Quilts: Washed and Blocked

I've had a couple of people ask about how I wash and/or block my quilts and first of all I'd say this is one area that I'm still learning.

I always, always, always wash all my fabric unless it's a charm pack or jelly roll. Yes, that means I do a lot of ironing and refolding and such, but it's worth it. Shrinking and running colors are the pits. Washing everything as it comes in the house (or comes out of my "needs to be washed" fabric drawer) is the only way I can keep track of what has been washed or not. Essentially, it's all washed. Always.

But using blue water erase markers really require a good dunking to get the marks out. (There are other methods, but this is what works for me.) I use other marking tools occasionally that I like to wash out too.

When it comes to customer quilts (ie: someone else's top that I am quilting as opposed to a commissioned quilt that I make from scratch) I don't even want to spritz with water!  So I use the purple air erase markers or chalk if I have to mark them. Mostly, I try to not mark them.

Customer quilt, wool applique----no water for this one! No way, no how!

Smaller quilts I will dunk in the tub with cold water and then roll it up in a few towels and press the water out and then dry flat. If it's a bigger quilt, same thing, but I'll let the water out of the tub while the quilt is still in the water and then press on it to get more water out before lifting the heavy, wet mass out, then roll it up in a towel to remove more water. This is how I do most quilts unless they are utility quilts. Those go in the washing machine on a gentle, cold, short cycle.

For the farm quilt, which was 72x72, I used the tub but kept it folded so when I pulled it out there wasn't a ton of weight pulling on just one or two areas as I pulled it out. But it was also designed as a bed quilt, so when I was worried that the white mechanical pencil I used wasn't washing out with just a soak, I tossed it into the washer. In case you were wondering, I was an anxious woman until it was all done.

Washing a quilt is when the fibers can be at their weakest, which is another reason to stay away from cheap, thin fabrics. Cheaper fabric tends to have a lower thread count and shorter fibers in the threads of the fabric. I'm all for frugality, but choose wisely. Don't pull a large wet quilt out by one or two spots along the edge, cradle the bulk of it until the majority of the water is out.

For drying, I use a blocking board made of foam insulation that I got at a hardware store. If I want to block the quilt to dry absolutely square and flat, I can tug and pull, measure and then pin into the foam. Blocking is a pain, but usually necessary for anything that you want to show or lay super flat on a wall. If a quilt isn't quilted all at the same density, it will draw up more in the denser areas. Blocking helps even it all out. For smaller art quilts that might need blocked, a good spritz with water will wet it enough to block.

I didn't block the farm quilt, just laid it out flat and it remained square. Both my Poured Out and Poured Out 2 quilts had to be blocked since they had areas of very dense stitching around areas of trapunto. The bed quilts I have either get air dried in the dryer (kids' quilts), or hung over my cutting table so only a third or so hangs down on either side and then flipped a time or two as it dries. Line drying for utility quilts is a lovely idea, but....birds. It has happened several times, so I don't do it.

Poured Out quilt
Poured Out
Poured Out 2
So, I hope I answered thoroughly enough. This is what works for me, and I am still learning in this area. It's kind of like binding when you are first learning to quilt. It takes so long between quilts that you tend to forget what you did the last time! Which is a great argument for working on smaller projects.


  1. Well Amy, you have really made me stop and think. Thanks for all the great advice and tips

  2. When you are going to wash a larger quilt in the tub, put an old sheet in the tub first. Use the sheet to lift the soggy, weakened quilt out of the quilt. Less worries about damaging the quilt.