Hello all, Mary Ellen here.
Yesterday I worked on a new project for a class I have coming up. I decided that I needed a different background fabric than I had purchased at the outset. In the quilt shop when I originally chose the fabric combination, it looked great. However after making all of my “block A’s”, I got out the fabrics to be used in “block B” and discovered that my chosen background fabric did not want to stay in the background–not enough contrast at all. So I headed to one of our local quilt shops and bought a new option. Because of a time crunch I decided not to pre-wash it and jumped right to the cutting. This new fabric has a very subtle directional pattern, so the persnickety quilter in me decided I needed to straighten the fabric (all 4.5 yards of it!). No matter how many times I played with it I was able to either fold the fabric on the correct grain, OR align the straightened ends–but not both. This happens for a variety of reasons-often having to do with the fabric having been stretched off grain at the factory. Sometimes it’s a crooked screen printing, but that occurs more often with fabric purchased at those big box stores, not so often with quilt shop fabric. When the cause of the problem is wonky stretching as the fabric is wound onto bolts at the factory, it can often be corrected by pre-washing. That fabric that was so annoying last evening is now in the washing machine. Didn’t save myself any time at all by trying to skip this step last night.
Here is a short video showing fabric being wound onto bolts at the Hoffman Fabric company. At the bottom of the screen you can see the fabric on a roll as it comes off the weaving loom. The machine is folding the fabric in half, and winding it onto a bolt as we see it in the quilt shop. There are several points in this process where a tiny error in fabric alignment will result in a “wonky” stretch in the fabric we buy. Check out the process here.
Are you a pre-washer of your fabric purchases? I’ve been burned a few times–even with expensive quilt shop fabrics, so I seldom skip that step. Last night I was reminded of why it doesn’t pay for me!