like this?
There are a few things you can do.
First, remember that fabrics will fray depending on how tightly they are woven.  Loosely woven fabrics like Linen and some cottons can fray a 1/2 inch or so (like the photo above).  But some cottons and polyesters with a tighter weave might only frizz out on the ends.  And knit fabrics won't fray at all.

But if you're worried about excessive fraying, try one of these methods before washing your fabric:
• Serge the raw edges of the fabric (you don't need to serge the selvage edges since they won't fray)
• Sew a zigzag stitch along the raw edges of the fabric
• Cut with raw edges with pinking shears (see photo below for before and after)
• Wash fabric in a pillowcase so it has less chance of churning around in the washing machine.
I love your "silky" burp cloths and have tried making a few myself, but I can't find a silky fabric that doesn't get weird spots on it when washed.  What fabric did you use? Does it require special washing?  I'm hoping to find something that won't look to awful after being tossed in the wash with everything else, who wants to have to wash their burp cloths (cute as they may be) separately?!

Thanks so much!

Silky fabrics can be tricky yet it's so darling to use for projects (like the ballet bag (hobo sack) and burp cloths below).  
All of the "silk" fabric that I use comes from standard shops like Joann, Hobby Lobby, etc.  It's made of polyester or nylon so it can be washed in the washing machine. But as you mentioned....yes, I've had that very thing happen before---"water spots" on the fabric.  I haven't noticed any rhyme or reason to it.  Some fabrics I've washed in the machine are fine; some have spots here or there.  The best answer is to test a small piece of fabric first by spraying it with water and ironing to see how it reacts.  Of course water spots don't always show up everywhere on fabric, so that might not be a true representation.   So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't have a definitive answer.  How's that?  But the good news is....if you're making burp cloths, they only require a small rectangle of fabric.  So if water spots have shown up on your fabric, you should still have enough to cut a small burp cloth. And at the end of the day, poly silk is cheap. You can always buy more!

A little over a year ago I was given my first sewing machine and stumbled into the world of homemade goodies and DIY.  However, I get so overwhelmed and lost at the immense amount of things out there that I feel I need to tackle!  Where should I start?
- Kaylee

Kaylee, I think you just summed up how many people feel about the amount of projects in blogland.  Everyday a new one pops up; everyday you feel like you want to (or should?) try it out.  Pinterest only complicates the matter by stockpiling your to-do list with endless projects and pretty pictures.
But here's the reality....we're not all doing all the projects we pin and dream about it.   There just isn't enough time in the day for anyone.  So if you're ready for a project but feel overwhelmed, start simple.  And start with something that actually sounds fun to you--not something that you feel you should do---or something that everyone is making so you should jump on the bandwagon.
Sewing and creating is about having fun.   And if your schedule is too packed to make something this month, no sweat!  You can make something when you have more time.  Of course once you start sewing, you may find it addicting and your creative fire will be fueled. Then you just can't help but keep working on projects.

If you need a place to start, here are 4 very simple projects:
The simple skirt.  This is an excellent project for any beginner (or advanced sewer too). They're fun, fast, and you might be able to make one in 15 minutes when you get the science of it down!
Sprinkle shirts These are easy to take along with you to the park.  If your only free time is when the kids run around then a portable project is great for everyone. They play; you have fun creative time.
Pillowcases.  Another sewing 101 project for anyone to enjoy.  Make pillowcases for your kids, for friends' birthdays, for a charity.
No Sew Flowers These don't even require a sewing machine!  Maybe your kids can get involved in the process too.
Lastly,  the best way to feel motivated is to hear good motivating stories. I love it when you guys email me about your sewing successes, and not because you've tried out my particular tutorial.  But because it's really fun to see the excitement bursting out of you.   It's cool to watch people discover new talents and creative thrills. 
So here's a little sewing motivation for the day:

Dana! I made 2 simple skirts last night and I cried for a good 10 minutes after I was all done!  You have no idea how much I yearn to sew and how much fear I have of even trying.

Last night, I waited until everyone went to bed and I worked from 11pm til 4am. Yes, it took me so long because I either stopped to read the manual on how to re-thread my machine, or run to the bathroom to cry and look in the mirror and tell myself I could do it....

But, I did it!  I am so proud!  Thank you.  My girls were so pleased that they wore their little skirts with no so straight stitching lines to school.

If Emma can do it, so can you!
Have fun sewing, crafting, cooking, taking care of kids, driving a carpool, working full-time, being a grandma, or doing whatever your specialty is today!

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