Fabric quality has improved over the years, but one thing still happens with surprising regularity… fabrics still bleed! Rich or vibrant colors are especially common culprits: reds, purples, blues, and even yellows will often lose some of their dye during washing…. And if that washing is after you have already pieced and quilted the quilt, there could be real panic on what to do next.
First let's talk about how to prevent bleeding. If you’re pre-washing your fabric, add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle or one-half cup of salt to the wash. The chloride found in salt actually helps to seal the color in fabrics, keeping it from fading. Prior to a first washing, you can also soak dark fabrics for 30 minutes in water mixed with ½ cup of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to help set the dye. This will also keep the colors vibrant for several washings.
Use color-catcher sheets, which trap extraneous dyes during the wash cycle, to prevent bleeding. Color Catchers are specially designed to work like a sponge, they absorb and trap loose dyes in the wash safely locking them away so they can't redeposit on other fabric.
Retayne is another product on the market that has demonstrated good results to stop fabric from bleeding. It will set the dye before it bleeds and seal it in the fabric. For best results, soak your fabric in hot water and add the suggested amount of Retayne for the yardage you have. Or, you can wait until after the quilt is pieced and quilted, then wash in hot water adding Retayne to the load.
Rit Dye Fixative is another good product. This one requires your fabric to pre-soak for almost 24 hours. For fabrics that just won’t stop bleeding, this will definitely do the trick. This is known to set blacks and indigo’s like a champ… it may be overkill for other colors, but nice to have around just in case!
What if you have a pile of batiks that clearly have excess dye in them? The Rit Color Remover is meant to strip dye out of fabric… and it works! So if you don’t mind a faded version of your overdyed fabric, give this stuff a shot. Then, wash with vinegar and salt to help set and make vibrant the color that is left.
If you've already washed your quilt and the colors bled into each other, this is the product you need! Soak your damaged quilt in a bathtub of warm water and the recommended dose of Synthrapol. This could take a while and you may have to refill the tub with fresh water and Synthrapol more than once. But, I have personally rescued more than one quilt this way with really impressive results. Synthrapol lets the dye release out of the fabric but doesn’t let it reenter. Once the dye is out, rinse the quilt thoroughly and hang it to dry!
Don’t panic! There are options, maybe this will give you some hope :)
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