Saturday, November 23, 2013

Running Reds

Here's a quilt top I've been working on for years.
Classic colors of red and green, one of my favorite palettes.

I string-pieced reds from my scrapbag and cut them into ovals or melon shapes; then hand-appliqued them to a variety of rather light yellow-green squares.

But when I got the blocks wet to take out the paper the melons, sort of like real watermelon, ran all over.

I put it away for three or four years.

I might have sought the aid of St. Hunna, the
patron saint of laundresses....

Read more about St. Hunna here:

The Carrie Nation Block by Vicki Welsh
UPDATE: Z.C. writes a note that it's spelled CARRY Nation.
C.N. used both spellings over her lifetime.

But I decided to ask Vicki Welsh for help. She has a business selling hand-dyed fabrics, so she knows what she is talking about.

I told her I had bought some Color Catcher sheets. These are marketed so that devil-may-care laundresses can wash their whites with their blue jeans and red t-shirts in the same wash (I could never live that dangerously even with a picture of St. Hunna over the machine).

Here is what Vicki wrote:

"The best advice I can offer about your top is to give it a long exposure to water. Let it soak at least 24 hours with the detergent and color catchers and make sure it's all underwater or the dye will attract to the part that's above water. I've found that nothing matters more than the volume of water and the time in the water. It's more important that the soap or color catchers or anything else.....although I still use all of the weapons!"

I got a big plastic tub and filled it with water, detergent and mixed up the solution. Then I put in the quilt top and threw in four Color Catcher sheets. I let it soak for about 36 hours. I used dishes to weigh down the quilt top so it was definitely under the water as Vicki advised. The dishes did not turn pink although

the water got pinker and pinker.

And so did the color catchers.

Then I threw the wet top in the washing machine on a low spin cycle with some more color catchers and detergent.
It worked! The bleeding was gone.

There was a flaw in my plan, however... There were a lot of raw edges in each string-pieced melon.

And each one raveled out in the washing machine.

So I spent some TV time cutting off the raveled threads.
Hey, this is a hobby, isn't it?
I'm sending the top to the quilter.

Here's what I learned:

  • The Color Catchers Work.
  • Soaking is important (see Vicki's good advice above)
  • Quilt the piece first and THEN wash it in the machine.
  • This particular print was the worst culprit:

I pulled it out of the red stash and I almost threw it away.

But of course I didn't. I saved it to make St. Hunna postcards.

  • Be suspicious of all reds.
And pre soak them with a piece of white fabric to see if they run.
  • If the fabric runs---throw it out!*

I get sad stories all the time from quilters who tell me the red cotton ran even though they pre-washed their fabrics. (Not MY red Moda cottons, of course.) 
Pre-washing reds doesn't mean they will not run every time you get them wet. If the mills could stop bleeding by pre-washing their cottons they would do it. Many bright blueish-red dyes just aren't color fast.

* You really don't have to throw it out. You could use the red with a tendency to run in quilts without light colors. Or if you use it with light colors just wash your quilt every time with a Color Catcher sheet or two. Put a note on the label with that advice.

Blue Town in a Red State
by Barbara Brackman
The reds will probably run here but it won't be so noticeable.

And here's a free label you can print out with your computer printer onto pre-treated fabric.
I'll be stitching this to the back of the Watermelon Quilt.

Click on the picture. Save it as a jpg or a word file and
print it out about 6 inches across onto pretreated cotton.

Some web sites for Vicki---the co-patron saint of laundresses:
Flickr Photostream:
Blog: http://vickiwelsh.typepad.com/field_trips_in_fiber/ (with lots of tutorials)
Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/vickiwelsh?ref=si_shop