Thursday, January 21, 2016

It’s Not a Finish Until You Wash It

Two weeks ago, I posted what I thought was a finished quilt, my Christmas in Bold Colors Quilt. Then I washed it, and the quilt was no longer in giftable form.

I always wash my quilts before using them or giving them away. I’m a spray baster, and a good wash releases the adhesive. I usually hand-wash my quilts in the washing machine. I pour in some Soak liquid, fill the basin up with water, and throw my quilt in. I agitate the quilt a few times by hand, let it soak for a bit, drain the water, and spin the quilt. (Soak does not require rinsing.) I then pop the quilt in the dryer on low for 20 minutes or so and hang it up to finish drying.

I followed that procedure for Christmas in Bold Colors except I was out of Soak and substituted Woolite. When I went to hang the quilt up to finish drying, I discovered this:




I was annoyed, but I kept my cool and put the quilt and its offensive red blotches in time-out. Then I considered what I could have done differently.

Retayne

In the past, I’ve used Retayne, a color fixative, prior to cutting and sewing my fabric. I last used it on this quilt, which features deep burgundies next to light fabrics. In fact, one of the burgundies bled so badly during the Retayne process that I chose not to sew with it. The others bled much less and posed no problems when I washed the finished quilt.

The fabric that bled in my current quilt was a red Quilter’s Linen, from Robert Kaufman. I’ve bought Quilter’s Linen in at least a dozen different colors and haven’t had any problems. I suspect that the red would have bled badly in a Retayne wash. As a result, I would not have included it in the quilt, and Christmas in Bold Colors would be in the hands of the intended recipients by now.

Adequate Soap or Detergent

I tend to skimp on the soap or detergent I use. I figure that washing is a way to release the spray adhesive—it’s not like these quilts are dirty—and I don’t need that much. I’ve read since the bleeding incident, however, that soap helps prevent any released dye from adhering to fabric.

The bleeding pattern on my quilt bolsters this theory. I experienced bleeding on only one half of the quilt. I’m sure that I folded the quilt loosely in half and placed it in the washer. I suspect that the side that was face down, which likely had more surface area covered with the soapy water, was the side that did not bleed.

Regular Wash Cycle

I like to hand-wash my quilts, figuring it’s less wear and tear on the fabric. Perhaps if I had allowed the washer to do its job, the soap would have been better distributed in the water and the bleeding would have not happened or would not have been as bad as it was.

Shout Color Catcher Sheets

I own a box of Shout Color Catcher sheets. I’ve used them in the past plenty of times. I didn’t use them this time. I have no idea why. Perhaps if I had thrown a few into the washer, they would have adequately sopped up the excess dye. Sigh.

My Happy Ending

After a few days focusing on different projects, I took a nap with the quilt—for real. (I’d like to report that it was my way of saying, “We’re in this together, Quilt! We can get through this!” But in all honestly, I was just too lazy to walk upstairs and get a different one.)

Then, following the advice of Vicki Welsh, I filled my bathtub with 140-degree water and plenty of Tide Free and Gentle Detergent, a dye-free product I had on hand. I weighed the quilt down with the lids of plastic containers just as Vicki did and agitated the water every so often. After two and a half hours, I developed a tick—I had to see what was happening to my quilt! There was progress. The fabrics with white backgrounds were free of red dye, but the stained green fabrics were still a problem.

In the end, I let my quilt soak for 5 hours. (Vicki recommends going as long as 12!) By that point, I was pleased with the results. There are still some spots with light discoloration, but you’d have to go hunting for them:

The fabrics with white backgrounds look awesome.


There still is a slight pink shadow on a green fabric or two. I am OK with that.


And we’ll live happily ever after ... until I ship it to its forever home. : )

To read more cautionary tales, see these posts.

Got your own tale of woe or triumph? Share it in the comments!

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday ...

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39 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. hope to never need this information but good to have.

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  2. I'm so glad you saved it!!! Since I don't have my own washer (sigh), I just toss a finished quilt in with the normal laundry and a handful of color catchers and I've never had a problem.... but I don't use a lot of red so maybe I've just been lucky.

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  3. Oh goodness! I'm glad it worked out! I always wash my quilts before I send them off for this reason. (And also because I'm somehow terrified that they're going to fall apart in the wash. This is admittedly a silly fear, but it still possesses me every. single. time.)

