Quilting Blog

The Fiber of My Being: Step by Step, Inch by Inch

When it comes down to it, I launder fabric if for no other reason than I strongly prefer its texture for machine quiltmaking. An online article appeared a few years ago about the methods I use to wash and starch fabric. I wouldn’t take back one word of it. I speak about treating fabric in my Craftsy class, Traditional Blocks Made Simple, and it also was a topic in my book Rotary Cutting Revolution (available as a FREE download when you enroll in my class).

Laundered fabric directly from the dryer. The trick? It was looped

Quick tip: Above is laundered fabric directly from the dryer. The trick? It was looped

There is always someone who considers remarks about my fabric regimes as unnecessary. I’ll take their scorn. It would be easier for me to not write or speak of my experiences but there are beginners who might appreciate them.

Tip: Slap starched wet flannel on bathroom tile instead of ironing it. This was previously laundered in a no-fray, tangle-less loop.

Quick tip: Slap starched wet flannel on bathroom tile instead of ironing it. This was previously laundered in a no-fray, tangle-less loop.

I once threw away fat quarters of gorgeous West African fabric. It bled no matter how I treated it. With a heavy heart I [gulp] tossed it. Otherwise it would have been troublesome for someone rescuing it from a scrap table. 

Happily I taught two workshops every Wednesday in Manhattan at Riverbank State Park. Some of the women in my classes were at least 20 years older than I. Because of their age, wisdom and sophistication, I wrongly assumed everyone had sewing and patchwork experience.

Ladies of Riverbank NY State Park

Ladies of Riverbank NY State Park

Mrs. Jackson was inventive and happened to sew well. She’d put a spin on a weekly project that would leave me speechless with amazement. From time-to-time she’d slightly raise her hand. We’d all quiet down and listen to her question. It would be logical and always give me pause. We passed half of the class time talking about quiltmaking and looking over ‘homework’ instead of sewing.

These women taught me how to teach and the importance of writing detailed instructions. The truth, to put it mildly, is I dislike writing patterns. It’s like pulling teeth for me to photograph and document every step. But I chomp down and leave nothing out because Mrs. Jackson is in my head asking “What if?”

Quilters holding up finished quilts

At Riverbank we discovered it’s easier to border a tessellated quilt block-by-block than as the final step

I live in Manhattan, where it’s unnecessary to have a car. If I had one I’d garage it and use it for additional fabric storage. My apartment is loaded with fabric. It’s tidy and organized, though I consider what may become of it someday. But I’m not willing to cull it. So to my sisters, sister-in law and girlfriends, if you are reading this, when the day comes, please send out a Twitter blast for the world to come and get it. I bought it, I used it and I enjoyed it. I didn’t have to oil it, buy gas or insurance for it. And it’s ready to go laundered, starched and stacked. No car required.

Moving my fabric, step-by-step

Moving my fabric, step-by-step

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About the author

Quilter Anita Grossman SolomonAnita Grossman Solomon is a full-time quilter, author and Craftsy instructor. Her quilts have been displayed everywhere, from the ceiling of the International Quilt Festival in Houston to an enormous screen high above Times Square in New York City.

In this Craftsy Blog series, she dives into the emotional and often humorous aspects of being a maker. Subscribe to the Craftsy Quilting Blog today to follow along, and enjoy personalized instruction from Anita in her popular Craftsy class Traditional Blocks Made Simple.

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linda wolfe

this information is invaluable. The presteps of any sewing, whether quilting or other, are to be respected. You must consider how the material will be treated after the item is finished and needs to be cleaned. Even a wall hanging will become dusty as time passes. I always wash and iron cloth before I use it (when you do a close-out sale at 10 cents on the dollar you don’t have 4 months free to wash and starch it right away) and mark the cloth that has been prepared. You know what bleeds and won’t stop bleeding so you toss it. If it is on the ‘ready’ shelf then you will cut and sew more efficiently. thank you for reminding us we are not being ‘old fashioned’ we are not being lazy we are preparing the basics (material) as to be ready and on hand when it is time to construct our latest project.

Mary Varnell

This is a good topic for me. I grew up making all of my clothes so I always laundered the fabric. So for quilting I have continued the practice. The term is new to me. What is the process and what are the advantages?

Mary Varnell

Sorry! The term looping is new to me.

Anita Grossman Solomon

Hello Mary,
Thank you for commenting. As a way of explanation, I have pasted, below, text from the “article” (The “article” is linked in the first paragraph of this column) that I believe should answer your question. Please let me know if it doesn’t. -Anita

Q. How do you launder your fabrics?
A. Prior to starching and pressing the fabric, I machine wash (warm) and machine dry (hot). I join cut edges of the folded yardage, adjacent to selvedges, with a machine zigzag or serger stitch into manageable fabric loops that won’t tangle or fray in the washer or dryer. There are no loose ends to knot together. Afterwards I trim off the sewn edges and both selvedges.

Mary Varnell

Thank you for your response. I will try looping. What a great way to avoid tangled ends. I recently retired and learning to quilt. I am having a great time but have a lot to learn!

Susan Ertel

Ah, looping sounds like it would stop a lot of fraying and then tangles in the dryer. It is such a pain to try and iron out set in creases. Just got a new load of material in yesterday, will try today! Thanks, learn something new everyday and I’ve been quilting for 50 yrs


Anita, I hope you will always keep sharing your opinions and tips. I am a pre-washer, too, and have found your “looping” works wonderfully. A year or two ago I ran into you at the Des Moines AQS show. I didn’t realize who you were at first, I was asking for directions and I probably interrupted you while you were heading for lunch. You were so gracious and sweet. I caught sight of your nametag as I walked away and only then realized who I had been talking to.


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