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Sunday, April 29, 2012


by Caron Mosey, Michigan Quilts!
imagesWe interrupt your regularly scheduled blog on hand quilting to bring you this important public service announcement.  Whether you are a hand quilter, machine quilter, seamstress of clothing or any form of fabric consumption anywhere in the world, please note this:

Fabric that contains any color that isn’t white or off white has the potential (nay, GOAL) to shed excess dye and run (bleed).   Run or bleed like the dickens onto any other fabric it comes near!  Anyone who ever purchases fabric is encouraged to prewash the fabric to release this excess dye and any chemicals that were used in the manufacturing process.  If you have never been told this, you must be living under a rock or at the North or South Pole. 

But there are people in the world who believe that they will be spared any evil or wrongdoing no matter what they do.  To these brave souls, prewashing is a fallacy to be ignored, and they opt to begin their sewing projects with fabric fresh out of the bag.  At times, this may work.  At times, there may be no excess dye to reek havoc. 

But sometimes there is. 

I’m not sure if you can see it in these two blocks, but after spraying each block VERY lightly with water to take away the blue marking lines, and leaving it to air dry, the color in each block ran (bled) onto the white fabric on the front, AND through the batting onto the backing material.



When this quilt is finished being hand quilted in perhaps a month, it needs to be tossed into the tub with cold water to remove the rest of the blue marking lines.  I need your advice as to how to do this without more fabrics in the quilt running, and without these two fabrics running even more than they already have.

I know adding color catchers to the water is a must.  Someone else has recommended tossing a new white cotton towel into the water as well.  What else do I do?

This is the quilt for President Obama that has been worked on by about 80 different people over the course of 3.5 years!!!  Your suggestions are appreciated. Please leave them in the comment area below.
Edited 4/30/2012 8:33 AM EST to add:  I sent my online friend, Vicki Welsh, an email after posting this article.  She directed me to a post on her blog and I think this sounds like good advice.  I would still love to hear from anyone who has suggestions or experience!  You can read her suggestions here.  If you go to her site, stay awhile and look around.  Vicki is a very talented lady, and her hand dyed fabrics are outstanding! 


  1. all I know is to use the color catchers. I have heard one person say to soak the quilt in hot water with color catchers and the dye will migrate to the catchers - she said to soak overnight? I don't know - of course the water wouldn't stay hot that whole time - she does this for her hand dyed fabric that she does herself.

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  3. I wish there was an edit feature--or else that I proofread better...Oh, Caron--I'm heartsick for you! I had this happen on my daughter's dorm quilt even though I had carefully pre-washed all the fabrics, but that's another story. Is there any way you can get additional scraps of the problem fabrics? If so, you could experiment with them to see what works. I've used vinegar to set fabric dies, and there is a product called Retaynol for the same purpose--however, I don't know how they will work on a finished quilt. But lots and lots of color-grabbers---I took a cue from something Glenn Dragone had said and put 6-8 in with a quilt. (I also throw in a scrap of white muslin or t-shirt when I prewash to see if the colors bleed on it.)Good luck with the quilt!

  4. From my experience...this type of bleeding takes place during the drying process, while that wet colored fabric is sitting next to a lighter fabric and drying it continues to release its color. You can throw whatever you want into that tub of water with the quilt, but only the dye in the water is going to catch on the towel, color catchers or whatever you are using. If there is still excess dye in the fabrics, after washing, it will bleed when it is drying. I have washed certain fabrics many times before they became bleed proof. Unfortunately, also from my experience, since you have no idea how many fabrics in the quilt may bleed, you will not know until it is washed and probably dried. Retayne works great to set fabric colors. I use it when I prewash. However, it could set the bleeding that has already occured. Synthrapol will remove excess dye but not set the dye. I have used it when one fabric bleeds onto another and most often the bleeding comes out. But, honestly I do not know what I would do. A wish and a pray might come in handy. I do not know that I have helped, but that is my experience with bleeding.

  5. I remember reading in a blog somewhere that using numerous Color Catchers in the wash was good, and for blocks that you think will be especially troublesome, to hand-baste a color catcher directly onto that block, so it can absorb as much from the block as possible! Worth a try, I think! Good luck!

  6. Me again! I remember a few years back, when I was in a guild, the gals were wanting to do a block swap, and the question was raised about whether to use washed fabric, or not. It was decided to use washed, with the reasons about bleeding and shrinkage talked about, and I was all set to get involved with it, until I heard the two ladies sitting behind me whispering, "I don't wash my fabric and I'm not going to.....they'll just have to live with it!" And they were talking about it so spitefully, as though it was an 'us against them' kind of thing! I was so surprised, and realized I did NOT want to be part of anything like that! I quit that guild shortly after!

    I guess there are some quilters that really have issues with the prewashing of fabric, but if they'd ever had the problems you're having now, I'd bet they'd change their minds! So sad.

    Good luck!

  7. I remember hearing about basting a color catcher to the block also and actually tried it and it worked on my quilt - I totally forgot about that Caron as it was several years ago - I would try that for sure.

  8. I would wash first with Colour Catcher sheets and for any areas where there is still a problem, then try this:

  9. I had a customer quilt that was stitchery on a tea dyed muslin and I sprayed it to take out the blue markings and even that fabric ran, you could see water marks where it dried. I paniced but she was ok with it, as she had used a lot of blue washout herself. I'm a prewasher and for special projects, it's an absolute. I'm sure a good soak and lots of dye catcher will do the trick.

  10. I prewashed a solid red fabric with Color Catchers and it bled. I knew it was going to do so. I washed again and again and again. It bled every time I washed with a commercial detergent. When I switched to Synthropol or just plain water there was no bleeding. There was something in the detergent that caused the fabric to release it's color. Just sayin'.

  11. I have had great results with hot water and synthropol (no other detergent). The synthropol keeps the excess dye in solution and not reabsorbing into the fabric, the key is to get it dry as fast as can be when the wash is done because dye will transfer to adjacent fabrics when it is wet.
    This worked for me with antique red fabric and white backing (see my pickle dish quilt)

  12. Caron--I decided to try Vickie Welsh's process with the piano quilt I made for my daughter, figuring i had nothing to lose. I've looked at the quilt carefully now that it's dry, and most, if not all, the pinkish bleeding is gone. I used a variety of cream prints in the background, and the fabric that showed the bleeding was slightly darker than the others. If there is any stain left, it is so faint that it doesn't matter for this quilt--my daughter will be glad to have her dorm quilt back. Thanks for directing us to this process.


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