Stop the bleeding!

It looks so innocent, doesn’t it?  After my last fiasco with Benjamin Biggs block 5 that sent me into an 8 month sulk I finished block 6 with more than a little anxiety.  I thought perhaps that leaving block 5 to soak for about an hour (I got distracted, it happens) might have exacerbated the bleeding from the reds whether it was the fabric or the threads.  So, this time I whipped the block out of the water as soon as I was sure the blue markings were gone.  I squeezed the excess water out and began pressing.  This is what I saw…

Yes, that’s what I saw.  I won’t tell you what I said.  It wasn’t nice.  These are different reds than block 5 – a solid, probably Kona, and pre-washed.  I literally watched the color just ooze right into the white fabric.  There is a halo on the front but not as bad as the last block.  Seeing how the lines show up from the gathers of the fabric makes me think that it’s not the thread’s fault here.  But, there is a mystery.

I had already started block 6 when I washed block 5 and was traumatized by the color bleed.  All but two of the red berries were sewn down.  I only have two of the plastic templates so I make them two at a time.  Being an instant gratification kind of gal I need to sew them down right away so I can then hold the block up and gaze at the cute little circles for awhile. (you are probably starting to get an idea of why I am so slow at appliqueing these blocks).  I starched all but the last two circles which remained gathered and squeezed together inside my needle book.  [Ooooh, that’s where they were – it did take awhile to find what I had done with them.]  Anyway, they were nicely creased and I didn’t see a need for an iron, much less starch for these two.  Those are the ones in the picture above – left and center.  The right one was sewn 8 months ago and had been starched.  So, my questions are:

  • Is it the fabric that bled?  The same fabric is used in all three circles.
  • Is there some weird chemical thing that happens because of the starch.  The two “clean” circles had no starch.
  • Is it the thread?  The tiny bit of bleeding on the “clean” circles is at the edges where the thread is.  It is the same thread used in all circles.
I am now completely paranoid about red fabric.  When pre-washing the fabrics for block 7 I stitched a piece of the red to my background fabric and used a color catcher in the wash load.  The sample at the top is what happened.  Ack!!  Now, this was the first wash so I gave the fabric a second chance and stitched another (post-wash) piece to the back ground fabric.  The bottom sample is the result.  Better, much better.  But, blocks 5 and  6 were made with pre-washed red fabric and they still bled.  I almost dropped everything – again – but am holding onto the hope that the bleeding has finished for this piece of fabric.
Here is the full shot of the back.  Fortunately, the bleeding is worse from the back than the front.  I took a class with Mimi Dietrich 16 years ago and she told us to dry our block face down because water evaporates up.  That way, the bleeding will go into the background.  Seems she’s right.
P.S. The color catcher came out hot pink.
P.P.S.  The thread hasn’t been ruled out as a suspect yet.

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  1. Hello there. I realize this is a little late – just figured out you are posting again, yeah missed you. I have never used "retane" but do wash then soak fabric in vinegar water to set the dye. Am I way off base or does nobody do that any more? I also do that if I buy a new red t-shirt etc. just thought I'd put it out there.

  2. I am now completely paranoid about red fabric.-DITTO.
    I just had the same thing happen!!! & I prewash with the chemical, I do not use a blue pen. I was using all red scraps and I have no idea how that happened again. I thought mine was the thread because I bought it in Europe, it is not. Mine was the fabric! I had this happen on my first appliqué I created and I did the same thing again and it worked. I sewed color catchers to the area's and hand washed. Eventually it came out.

    I thought because my liquid starch was over 10 years old maybe that did it? I am sure it was the fabric, must have been from someone's stash that does not prewash. I swear by the chemical mentioned above with red fabrics and for what we are all paying to have red fabrics bleed repeatedly is not fun.

    Considering the amount of hand work some of us do! So frustrating. I hope you can figure out what caused it. HUGS

  3. Hate it when there is a quilt bleed! So I was happy to find an article called "Save My Bleeding Quilt" at Vicki Welsh's blog. It pertains more to whole quilt washing than to fabric washing but may have valuable info for you. Take a look.

  4. That is so disheartening! I sometimes wonder if it's the thread too–it seems like that's where the bleeding comes from, but maybe the excess color just settles along the thread line. Thank goodness for color catchers!

  5. Oh, how I feel your pain! After 9 months of stitching my Dear Jane quilt, I hung it at our local show and noticed that many of the reds were "bleeding" into the background. How could this be? It must have been the summer humidity. At any rate it took me many months to summon up the courage, but I finally through the thing in the washer with all the color catchers I had (7 I think) and miraculously, it came out free of bleeding. I can't promise those results every time, but it surely prevented me from jumping off the local bridge. Your blocks are so lovely, I hope you find a solution to the red problem as well.

