I don’t prewash my fabrics, and I realize that I should expect some shrinkage when I eventually do wash a finished piece, but I wasn’t sure how much to expect. So it was with a bit of dread that I washed my first large finished hexagon piece, which is a panel that I created to hang between the living room and hallway during the summer to keep the cold air in the living room and the dining room. I call the piece “Room Divider Number One”. It will hang between the living room and the hallway.
In order to have a frame of reference for the shrinkage of future work made with hexagons, I took measurements before washing and drying the piece. It was 36 inches wide and 90 inches long before laundering. I washed and dried it using the gentle cycles on my home washing and drying machines. After laundering, the piece measured 34 inches wide and 86 inches long. This means that the piece shrank more width wise than length wise. For every 18 inches of width I lost an inch due to shrinkage. For every 22.5 inches of length I lost an inch due to shrinkage.
The piece shrank more than expected. I got really lucky because it exactly fits the width of the space where it needs to hang. In fact, there may be the slightest bit of gap between the piece and the wall when hung. If it had shrunk any more it would not be able to serve its purpose because it would have allowed cool air to pass along the sides. I might have had to cut it up to repurpose it. That might have been an interesting exercise in modern quilting, but it would have been a bit tragic.
Since this is the first piece I have ever washed using hexagons I got to see the crinkly effect I can expect to see in the future when pieces such as this are washed. I am a bit conflicted over the effect, and wonder how much is due to shrinkage of fabric, and how much is due to shrinkage of the cotton batting I used. Below are images of the front and the back of the quilted piece.
In my previous quilting life, about 25 years ago, I pre washed my fabrics and used polyester batting exclusively. Those quilts do not crinkle like this. I probably should do some sample pieces to experiment a little and observe the results.