Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nightmare On Quilter's Corner: "There's SO MUCH BLOOD!!!!!"

That sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn't it?  And it should, because what I'm about to share with you is a quilter's most gruesome nightmare.  This blog post might not be appropriate for young quilters, or for squeamish quilters, or for quilters who faint at the sight of bleeding fabric dye threatening to destroy hours and hours AND HOURS of painstaking hand stitching.  But I think it's gonna have a happy ending, so bear with me!

My Freshly Bathed Jingle Applique Blocks This Morning.  So Far, So Good!
Quick recap: You are looking at my very first applique project, a BOM (Block of the Month) project designed by Erin Russek of One Piece At a Time back in 2012.  I spent hours studying Erin's awesome tutorials for preturned, hand stitched applique, more hours carefully selecting the fabrics for every block, and it took me an unbelievable amount of time to stitch these blocks because I was paranoid about having my stitches too far apart and made them very, very tiny instead.  I was so excited about being able to make three-dimensional PICTURES out of fabric!  I was so proud of my nice little points and smooth curves!  

I struggled with many of the pieced blocks for this project, too.  My seam ripper and I became besties, but I persevered and ended up with an assortment of blocks that I was really happy with.  Seriously, I must have had at least a hundred hours of time invested in these blocks by this point.  You can read through the trials and tribulations of this project in my older posts about it by clicking here.

My Jingle BOM WIP, Last On the Design Wall in June of 2014
But alas! -- As my final blocks neared completion and I got ready to cut out my setting triangles so I could join those blocks into an honest-to-goodness quilt top, this lighthearted romantic film took a turn for the worse.  I happened to set my red poinsettia setting triangle yardage down on top of the edge of a piece of white paper, and noticed that my selvages were PINK instead of white.  

Pink Selvages?!  NOOOOOO!!!!!  MURDER, She Wrote!!!
Like the good little beginner quilter that I am, I had followed the directions and prewashed all of my fabrics for this quilt before cutting out a single piece, thinking that would take care of shrinkage as well as rinsing away any excess fabric dyes.  I prewashed all of my reds in the same warm water laundry load, and apparently at least one of those fabrics was a bleeder.  The thought of spending additional time setting the blocks into a quilt top, and then even MORE time quilting the whole thing, only to have it come out of the first wash with all of my off-white backgrounds turned pink, was just too much for me to bear.  So I put all of my finished blocks, setting triangles, and the finishing directions in a lovely wire drawer bin and stashed it away under my cutting table for...  FOUR YEARS.  

Hidden Away For Four Long Years
However, enough time has passed now that I feel like I have more to gain than I have to lose by getting Jingle out again.  I mean, blocks in a drawer are worth nothing, but if I take them out, I can use them for educational purposes, to experiment with bleeding dye issues.  Even if the ivory background fabric all turns pink and I can't stop the bleed, I can still get good practice with all kinds of custom longarm quilting, including stitching around all the applique shapes.  My overall quilting objective for 2018 is to become proficient with my longarm machine so my husband doesn't make me sell it (Yes, Lover Ducky -- I know what's going through your mind!).  And so, my Jingle blocks were ready for their blood bath!

There are quite a few methods out there on the Internet for addressing the problem of excess dye leaching out of quilting cottons when wet, everything from Color Catcher laundry sheets to Synthrapol and other chemical fixatives.  My blogging buddy Karen at Quilts... etc. recommended Vicki Welsh's Save My Bleeding Quilt method using ordinary Dawn liquid dish soap, and that's the method I'm using on my Jingle blocks right now.

Can Vicki's Method Save My Bleeding Quilt Blocks?
I used the blue Dawn Ultra, Original Scent, this time because that was the most "plain" Dawn that my local grocery store stocked.  However, because I'm using more more dish soap than I would use for washing dishes, the blue dish soap annoyed me by tinting the soapy water blue.  That would make it a lot more difficult to tell if blues, purples, or deep greens were shedding dye into the sudsy water.  Plus, the whole reason we're doing this is to get RID of extra dye, not add MORE dye!  So I was very excited to find this colorless version of Dawn Ultra called Free & Gentle, with no added dyes or perfumes, on Amazon.  I got a nice, big bottle of it and I'll be using this clear Dawn Ultra next time:

Notice that's TWO bottles of Dawn, each of them 21.6 oz, for just $12 and free shipping with Amazon Prime.  And that's ALL I needed for this method - no Synthrapol, no vinegar, no Retayne, no Color Catchers.  It's cheap and it does the job, leaving more money in my pocket for fabric shopping.  

Vicki's Save My Bleeding Quilt tutorial walks you through her process for dealing with dye that's bleeding on a finished quilt, and she recommends a 12-hour soak in a bathtub full of hot, soapy Dawn dish water.  Since my quilt blocks haven't been assembled into a top yet, much less quilted, I was able to use a dishpan instead.  First I soaked my 8 applique blocks together.  I put them in their hot bath first thing in the morning, and left them there until after dinner time:

Applique Blocks After a 12-Hour Soak
An hour or two after I put the blocks in the hot, sudsy water, I dumped out all the water and refilled the pan with more hot sudsy water, to get rid of the excess dye that had leached out fairly quickly.  I was surprised to see that one or more of my emerald green leaf fabrics was leaching out more excess dye than any of the red fabrics in these blocks.  

First Bloodbath Finished!
Just as Vicki promised, the Dawn detergent prevented any of the excess dye from readhering to my off-white background fabric.  Interestingly, you can see that the hot soak in soapy water did NOT wash away the little dots of Roxanne's Glue Baste-It that I used to position my applique leaves and petals when stitching them down.  I didn't agitate much, though, because I'd already trimmed these blocks to size and I was afraid of fraying the raw edges of the fabric.  I just stirred them around gently with a wooden spoon.  I'm sure the glue will wash away when I wash the finished quilt (and if it doesn't, I don't care).  I laid the sopping wet blocks out on a fluffy white towel and pressed down from above with another towel, then allowed them to air dry overnight.  When I picked them up this morning, there were no pink or green marks on the white towel, so it looks like the blood bath was a success.  HOORAY!!!

