Help! My Quilt is Bleeding!

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Rainbow stripe quilt

After washing my rainbow strip quilt for the very first time I was devastated to find that some of the blue had seeped into the surrounding white fabric. It was only a little but that little was enough to ruin the pristine white patches. I had figured one of my little germ-covered boylings was going to be the first to grub up my precious white lap quilt.

Boys. I swear they sweat dirt. I don’t know, do girls do it too? I can only vouch for the dirt pores of little boys.

But alas it was me, or more specifically not washing all the residual dye out first.

So I did what I thought was logical and washed it again. Except IT GOT WORSE! So, maybe one more wash will fix it? Yeah, nope it didn’t.

Since I was too busy freaking out at the time to think about taking a picture of the bleed on the rainbow quilt, I sewed some fabrics next to white in the hopes they’d bleed too so I could demonstrate what it looks like. It sorta worked? They didn’t bleed just from being wet, but the color started to transfer as I ironed them. You get the idea though.

Off to the trusty internet to find an answer to solve my bleeding problem! That’s where I ran across a method developed by Vicki Walsh that saved my bleeding quilt, and based on the number of people referencing back to her site, it seems many others as well.

I’ll admit, I was a little bit leery about soaking my quilt. I don’t know why exactly; it just made me nervous. But I thought it couldn’t really get much worse, so why not try it? And hey! It worked! Maybe it’ll work for you too!

I highly recommend that you visit Vicki’s site and check out her full explanation, but I’ve outlined below what I did with my quilt based off her suggestions.

  1. Cover your quilt with copious amounts of water. Go as hot as possible. At a minimum the quilt needs to be fully covered, but more water is better especially if there’s a lot of bleeding. Keep the quilt fully submerged, so if it’s trying to float try placing something on top to keep it under water.
  2. Add some soap. You can use Synthrapol if you have some. (It’s a professional textile detergent that keeps loose dye particles in suspension and off your fabric.) You can also use Dawn Dish detergent. Depending on how much it’s bleeding you can use up to ¼ c of either detergent.
    A word of caution here. Although I used Synthrapol with commercial fabric and it was fine, Vicki said that in her research she found some commercial fabrics didn’t respond well to being washed with Synthrapol, and recommends using Dawn with any quilts that include commercial fabrics. Synthrapol should be fine if your quilt is made from all dyed fabrics.
  3. Using gloves to protect your hands from the hot water, swish around the quilt. If the water noticeably changes color, let the quilt soak for about an hour, drain, and start over.
  4. Soak. Overnight preferably.
  5. Inspect your quilt to see if it looks better or if it’s still all bleedy. Repeat the soaking if necessary.
  6. If everything looks good, give your quilt a final rinse either in the tub again or in the washer.

There’s no guarantee that this will work. The best way is to stop a bleeding quilt before it starts by prewashing all hand dyed fabrics. But fortunately it worked for me! It’s probably partly in thanks to the fact the original bleeding was fairly light, but you can’t even tell it was there anymore!

Close up of now clean area of the bleeding quilt
See that dark blue spot in the center? That’s one of the sections that had bled and now my fabric is back to white!

Because of my little quilt fiasco I’ve updated my washing practices for all my hand dyed fabrics to include additional soaking before it’s sent out to you.

When you purchase my fabrics I still recommend you do a prewash, partially because different water chemistry can sometimes release residual dyes and partially because I feel being over-cautious is better than having an oops.

Let’s hope you never have to deal with a bleeding quilt!

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