Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More on prewashing...

After my last post on prewashing, I was pretty annoyed about the bleeding I ran into, but still wanted to use the offending red fabric. It looked exactly like Kona Crimson, but I wasn't 100% sure that it was (it may not have been quilt shop quality fabric). I headed out to my LQS, grabbed some Crimson and told them about my issues. One of the workers suggested Retayne (I mentioned this at the end of my last post) and I set forth to pretreat the extra dye out of that fabric!

Following the instructions, I washed it on hot with a small amount of the liquid product. It was very easy to use and very cheap - around $3 for the bottle, and it goes quite a ways. But I was curious as to whether or not it really worked, so I decided to do a little experiment.

I grabbed some clear glasses of cool water and put in a scrap of the prewashed mystery fabric as well as a scrap of the prewashed (with Retayne) for-sure-Kona. After an hour, both glasses were still clear when I pulled the scraps out to check. So I grabbed a third glass of cool water and put a scrap of the mystery fabric - UNprewashed - in that one, just to compare.

red prewashing experiements

Then I let them sit for another 2 hours. After 2 hours for the un-prewashed scrap and a total of 3 hours for both prewashed scraps, this is what the glasses looked like:

red prewashing experiements

As I expected, there is some dye in the un-prewashed fabric glass. I actually expecting it to have a lot more dye in it, considering how crazy of a stain it made on my other fabric! I was also pretty surprised to see that the middle glass was just as clear as the glass with the Retayne-treated fabric. Considering the fact that the middle fabric bled in the wash, I wasn't expecting the color catcher to have absorbed all of the excess dye. Interesting.

red prewashing experiements

Some of you made comments about whether or not the color catcher really "worked". Well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by "worked"! As quilters, we generally expect 2 things from color catchers:
1) to absorb the excess dye from fabrics
Did the color catcher do this? It would appear so, otherwise there would be at least some dye in this glass.
 2) to prevent bleeding - presumably by absorbing the excess dye from fabrics as it enters the water and before it can get locked into surrounding fabrics
Did the color catcher do this? No.

I was actually surprised by how faint the color was on the color catcher - it looked even lighter in person than in the photo here. So it didn't seem to absorb a lot of dye, even though the offending fabric lost enough dye to color the neighboring fabric extremely dark!

Now, knottygnome made the following comment:
"the problem is that now i have a washer without an agitator and the load doesn't move around as much. i've had some bleeding problems since i got my new washer even with the color catchers. :-("
AH-HAH.
That's got to be it.
I, too, have a (top-load) washer without an agitator. The problem with this kind of washer is that the fabric doesn't move around and separate, getting tossed around, as it would in a washing machine with an agitator (or probably like a front-load washer). The two pieces of fabric must have gotten smashed against each other (the offending red only bled on two areas onto one other piece of fabric, not onto all of the other fabrics). The problem (most likely) is that the dye wasn't being washed free of the fabric, into the water where the color catcher could collect it. Instead, it just...went directly onto the neighboring fabric.

So did the color catcher work? In as much as the washer gave it the opportunity to. So unfortunately, if there are any fabrics that I want to prewash because I expect them to bleed, I'll have to prewash each piece individually. Sigh.

I'll definitely be using the Retayne for that, because it is much more affordable for such frequent use. Honestly, I'm not a hardcore prewasher and won't become one, even after this. I simply don't have the time/energy to prewash everything separately (if I did, my kids would be in their lovely cloth diapers, not the disposables they are currently wearing!). I will be sticking to the "if it's especially dark or red, try to remember to prewash it" routine with solids. The difference will be that I will be washing the more saturated pieces individually with Retayne (not in a load with like colors).

As a side note, I'm not (personally) worried about dark prints, since the coloring process is very different for those than for solids and I've never had any issues with those.. But if that's your style, then hey, go for it!

Well then. Thanks for joining me for some prewashing experiments, and I hope this helps inform your own prewashing decisions!




After my last post, I thought I would let some scraps of red fabric soak in water to see what would happen to them. I used the same offending fabric, as well as some look-alike Kona Crimson (I'm pretty sure the mystery fabric is Kona Crimson, but I went out and bought some just in cas

15 comments :

  1. Great experiment! It would have been great to see if the confirmed Kona Crimson untreated would bleed like the first glass.

