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Finish It Up!
Washing Applique Quilt Blocks

Lesson 6 - Invisible Machine Applique

Wash your applique quilt blocks before assembling them into a prized quilt.

Washing removes...

  • Dirt and oil from your hand appliqued blocks
  • Elmer's Glue Stick and other glue products used for invisible machine applique techniques
  • Starch used to create shapes or stabilize background fabrics in machine applique

And finally, washing dissolves or softens the water soluble stabilizer used for both machine and hand applique.

Before you proceed...

Consider these two important points...

  • If you used a blue washout marker, then water temperature is crucial! If a blue washout marker was used in any part of your applique quilt block, you must first wash your block with cool to cold soap, no detergent, no completely remove the chemical in this marker from your block. Heat, whether from hot water or an iron, has the potential to set the mark permanently.
  • Did you prewash or check for bleeding fabric? If not, test now, before washing your block. And though there is no guarantee, fabric tends to bleed less in cold water.

Just so you know...

Washing shrinks our invisible machine applique background fabric a bit, pulling our stitches in to make them even more invisible.

Washing Applique Quilt Blocks

Whether you've used hand or machine applique, the washing process is still the same.

  1. Fill a dishpan with warm to hot water. Use one large enough so your blocks aren't scrunched or folded. Large Rubbermaid boxes used for fabric stash are handy for this. (Remember: This is AFTER you've done a prewash IF you've used the blue washout markers.)
  2. Add a splash of Orvus or other mild soap and mix. Use Synthrapol for hand dyed fabric.
  3. Add your finished block to the pan and swish gently to get it all wet.
  4. Now let it sit until the water is cold, gently swishing occasionally.
  5. If the water is milky and purplish, dump it and repeat. It may take several washings. It's not hard, just takes a bit of time. Don't scrunch the blocks. It'll take more time to iron later.
  6. Once the water is clear in the wash, rinse the blocks with cool water.
  7. Lay them flat on a towel until almost dry.
  8. Iron blocks dry from the back. Use a medium iron setting and a thick, cotton towel. Nylon thread can melt with direct contact from a hot iron. The towel prevents you from squashing your applique.

You Can Wait To Wash...

Now you might choose not to wash the glues, starches and dirt out until after the quilt is quilted. You may decide machine quilting around the "stiffened" pieces is easier.

If this is the case, then consider any other products used in the quilt. Again, did you use a blue washout marker to either mark the block or the quilting design?

Those marks must be removed FIRST by washing in COLD WATER with no soap or detergent or heat. Don't make the mistake and use warm or hot water first. You'll set the marks permanently.

Wash a second time, following the instructions above to remove any glue or starch used in the construction.

You're Almost Done!

Once the blocks are dried and pressed, all that's left is to square up your applique quilt blocks.

Back: Lesson 5
Sewing the Applique

Next: Lesson 7
Square It Up!

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