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To Wash or Not To Wash?

Last year Kathleen & I designed this quilt for a design challenge. The theme was "Pump up the Color,"  so we took it as pump up the color on a bike. The quilt, well it's actually a wall hanging turned out really darling. If you look really close you can see the tiny embroidery detail that Kathleen did. The bike is all wool applique and those are miniature bolts of fabric in the basket and yes, they even have the name of the fabric on the end of the bolt.
Well, this quilt has a little secret behind it. After it was all quilted, bound and ready to be judged we had to get a little bit of blue pen out of it, we drew on where we wanted the embroidery. So we decided just to get it wet in a few places. Little did we know, the wool blead like crazy! Luckily we found some Rit undie and were able to remove all of the bleeding. WHEW!!
(This quilt was to be judged and then auctioned off.)

Generally I like to wash my quilts, I really like the old look that washing gives to them. Like this quilt.
After having a quilt bleed that bad I am really nervous to wash my quilts.
So, do you wash all of your quilts?
Do you pre-wash your fabrics?
I know that the high quality materials should not bleed but I'm just a little gun shy now.

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  1. I washed the red fabrics in a snowball quilt I made. I have washed some of my quilts. I wash on cold water. My brother-in-law told me along time ago that if you wash your clothes once in cold water they won't bleed and you can then mix your colors in the wash. It really works for clothes. btw, I love your quilts.

  2. I've seen a few suggestions - one is the shout color catchers, and the other is a cup of iodized salt in the wash. (It helps to further set the dyes) I have a few quilts that I'm concerned about washing too :)

  3. I try to pre-wash but if I am using pre-cut fabric that doesn't always work without a lot of fraying.

    If I don't wash, I use salt (the cheapest I can find at the shops). So far it's worked really well, even "freshening" some of the colour.

    I've also noticed that "localised" steaming or wetting the quilt will result in a lot more bleeding than actual washing, which seems to be proven by your account.

  4. I'm probably considered a little old-school, but my background is in sewing clothing and I always pre-wash my fabric in cold water and my regular detergent. With clothing, you want color-fastness but more important, you don't want to fit something and then have it shrink in the wash. I was always told, as well, that fabrics are treated with sizing that can actually gunk up your machine-don't know if that is really true.

    Anyway, I pre-wash for quilting as well-and for the record, I carefully fold, but I do not iron! As long as the fabric lays flat, I figure it gets ironed enough when I press open the seams.

    So, I really am not afraid to wash my quilts! I figure any issues have been dealt with!

  5. I don't prewash my fabrics because, like you, I like the shrinking effect. I use the Shout Color Catchers. If it is a quilt I am especially worried about bleeding, I'll put more than one in the wash.

    I'm more worried about using my new front loader and what effect it will have on the colors that bleed since they use less water.

  6. Has anyone ever heard of adding vinager to the water when washing your quilts? It is supposed to keep the colors from bleeding. A lady at a quilt shop up here in St. Louis told me it works everytime. I am not sure though it she uses vinager every wasking though. I also heard somewhere that you should never wash a quilt always dry clean b/c they hold up better....ummm i'm broke all the time so I wash mine haha

  7. Sometimes I wash and sometimes I don't. I also love the Shout color catchers. They are amazing!

    I absolutely LOVE the bicycle quilt! It is absolutely darling with the handlebar streamers and bolts of fabric! Stunning!

  8. Ditto what Monica said about the Color Catchers. I never pre-wash my fabrics for quilt projects because I too like the shrink that happens.

    I do pre-wash fabrics I am using for apparel, because I want the size to stay true.

    Maybe I'm living dangerously but (knock on wood), I haven't had any bleeding problems yet. In fact, the only time I ever had a quilt to bleed was when I DID pre-wash it.

    Shoot...I have enough laundry to do so I'll stick to my method of not pre-washing, lol.

  9. I just bought some of those color catchers too.

  10. I have always pre-washed apparel fabrics to keep true to size but I have been unsure about whats best for quilts. All of your readers have given such wonderful advice! THANKS!!! I must say though that I too like the vintage effect you get when it's washed after finished.

    Also I caught on that what bled was the blue ink you used to draw the embroidery lines on right? I don't know what kind of pen but in case it was a regular one I'd say maybe next time try a fabric pencil, marker, pen? The washable kind.

    If you did then please ignore my obviously silly comment! hehe =)

  11. I always wash wool before i use it. It also helps to full it. I still get bleed when I have washed wools over again, but never on a quilted piece or penny rug.


  12. When I make quilts, purses and tote I pre-wash my fabrics. Pretty much the only time I don't pre-wash is if the item won't be washed in the future (ie..wall art, small framed item, wall hanging quilt).

  13. I was all quilts after they are finished. I don't prewash fabrics unless I think there's a good chance they will bleed. Some quilters have found these colour catcher sheets that seem to work really well. I haven't found them here (Canada) but that's not unusual lol.

  14. I use a lot of pre-cuts, so I don't prewash my fabric. I have used the color catchers and never had a problem. I have also heard of using vinegar and salt in the wash.

    I have a couple of quilts that have lots of red and white that are going to need washed soon, so let me know if you have any luck :)

  15. Beautiful quilt! I don't pre-wash my fabrics. I do wash my quilts with one or two Color Catcher sheets. So far the color catchers have caught all the extra color and nothing has bled.

  16. I too use the color catchers and haven't had any bleeding.

  17. I prewash all my fabric because I have issues with the chemicals in some fabrics.

  18. I come to quilting with a clothing and textile background. I rarely pre-wash. I use Shout color catchers and if I am really worried I pre-soak in Synthrapol, then wash in cold w/mild detergent in my front loader. It has saved my bacon many times.

  19. I pre-wash especially reds and blacks. But all of my fabric other than soem on bolts is all pre-washed ready to put in a quilt. I try and wash my quilts before I give them to the recipient, after the quilting. I use the color catchers also. I even found a re-usable color catcher that looks like a towel. It says it can be used at least 30 times.

  20. I pre-wash for some sewing projects, but for quilting; no. But I have had fabric from Joannes bleed. my valentines fabric from moda didnt bleed, (i was nervous). I wash in cold water and with a shout color catcher, and always dry high heat.

  21. I don't pre-wash my fabric. I do wash my finished quilts. I use the shout dye catcher with quilts and regular clothes especially jeans.

  22. I LOVED that quilt. A couple of us were fighting over it. Politely of course.

  23. Because all the fabric I use nowadays is hand dyed by me, prewashing is part of the process! ;-) Actually, (responsible) dyers go to great lengths to assure that all the dye has been washed out before the fabric is being used. The most important part of removing excess dye from fabric is water + time, which is why my dyed fabrics (silk too!) end up sitting in buckets of water or a washing machine full of water for a day!

    There were a few comments above me about using salt - this is an old wives talk that has no merit - if anyone is interested, there's a great page about all this stuff on Paula Burches site (she's one of the best sources on all things about dye on the web)

  24. I wash my quilts and use Color Catchers with them. I sometimes add several of them depending on the colors and size of the quilt.

  25. I never prewash really. I like the crispness of the sizing. Mostly because I'm lazy and I haven't had a problem with bleeding. I haven't worked with anything but 100% cotton though.

  26. I try to prewash all fabric but you can't really with precuts. I haven't really had a problem with colors bleeding with moda precuts. :)


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