QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT

QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT By Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman Above: Moda's Baltimore Blues. It's not all blue.

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:
http://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/2011/04/may-your-reds-never-run.html

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:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/10967488@N06/with/8768063805/
Blog: http://vickiwelsh.typepad.com/field_trips_in_fiber/ (with lots of tutorials)
Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/vickiwelsh?ref=si_shop

68 comments:

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

thanks for you post it reminded me that I need to do this when I get my current quilt off my quilting frame. It has a lot,and I mean a lot of red in it with cream. Yes - I know big trouble ahead most likely - if all else fails maybe I will tea dye the whole quilt and make it look old and the bleed might be hidden LOL.

Jacqueline said...

Loved reading this blog. Not that your quilt ran but how to fix it and the label I can use in the future.

Thanks

Karen said...

Thanks Barbara... I'm sending this link to friends and saving the Jpeg. Great post - cant wait to see how the quilted top turns out? Karen

julieQ said...

What a fun idea, first of all, to use string piecing in those melon blocks! Sorry about the running, but sometimes it happens...I made a quilt out of turquise colors and and ran the worst!! Even after pre washing...maybe I need that patron Saint, LOL!!

smazoochie said...

Wise & wonderful Barbara! And always learning & sharing.
Love the St. Hunna cards -- even better: if her red heart had bled a bit.

Leanne said...

Thank you for figuring out a reliable way to solve the colour running problem.

Tonya Ricucci said...

I had no idea about the long soak - that's good to know. One thing I've learned is that if you have a known bleeder in a quilt - baste the dye catchers directly over that fabric - helps to keep the bleed from migrating into adjoining blocks.I've had problems with blue fabric lately.

Monica said...

An excellent cautionary tale, Barbara! And maybe a timely one, because I am about to wash a quilt with some reds that were not pre-washed.

Also, I quite like your colour scheme with the light greens behind the reds. I have been seeing quilts where the reds and greens have the same value, but this is much better. So that's two things to keep in mind!

Lori said...

That is a great label!

I think as quilters we all have gone thru that at least once. (usually more!)

Barb said...

Thank you for this. I have a red runner in my stash of unfinished projects. Now I don't feel it's such a lost cause... It's also pieced and appliqu├ęd and ran when I soaked some paper to remove it. I'll try this, thanks again!

Donna~~ said...

I use Retayne if when I prewash I see I have a bleeder. Synthrapol has saved some of my blocks with red that bled when they got wet (even though they had been prewashed). It's kind of a last resort for me. Love the label--great idea! Will use it--thanks!

foffmom said...

Love this post! The label is a great idea. 40 years ago, my grandmother said she would make a quilt for me for my 18th birthday. She said I could design it and pick out the fabric. The red ran everytime I washed the quilt. (Before Color catchers. Before alot of things!!) But the lesson I learned is to always prewash. My grandmother would say, at least some good came of it!

Liz D said...

Retayne. Pre-treat *all* reds, test and pretreat other brights.

But anyone can be fooled...I ruined a wonderful set of 1930s applique blocks when the yellow of the birds ran and ran ran and ran. Maybe the soak thing will help?

lizzy

Karen in Breezy Point said...

I use a lot of dark navy blues and have had the same problem. I will be using lots of water from now on as a presoak, but I wonder what will happen in my water saving high efficiency washer?
Thanks for the fun label!!

marilyn holley-stupka said...

This just happened to me. What a relief to know I'm not the only one. I appreciate the advise more than you can know.

Nifty Quilts said...

Thanks! Great advice. I learned that you can test a fabric for running this way. Spray water on a paper towel. Place the wet paper towel on top of the fabric. Iron the wet paper towel on top of the fabric. If the fabric is going to run, you'll see color on the paper towel.

Denniele said...

Love the quilt! I always prewash and use retayne but never considered that some fabric might continue to bleed.....yikes. Thanks for the label idea....as much as I love red, should probably use it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for figuring out a reliable way to solve the colour running problem.

Brad maddox said...

Not that your quilt ran but how to fix it and the label I can use in the future.

Sharon Hughson said...

Thanks so much for the tips. I snagged the label pic too.

Boo Chura said...

Have never had a red bleed using synthropol and both machine washing and drying my quilts. Of course, I only use Quilt Shop quality fabrics. One sure fire way to make a quilt bleed, is not drying it. I have often seen reds and other colors bleed on damp quilts that are left bunched or folded on themselves. The dampness seems to create a wicking of colors.

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