  6. It only took me one time to quit using the blue pen for applique!
    I use a pencil to trace the pattern to the background fabric and I never wash my blocks! I can imagine the roof lifted and you saw the skies – I have been there. Next time – get some of the color sheet catchers (they should be in the store by the bounce fabric softners) It might pull the dye and you won't have that problem.

    I shutter when I see someone using the blue pen for marking! Another tip – you can spritz it BUT only use bottled water. It is the chemical in the water that will not allow the blue to stay GONE. As far as the bleeding if the fabric is pre-washed in hot water and the stuff they sell it might prevent the bleeding. I always pre-wash all of my fabrics – especially the dark colors – am sure I am not really providing you anything you do not already know. But this is how I manage things. I ruined 2 quilts with this issue. No more.

  7. Some of you have asked which thread I think might be a problem. It is a red DMC fine cotton sewing thread. I really like the weight and you can see how fine it is on the back. But, I've had issues with the red DMC embroidery thread so I probably should have known. I've used DMC for a long time but no shops around me carry it so I'm going to have to switch someday soon, anyway. I like the way silk disappears but it can be fussy to work with.

  8. I bought a red fabric and was warned it would bleed and to soak it overnight, then wash it. I think Color Catcher just takes dye from the water. I use a bleach/dye/ perfume free laundry detergent. Good luck.

  9. I, like Phyllis, would like to know the thread and color you used…
    We all have to hang in there and let these companies know that this is unacceptable….

  10. Oh dear, this is really sad, I can imagine your shock. I have never heard of thread bleeding though, but from your blogpost I understand that that is a possibility too. Can I ask you which thread in which color you used? Thanks for Mimi's tip regarding drying your quilt(block). Hope you find a solution.

  11. Heartbreaking! On a scrappy red and white print quilt, I safety-pinned a swatch of white muslin to the right side of a swatch of each red print, and ran them all through a regular wash with Tide, and a machine dry. The prints that bled onto their white muslin partner went straight to the garbage before any piecing or appliqué. It's frustrating to work with fabric that was once 44-45", now 41 1/2", colors that aren't fast, and prices that have steadily risen to over $10/yd. We quilters need to share our fabric experiences on our social networks. Our finished product can't be any better that the supplies we use.

  12. If the color catcher comes out any color than white, then the fabric needs to be treated with retayne. I've had more and more problems, the past 2-3 years with bleeding fabrics, than I've had the 8-10 years before that. Fabric companies aren't taking as much care with their dyes as they used to. Makes me really scared to use any precuts.
    PS: Kona used to not bleed, now, almost all of it has been bleeding dyes.

  13. I have prewashed and used The Color Catcher sheets and it still bled. I just use The Color Catcher sheets each time I use red. I have heard about the original Dawn carrying the stray dye away. Keep your fingers crossed. Chris

  14. I'm sorry you're having such a frusterating time. Your applique is so lovely. I hope you carry on – one day you will have such a beautiful quilt made :0)

  15. Wow, how frustrating for you. I use red in my applique all the time and rarely pre wash my fabric.
    I soak my blocks in warm water and a color catcher with out any type of detergent on the first go round.
    Seldom do I have any bleeding problems and if I do a little Synthrapol takes it right out.

  16. Red fabrics can really be scary. I have had more than one bad experience with them. Nowadays if I use a red fabric I'm worried about I treat it first with Retayne, which sets the dye. Today's dyes cannot be set with salt or vinegar, as dyes from the past could be. I don't think repeated washings (in any temperature water) can really get the excess dye out completely, so I stick with using Retayne (I think it's called Synthrapol in some areas) and I also use Color Catchers to be on the safe side. So sorry this is happening to you, and I hope you will find a good solution to the problem!

  17. I feel your pain – we all love red fabrics and no doubt most of us have a ton in the stash. They can sure give you problems though. By the way your block looks so incredibly neat on the back!! No wonder the front is beautiful.
    (My own Beind the Cherry Tree quilt will need washing when the quilting is done – really scares me with all the reds…)

  18. I have never heard of drying the blocks face down but will certainly do that in the future. Can you put your blocks with the red that has bled into a net bag and run through the washer with a color catcher? Might work.

  19. It's so good to read your blog again. My blog has been neglected. I noticed when I blogged I finished more. So, you are a motivator!

    I love red and it scares me. I got a BOM in the mail when it was raining. The red bled before I even got it out of the package.

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