Monday 29 August 2011

Getting Ready With Reds

To Test or Not To Test?
There's really no question....

Who's making Peaceful Pathways?? There are many of you out there who pre-wash as a matter of course for all your quilts. For those of you who usually don't pre-wash (such as myself), I strongly suggest that you should pre-test all fabrics to check for colour fastness when working with reds. I am one of those quilters who does not pre-wash as a general rule - however, when working with reds, I always pre -test and go on to pre-wash if required.   

I love classic red and white...but this is a combination that requires extra care. Any colour bleeding is difficult to deal with (but can be avoided), so you want to make sure all your reds are colour fast before you launch into cutting and sewing.

This is how I test my reds before I start sewing

Select the reds you are planing to use and stitch them alongside some crisp white fabric.

use washing detergent and boiling water, and add each fabric option to this solution - individually.

If you add all your red tests in together at once, and you do experience running, you wont know which fabric is responsible, so repeat the process for each selected fabric.

Agitate the fabric in the soapy solution and leave it alone - about 30 minutes.

Clear water is the best sign.

If the water is stained, set the fabric aside and repeat this process. The second time around is to find out whether the fabric will continue to bleed...or whether it is stable after the first wash and rinse.

If the fabric does bleed, wash again until you achieve clear water. Then assess the fabric - is it still a nice shade of red? still a clear print? If it still bleeds after the second test, leave this fabric out of your quilts. Some fabrics continue bleeding and it's easier to discard them now than suffer the annoyance of bleeding later.

All fabric should rinse clear by the second test.

All fabrics should be colour tested - especially reds.
Fabrics that bleed must be pre-washed prior to use.
Fabrics which do not bleed - prewashing is optional, in my own opinion and practice.

Here are my reds. Once they are squeezed of excess water, I patted them down on a towel in preparation for a vigorous ironing test.

...if my cat will give up enough ironing board space...

Use a hot steam iron and press all the fabric to check for any leakage or running.

This is where the stitched white fabric is so important - press open the seams and inspect. You want to make sure there is no bleed in or around the seams.

This fabric is colour fast. You can see the seams are spotless and there is no colour run into the white. Ah, perfect! If only all reds were this easy...

I created a production line testing all my reds this way...

Now I am left with reds which I know are colour fast. And I have tested them alongside crisp white fabric, so I am confident that my red and white quilt will stay red and white - in all the right places.

As you can see, I tested small swatches which I cut from my chosen fabrics. As I know they don't run and are completely colour fast, I will not be pre-washing my reds prior to sewing as it is completely unnecessary for me. I am one of those quilters who doesn't pre-wash as matter of course.

Pre- colour testring means that in the future, I can wash my red quilt (this is especially important for useful quilts such as bed quilts) without that worry in the back of my mind that it might come out of the washing machine pinkish.

Quilts we make today might be around for generations, so any extra time taken in preparation is definitely worth the effort.

Always colour test your reds


  1. Thanks Esther. That is good advice.

  2. Red is the main reason I pre-wash everything! But greens and Dark Blues are also problematic if they run.

  3. Thanks Esther! I am collecting reds at the moment for a nice red and white and I was curious how to make sure to check for the runs. :)

  4. Thank you for this information! I won't be able to start on this quilt for a little while, but DO plan on making it, so I'm saving the patterns as you make them available. Thank you for your generosity!

  5. Thank you sew much for this information! I just experienced reds bleeding in a quilt after I had pre-washed them. I was upset, and disappointed so now I won't have this problem again!

  6. Esther,
    Thank you for this demo. I do pre-wash most of my fabrics, not only for colorfastness but also because I don't like the chemicals put in them by the manufacturers.

  7. I'm printing this off and keeping it in the studio...great advice.

  8. It's good advice Esther. I am one who always washes fabric and I have had a lot of trouble with dark blue as well as reds.

  9. Thank you, Esther! Very good idea with some fabric!

  10. Thanks, for the tip. I will be washing my fabric ahead of time. I want to make sure nothing goes wrong with this quilt. This quilt is for my daughter as a wedding present nothing can go wrong.

  11. I also don't generally prewash but I know I have to check my reds for this BOM, so your post will keep me from presoaking or prewashing my fabric unless I need to. That's a help, thanks!

    I recently realized that the red floral I used in my Summer Sampler and against white in a couple Farmers Wife blocks will run. I'd used a piece of it in my shoe as a cushion and my white sock turned pink, so I'm assuming....

    I'm keeping those quilts, so it's not the end of the world. Live and learn....

  12. Thank you so much for this post. I am in process of making an Irish chain quilt and I am going to check my red plaid that I am using. I hope it doesn't bleed. This may save my whole project.

  13. I just tested some dark red seam binding from the 1980's. Package says it's colorfast. I could actually see the color like little puffs of smoke as it migrated out into the water. Thanks for this tutorial.

  14. Thanks for this tutorial, Esther. I've never seen the suggestion to sew each fabric you're testing to a piece of white fabric, but you're right -- any loose dye does tend to accumulate in those seam allowances and being able to lay the washed red/white combo unit next to a piece of fresh white fabric will alert you to even the slightest tint of pink happening to the white from loose dye.

    My question is, since you do not routinely prewash all of your fabrics -- if you find that one of your reds needs to be prewashed to address loose dye, do you then have to prewash all of the other fabrics in your quilt as well so they all do whatever shrinking ahead of time, or do you find that not to be necessary with appliqué? As a new quilter I experimented with listening to the Prewash Always experts versus the Prewash Never experts, and there is a mix of washed and unwashed scraps in my scrap bin. The scrap bin is a great place to find little bits for appliqué, but I worry about whether I'm mixing unwashed scraps with prewashed fabrics in the same quilt and vice versa.


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