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    1. That's funny! My fear as well. I don't treat my quilts too gently. While I'm sewing them, I pull, tug & iron. When they're done, I wash on a regular cycle, throw them in the dryer for a few minutes, then hang to dry the rest of the way. If they hold up through all that, I know they will survive IRL. After all, in the end I want them to be used, & enjoyed.

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  4. I'm glad the stains came out, thanks for sharing the soaking tip!

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  5. I always have problems with red and sometimes dark blue--so aggravating. I'm now a color catcher advocate for that first wash--when I remember--lol! Thank goodness you were able to rescue your quilt--it's so disheartening when you take it out of the washer and see the colors have run.

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  6. I prewash every single fabric, always. A word of caution to your readers--Kona blues really bleed a lot, not just reds.

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  7. I'm so glad you were able to rescue it! I prewash all my fabrics...partly because when I started quilting that's what I was taught to do and partly because I'm terrified of dyes floating around my finished quilts.

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  8. A couple weeks ago I was chatting with ladies at a bee meeting about this very thing. Someone had given a quilt to their adult child, and it had been washed several times. The recipient thought Woolite would be the safest thing to use... the result was the same as yours. I don't think I will ever use Woolite again! I typically just use my Tide Free pods and a couple color catchers when I wash a quilt... so far so good.

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    1. I don't know whether it's fair to blame the Woolite. Deep reds, like the Quilter's Linen I used, are notorious for bleeding. Perhaps prewashing that fabric would have been enough to avoid problems.

      It's worth noting that there were many reds in this quilt. The Moda fabrics, from Basic Grey's 25th and Pine line, did not bleed at all. Go figure.

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  9. I am so happy this story has a happy ending! I think sometimes it can be not necessarily the dye that is released, but where that dye goes when a quilt sits wet for a few minutes. I recently had a table runner that ran in two spots, right where the fabric had been touching after the wash cycle before it was transferred to the dryer. Such a frustrating occurrence, any way it happens.

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  10. I use synthrapol and color catchers when I am worried about a quilt bleeding. I typically just let the washer do it's thing with Tide Free and Clear and cold water, though. I did have an issue with a Kona red bleeding a few years ago, and after lots of scrubbing and several re-wash cycles, it came out fine. Not panicking is definitely the key! I'm glad you were able to fix it... so did you gift it, then?

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne! The quilt is in the box, ready to go to the post office. I'm thinking of it as an early Christmas 2016 gift instead of a late Christmas 2015 gift. : )

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  11. Oh dear, I never wash my fabric before I use it. I don't even test it. I guess I had better start saying more attention given I do use some linens now and again. I do use color catchers when I do wash finished quilts. Thank you for some ideas if I really get into trouble.

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  12. Helpful post! Color catchers seem to be my best bet. I use them while pre-washing the fabrics (to see which colors will bleed) and when washing the final quilt. I'm not convinced that Retayne helps. I still had a quilt bleed even after I treated the reds once.

    I've also heard that soaking stained quilts in Dawn can work.

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  13. I always use Vicki's hot, soapy soak method on everything I make from pillow cover to tablerunner to full blown quilt. I have had great success with quilts that are red and white or have lots of black with some white (a t-shirt quilt, too!) or blue and white quilts. It can be hard to see the blue dye in the water until you start draining the tub and putting in fresh. The black dye makes the water look grey, and boy, can you see the red! I have let my quilts soak for 12 hours, but have not seen significant dye release after 4-6 hours. What helps is the hot water and changing the water when it gets full of dye. Glad you saved your quilt!

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    1. Thanks! You know, I didn't change the water. I'll definitely do that the next go-round.

      I don't know if I'll soak every quilt that I make, but I'm sold on washing them in the bathtub. I can't get enough water in my washing machine.

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    2. Did I hear you right? You soak a finished quilt in hot?? Does the soap prevent dye from bonding to lighter fabric? This is not a a hobby for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

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  14. Thank you so much for this post. There is very valuable information and as always, sharing experiences is the best way to do it.

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  15. bookmarking this one cause I know I'm going to need it! Thanks a million for sharing and glad your quilt is good to go!

