Hang handmade quilt outside to dry

How to wash a handmade quilt

Count yourself lucky! If you have a handmade quilt, whether you’re the maker, or you hit the jackpot and received a quit as a gift, keeping it clean is a good idea. Easy answer to the question “how do I wash this quilt” would be to ask the maker.

I use all colorfast, high quality quilt fabric. I have a fair amount of confidence that when I wash my quilts in the machine, on a gentle cycle with a high volume of water, that I won’t have a color bleed over into another. I have never had this happen, and I wash my quilts whenever they seem to need a freshening up.

Top loader washing machine tub, good machine  for washing quilts
Washing machine tub, front loader

My personal procedure is to put my top load machine on the bulky setting, add a dash of Synthropol and wash. Things seem to come out great. Notice that my top loading machine doesn’t have one of those tall agitators, those tall agitators can damage a quilt. Front loading machines seem to work as well, at least I’ve heard. I have never had a top loading machine so I won’t be testifying to that info.

wash quilts on the bulky setting with a deep fill
Wash quilts on the bulky setting with a deep fill

I then pop the quilt into the dryer on a medium setting with a fabric softener sheet and dry for 20 or so minutes. I like to take the quilt out of the dryer and hang it outside for a sunshine finish. I take all of my quilts out of the cupboard and hang them outside in the sun for a few hours, I think this keeps them fresh.

Quilts on the fence, quilts and dogs, dry your quilts outside
Hang quilts outside for the final dry,
pose with your quilt guard dog

When you wash a quilt, there is usually some shrinkage of all the fabrics and battings. For most high quality quilt cottons, that shrinkage is a about 0/+5%. I’m including a downloadable pdf guide for quilt fabric care.

I do not wash my quilt fabrics before I cut and sew, I like the finish the fabrics contain, part of my touchy feely joy of quilting. I don’t worry about shrinkage after the quilt is made. I really like the way a washed quilt puckers just a little around the quilting stitches. There is something comforting about having that texture and I think it enhances the overall appearance.

Moda makes a few recommendations for what to do to prevent or correct fabric color bleeding. You can follow the guides they provide for other options that I haven’t covered.

Calamity Quilter

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