    I'm not a fan of prewashing it adds so many additional steps but I did prewash for a red, white and blue quilt of valor cause I knew the red would abut the linen look and the white and knowing it was going to be a charity quilt I didn't want to take any chances. I'm just glad red isn't one of my go-to colors otherwise I'd see a lot more prewashing in my future

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    1. I know! Of course I thought of that after I washed it :)

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  2. interesting. i hate prewashing and i won't do it, despite the problems i've had. just FYI: i have had several issues with black moda prints (from the comma line) so i don't think bleeding is exclusive to solids. haven't had an opportunity to try it yet but i was planning to use synthrapol for any future new quilts that might have bleeding issues. you use it like detergent so i'm hoping it'll permeate the entire load.

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    1. good to know! Definitely knew it wasn't exclusive to solids, but I've had far fewer problems with prints than with solids. I hate prewashing too!!

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  3. Thanks so much for running this test and posting the results!

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  4. I had an interesting experience. Had some Hoffman holiday red as a border on a kwilt. Had some white from Connecting Threads in the stashing and used Moda Aspen Friost for the piecing. Used a dye catcher as usual in top load, no agitator machine. Red bled onto the Aspen Frost but not on the white fabric. Dye catcher was loaded...to a dark pink. Red is red and ya just never know how it will react. Nice charity kwilt in the end. Some little girl will like pink snowmen. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KwiltyPleasures

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  5. Some good information and tips there, thank you! Hope you have a good week.

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  6. Interesting! Thanks for experimenting. :)

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  7. Oh this just confirms that prewashing is essential, for me! I have a queen size RWB quilt I am making to donate to Wounded Warriors, all solids...I did prewash all the material, separately. After all the chemicals put on fabric in the warehouses to keep the bugs out, I prewash everything.

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  8. interesting reading, I tend to just rinse fabrics in the sink and then if they run wash them but now think I have not left them in the water long enough, I try and do this when I purchase fabrics but now winter has come it is not easy to dry here as I do not have a dryer. Will look out for retayne not sure if it is available here in the uk, off to do a search on line now

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  9. I was taught to pre-wash but these days designers and manufacturers tell us it's not necessary with all the new processing techniques so I stopped doing it. Then I used Kona Tangerine in one of my quilts and had terrible problems with it running - all I did was spray a little water to iron it and it bled like crazy into a white quilt. I got the majority out by washing the quilt with colour catchers but had to replace a section of the binding where the colour just wouldn't budge. That experience made me very wary. Now I'm working at The City Quilter, Manhattan, one of the visiting fabric designers (can't remember which one) told me to cut a small piece off new fabric and pop it in boiling water - if the colour holds then you'll be okay without pre-washing. It's worked for me so far. The designer did say that if a fabric runs you should tell the shop where you bought it and the manufacturer as they need to know if there's a bad batch out there - I've not done this myself though. :)

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  10. Thanks for all your hard word and sharing it with us. I just copied your post and saved it to a folder on quilting tips cuz I always have a hard time remembering where I've seen things online!

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  11. After your first pre-washing post, I did prewash one piece (1 yard) of my Kona red with one color catcher in a front loading machine with no agitator. The color catcher came out surprisingly almost clear, (just a slight pink on it). So, I'm not too worried about my prism quilt that I'm making now. Except that I do have solid black Kona in that quilt as well. I think I will do that experiment with some solid black (a small strip) in some boiling water to see what happens. I have decided to prewash all of my red solid fabrics now just to be on the safe side. Thank you so much Amy for posting about this subject. The Prism quilt is only my second quilt to be made and it's going to be a King size with graduated colors going from left to right as one of the color options you actually proposed. You are an inspiration to me and I read everyone of your posts.
    You have saved my sanity in this color adventure!! Yeah Amy !!!

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    1. Awww, thank you!! That's one of the nicest comments I've ever gotten!! I'm sooo excited for your Fire & Ice quilt and definitely want to see pictures of this thing!! Let me know how the washing ends up going and everything :)

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