Wednesday, October 24, 2018

That Bleedin' Red

I'm sure many of you have experienced something like this.

Recently while scrounging around in the "I need to get rid of  use" bin, I discovered I had just enough of a certain red/white toile-type fabric, which combined with another red print (both leftovers from different projects) to scrabble together a smallish Irish Chain quilt.

After some pre-cutting at home, I power sewed at a quilt retreat and got it all together. Later I machine quilted it, and as per my usual routine, I threw it in the wash as soon as I got the binding sewn down.  

Oops...  oh no! The red "chain" fabric bled all over the toile.  Or... maybe it was the red in the toile fabric that bled all over itself? Who knows.

At any rate, I was mystified, as not only had I pre-washed  the fabrics, but I had used both in other (red and white) quilts, with no bleed issues. What the heck? 

Dismayed, I searched the internet for a cure. I found one that instructed you to soak the quilt overnight in very hot water and Dawn dishwashing detergent, so I did that. The stains were considerably diminished (ie almost gone) but the backing and the toile ended up looking... well...  pink.

Then I discovered an almost-full bottle of Synthrapol I'd forgotten about, and tried another soak with that.

No dice. Still pink.

Yes I used Color Catchers - three in the first "Dawn" cycle, which came out bright red, and two more in the Synthrapol cycle, which came out more of a dark pink.

At any rate, I am now pondering if I should try a weak bleach soak, which has worked for me in the past, or if I should just leave it as-is. I will no doubt give this quilt away, either to my MIL who happens to love red and white (but not necessarily pink) or to a charity group.

two days later:

I did the bleach.

This trick is among a variety of techniques I learned from my Mom, who was the Supreme Stain Getter-Outer in our community of family and friends. Mom taught me about bleach, and how to use it safely, and effectively.

In this case, I filled the washer with hot water, added about 1/2 cup of liquid Clorox-type bleach, and made sure to stir it around before immersing the quilt. Then I let it soak, stirring and checking from time to time, to make sure all areas of the quilt were swimming freely in the bleach water, meanwhile checking for "doneness."

One hour did the trick.

Somewhat miraculously I think, both "whites" reverted to their original colors: the "creamy" white in the toile, and the crisper white in the backing fabric. Pretty amazing, imo.

(Looking at the picture, it looks like the toile is still a little pink. Funny because in real life, its not. My pictures are not the best. The "pink" one looks more yellow. Go figure.)

Anyway, I believe I "saved" the quilt. I'll let my Mother In Law be the judge. I'll "show and tell" it to her when we get together T-giving weekend. I really hope she takes it home.

Maybe another day I'll reveal some more of my Mom's tricks. ;-)




  1. What a great save! I've used the Dawn method, but would have never thought of using bleach. Thanks for sharing your mother's hint! ---"Love"

  2. I hope your MIL loves the quilt!
    And thanks for the tip on using bleach. It is good to have a number of tricks up your sleeve when dealing with unruly dyes. :)

  3. Great tip! Fabric dyes don't seem to be as much of a problem as they used to be but I guess we still need to test those reds.

  4. I always thought heat sets stains! But maybe that's Dry heat not Wet heat?! I always hang Dry my shirts (where I always seemed to have stains) so's not to risk setting the stain by the heat of the Dryer. Heating excellerates any chemical reaction but perhaps the water provides someplace else for the stain to go before it breaks down? Interesting! I have a red and white quilt dated 1892 that has a decided pink tinge to the white background. I tried washing it several times with a whole box full of color catchers to no avail! But I don't think I will try the bleach trick on it. New fabric vs 100 yr old fabric being what it is. But your quilt looks great. congrates on another finish! cheers!

  5. How frustrating and a "Happy Ending." I have that same red fabric and discovered it's bleeding tendencies early on. I did wash it with Synthrapol but have not washed it since putting it into some blocks. We really shouldn't have to deal with bleeding issues in our day and age. Glad you found a satisfactory solution. Pretty little quilt too.

  6. So glad you had a happy ending as this quilt is gorgeous!

  7. Red fabrics seem to have a mind of their own at times. I have that bird toile print and have had no problem with it.