Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shot Cottons #2 How to Work With These Fabrics-Washing

Shot cottons have been around for yonks but it's only in the past 2-3 years that quiltmakers have discovered them. I'd been hoarding scraps of shot cottons for a long time, fascinated by their dual-color nature and had worked them into several quilts. When StudioE and I collaborated in bringing out the Peppered Cottons line, I realized that maybe people who hadn't worked with these sorts of fabrics might use a little how-to and some tips. In the last blog posting (August 29) I talked about what shot cottons are. This post is about how to work with them and it starts with washing and drying.  Here goes-

On the bolt Peppered Cottons. 
All shot cottons, after being woven, go through a finishing process where they are washed, dryed, and calendared. The term Calendaring means a heat-plus-pressing process which imparts a subtle sheen and a soft hand to the cotton fabric. The final step for the finished goods is to go through a doubling machine where the fabric is folded and wound tightly into bolts. Calendaring disappears after washing. This means that the feel of the fabrics will change. Note: art quilters, who do not need to wash their fabrics, can use shot cottons straight from the bolt. But if the quiltmaker plans a bed-size quilt that might eventually need to be washed, I'd suggest pre-washing Peppered Cottons before starting
the project. 

The photo here was taken by quilt artist Didi Salvatierra--thank you Didi. If you'd like to follow Didi's use of Peppered Cottons, check back with her website from time to time

Then again, there's a whole school of quiltmaking that says, "Make the quilt, machine-quilt it, and then-maybe-wash it.The whole thing wrinkles up nicely." 
Your choice.

How to Wash. 
Keeping the fabric in its doubled-form, slightly trim a little angled ‘ear’ from both selvedge edges of the length of fabric. Unfold the fabric. If washing small lengths (definition of small length: anything less than a 1/2 yard cut), put the shot cotton pieces into a lingerie bag or knotted pillow case. Give the fabric room to move—don't tie the bag with a tight knot. You can wash the bag/pillowcase of pieces with other washing you're doing. Last time I did fifteen 1/2 yard cuts of Peppered Cottons divided into two bags and tossed them in with some bath towels. My everyday washing preference is to wash in warm water and rinse in cold and I use the same sort of soap or detergent that might be used to eventually clean a quilt. Use the 'Delicate' setting and wash in a full tub of water--that's why those towels were useful!

If washing multiple pieces, sort into several bags by colors. Toss in a Color Catcher ™  with the load (not inside the bag). FYI: this step is to capture any excess dye particles. Peppered Cottons are color-fast! After washing but before drying, take the fabrics out of the bags and ‘fluff.’ They might be wound around each other a bit at this time. Use scissors (do NOT pull stray threads!) and cut any loose threads at that time and gently unwind the fabrics from each other. 

Note: do not wash small strips of any handwoven fabrics. If you've ever decided to wash a Jellyrole assortment of strips, you know what I mean. It makes a mess, produces lots of string, and can result in actual inches lost. Handwoven fabrics especially can get thready if they're abused in the washing process.

Drying Peppered Cottons. Re-insert the damp pieces loosely into their bags and dry about 20 minutes. Do not walk away and let the fabrics over-dry. Unfold the pieces to air-dry completely. If the pieces are small you may iron them at this time. Most of the time, I snip any loose threads, fold the dry shot cottons yardage, and go store it with the rest of the stash on shelves. Then when I’m ready to sew with the shot cottons, I only iron as much as I need of the fabric for that project.

The Difference with Washed Peppered Cottons. Washed and pressed Peppered Cottons have a slightly different hand than when they are on the bolt. The calendaring sheen rinses out. Then the weave firms up giving these fabrics the hand (texture + weight) of good-quality unbleached muslin. What's great is that the brilliant colors intensify when the light-reflective finish is gone! Because of the finish difference between on-the-bolt and washed Peppered Cottons, the best advice is to purchase all you’ll need for a project at one time and to treat that length of fabric the same. In other words, no un-washed and washed of the same color in the same project. Note that Peppered Cottons are a higher thread weight than most shot cottons and it means these fabrics blend well with regular-weight quilting fabrics. You can mix-and-match Peppered Cottons with fabrics from your stash with the assurance that they’ll stand up to use.

In the next blog posting, I'll talk about the sewing process with shot cottons and the just-announced Colorful Peppered Cottons Challenge--here's a sneak peek  .

Update: click here for the more direct link to the  Peppered Cottons Challenge  .


Joana said...

Really interesting, Pepper--thanks for the information. I live in cotton country, and I'm fascinated by the process of seed to harvest to quilt. I'm looking forward to trying your Shot Cottons soon. :)

Unknown said...

thank you so much for this information! I have not tried Shot Cotton, so when I do this will be good to know.

Pepper Cory said...

Since quilters are getting adventurous with their fabric choices these days, I thought a little public "how to" might be helpful-thanks for stopping by!

Kathi Cappellini said...

I went into my LQS today here in Virginia and was browsing when I saw your Peppered Cottons. They caught my eye and I could not believe how gorgeous they are. I bought 13 FQs because I had to have them. The sales lady and I just oohed and aahhed over them. They are soft and the color is so vibrant and yet subtly muted. Some of the bolts were almost empty and she said they had just gotten them in. Congratulations on those fabulous fabrics.

Carla A Few Of My Favorite Things said...

I love these, but am having a hard time finding where I can get them

Corky said...

I love the interwoven fabrics and prefer the Peppered to the Shot mostly due to the higher thread count. I am trying to design a quilt now using Peppered with bright Madras plaids and Ikat brights. Thanks for the information about washing, I'll wash some now to see how they look and feel. Such fun!