These Blocks Survived Their Bloodbath!
I am sure that I did not get all of the Dawn soap out.  I rinsed them as best as I could without overhandling them, draping each one over the back of my hand while I sprayed it with water.  Again, the quilt will be washed as soon as it's finished and any dish soap left in the quilt will be removed at that point, when there are no more raw fabric edges in danger of unravelling!

So, feeling greatly encouraged, I set up another boiling, soapy bloodbath for the nine pieced blocks after dinner.  This time, the red dye started to leach out into the bathwater right away.

AHA!  Pink Bathwater!!
I dunked a clear plastic beverage cup into my sudsy water after about an hour of soaking, and it looked like pink zinfandel with foam on top!  I dumped out that tub of water and refilled the bloodbath with fresh, hot, sudsy water, stirred it up for a few minutes with my wooden spoon, and then headed up to bed, hoping for the best.

Good Morning, Blood Bath!
Happily, this is what I discovered in my sink this morning.  That water looks pretty clear to me, so I must have gotten all the excess dye out in that first couple of hours, before I refilled my tub of water.  

Post Blood Bath, Drying On the Towel
I was more worried about the applique blocks, but actually the pieced blocks are more of a pain in the butt because all of my nicely pressed seam allowances have unpressed themselves and I'm going to have to fiddle a bit to figure out which way they're supposed to go when the blocks are dry and I have to press them back into shape.  But the main thing is that NOTHING IS BLEEDING ANYMORE.  My third and hopefully final blood bath for this quilt is the large center applique medallion, which is soaking in the dishpan right now.  

The thing is, I thought for SURE that one of my red batik fabrics was the bloody culprit, either the fabric I used for my stuffed berries or one of the batiks that I used for my red cardinals.  But if that was true, I should have seen red dye running in the applique blocks' bath water.  I only saw green dye in that bath.  It was the pieced blocks' bathwater that turned pink from loose red dye.  I am such a sleuth, you guys.  I feel like Nancy Drew!

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Bleeding Quilt Fabric
I have five or six different red fabrics in my pieced blocks besides the applique batiks, so perhaps I have already solved the problem for this quilt...  Unless the bleeder was that poinsettia fabric with the pink selvage that first clued me in.  
Hoffman Winter Magic, How Could You Betray Me?
This is my favorite fabric in this whole quilt.  It's in several of my pieced blocks, but not in any of my applique blocks.  And it's the fabric for my setting triangles, which are all cut out and ready to go.  I hope it's not the bleeder!!  I need to go find a scrap of it to test.  If it bleeds, there's no way around it -- I'm going to have to soak all of my setting triangles, too.  I'm using those setting triangles, come hell or high (hot, soapy) water, because that's how much I love it.

By the way, I sat down at the computer to write this "quick" blog post update at 8 AM, and have only stepped away from the computer to make tea, throw the tennis ball for my dogs for a bit, and to check on my soaking quilt blocks.  It's NOON already...  Ah, the SHAME!!!  Just think how much sewing I could get done if I didn't feel compelled to chronicle every single step on this blog!

Today I'm linking up with: 
·       Needle and Thread Thursday at 


Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Red is so beautiful! And this poinsettia fabric is so gorgeous... but yes, bleeding a lot ;)

JoanG said...

I used Vicki welsh's method on a quilt with dark blue batiks that bled onto a butter yellow background. It worked for me as well. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing those bleeding edges on a quilt. So glad your treatment worked. The quilt is beautiful!

Sandra Walker said...

Oh Rebecca I was cringing and nodding and cringing and aching all through this post, and then choked at the end: I have spent that kind of time on a blog post too!!! And regretted the time lost sewing. Blue Dawn is the shh...the best:-) for stain removal and now I know of another use! Truly beautiful blocks and I’m so glad you’ve saved them. I chuckled at the selling the longarm comment!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

Oh Rebecca I am so glad it worked!! Vicki's method came to my rescue more than once - I had originally just had a small bottle of Dawn's dishsoap and need to get a large bottle to keep on hand. This quilt will look so gorgeous when you are done with it - I almost made that one some years ago too when Erin had it but passed - I was probably working on 5 others at the time :)

Denise said...

What a journey and more time spent on the bleeding fabric than I would have. Congrats. Its a beautiful quilt and worth all the work. I have a blue and white quilt that when laundered the excess blue dyed the whites ever so subtly. Turns out its an improvement. Wish I could say the same for a leaching orange that has left flying geese triangle shadows on the white of another quilt. It was completely dry when it was placed in a trunk.

Caro said...

Becky Goldsmith from Piece O Cake Designs recomments a product called Retro Clean. I think she sells it on her website as well. I’m sure you could find her blog post about fabric bleeding as well. Good luck to you.

Caro said...

Becky Goldsmith from Piece O Cake Designs recomments a product called Retro Clean. I think she sells it on her website as well. I’m sure you could find her blog post about fabric bleeding as well. Good luck to you.

Céline said...

I am very glad to read about the clear Ultra Dawn. I think I will need it too for my Baltimore quilt. I will be more confident to use it. I am very happy you had good results on your quilt. It is a nice project.

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Great save!! Vicki's tutorial on saving bleeding quilts is indeed wonderful, I've had it bookmarked since she published it.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing this on my #TTot22! I love this tip and have had to use it. Always scary. I have to wash a baby quilt and am thinking of using dawn the first time, but the mother would probably hate that idea.....will have to consult with her!