Finish It Up!
Washing Applique Quilt Blocks
Lesson 6: Invisible Machine Applique
by Julie Baird
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Wash your applique quilt blocks before assembling them into a prized quilt.
- 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
water...no soap, no detergent, no heat...to 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.
- 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.)
- Add your finished block to the pan and swish gently to get it all wet.
- Now let it sit until the water is cold, gently swishing occasionally.
- 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.
- Once the water is clear in the wash, rinse the blocks with cool water.
- Lay them flat on a towel until almost dry.
- 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
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.
Invisible machine applique supplies you might need...
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