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  16. What an experience. Good there was a happy ending. Like Kali, I think problems arise when wet colored fabrics sit next to each other for a lengthy time. I've had major color migration from burgundy moda marbles too but it was years ago. I have a friend who throws in a clean piece of muslin instead of Color Catchers. She's had great luck with that. I'm a Color Catcher user and pre wash all fabric. Hoping someday to get a top loading washer again. I can't even spin w/current washer without an additional rinse cycle.

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  17. Oh Michelle, when I first started reading this post, I felt so bad for you. So glad that it had a happy ending after all. Of course, you had to jump through quite a few hoops to get to that ending. Glad it all worked out for you. I usually wash my quilts before gifting them and after reading this, I agree, a quilt isn't finished until you wash it and know that it's going to be ok.

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  18. Michelle this was a great post because I think it is important for us to know that not everything is going to be picture-perfect all the time. Thank you for sharing your method and we can all learn from it. Love the happy ending!

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  19. Aww man! Thanks for the tips. What a sinking feeling it is when you finish a quilt and then take it out of the wash to this! I live by color catchers, and thankfully I haven't had any serious bleeding issues so far. Then again, the number of large quilts under my belt is pretty low. I will keep all of this in mind--especially that after-the-fact soak idea. Thanks for sharing, and I'm so glad you got the red out.

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  20. I'm so glad you saved it!! I would have been a crazy person! It would have been me in time out; not the quilt!!

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  21. There must be something about Christmas quilts. I purchased a panel and fabric for a Mary Engelbreit "Isn't Christmas Jolly" quilt. I don't prewash either, so when it was all finished, I washed it. The red bled all over everything. I kept washing it with color catchers in cold water and eventually it all came out. That horrible sinking feeling of your quilt ruined is awful. I'm working on one with a lot of white and red now. I may never wash it!

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  22. I'm glad it all worked out! It's very pretty!

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  23. Thanks for telling us how you got the red out of the quilt. It's something to remember or keep under our hats I don't pre-wash my fabrics, but I've never had a problem. I guess I'll just keep praying! Your quilt is beautiful!

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  24. Oh, goodness! I think we all have stories like this one. Thank you for sharing how you "fixed" it. Your quilts are lovely!

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  25. So glad it worked out for you. I've been wondering how you made out.

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  26. Color catchers are amazing! Glad it ended up working out and you have adequately bonded with this quilt :)

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  27. Oh no, what a horrible thing to happen. I'm glad it came out in the end though. I've never given much thought to bleeding, maybe i should...

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  28. I laughed and cried along with this tale of a Christmas quilt. I am so glad you found a solution and can totally identify with snuggling with a quilt one last time (mostly out of laziness of not wanting to go in another room to get one of my quilts!)

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  29. It is always the pesky reds. I am lucky to have never had his happen, but then I fling everything into my front-loading washing machine (gentler that top loaders and will even wash woollens and delicates). Maybe it is the soap, as you say.
    Glad to hear the worst of the discolouration has gone.

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  30. I carefully read Malka Dubrowsky's info on how to avoid colors bleeding. She does a lot of hand dyeing, so she has really studied and experimented. If I remember correctly, she says soak for 12 hours in the hottest water you can get with clear Dawn dish detergent. Find her blog. She is great.

    And glad you have resolved most of your discoloration problems.

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  31. I'm so glad you were able to get out most of the red!

    I have made a quilt using a magenta batik, a black fabric with white cherry blossoms, and a white. I had pre-washed the two dark fabrics together and the red bled so evenly onto the black that I couldn't convince anyone that the flowers on the black (now pink) had been white to begin with. Unfortunately, after the quilt was together, I realized that I didn't make sure the red was finished bleeding. I ended up washing it three or four times with at least a dozen color catchers (total) before they started coming out mostly clear. And at the end, my originally white flowers were almost white again! Another mark in the success column, but I have definitely stepped up my pre-washing regimen since then!

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  32. I never wash my quilts before I gift them... I probably should. Thanks for breaking down the coulda-shoulda-woulda's of your quilt washing process. And for sharing how you fixed the problem. I'm keeping all this in mind for when I wash my C+S Christmas quilt!

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  33. Gee! I read yours, & everyone else's comments with my heart in my throat. After all the planning, pinning, trimming, sewing, cursing, ripping out, praying, re-thinking, pausing, rushing, & finally finishing. It's devastating to think you could ruin it in the wash! It's comforting to have a few methods in the toolbox, just in case... Thank you!(This quilting business can be exhausting)

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