How I almost ruined, and then saved, a quilt:

Do you pre-wash your fabrics? I used to be a faithful pre-washer, but then pre-cuts entered the picture, and well, you can’t pre-wash a charm pack… so I stopped pre-washing my other fabrics. After the experience I’m sharing with you today, I think I’ll start pre-washing again.

In May, I shared this lovely finish with you:

Love in a Mist Quilt

With the exception of the outer border print, this quilt was made entirely from my scraps and stash (even the fuschia Petal Power piece peeking out from the back was in my stash).  The white background came from my stash and scrap basket. And that is where the crack in the system occurred.  Stick with me…

On our pattern business blog last week, Trina wrote this in regards to using white as a background fabric: This is my word of caution about using white (which I totally love). If you are using white make sure it is the same white, (brand and color) …all white fabric is not created equally… take a look at some aged quilts with an assortment of white fabrics and you will find the whites are not the same color of white & some look transparent. Doris found this out the hard way, with a laundry catastrophe, about three weeks ago. ;-) ”


And I know this, and I try to follow this advice.  With this quilt, as I was cutting and sending out scraps to my Bee members to be sewn into blocks, I thought I was cutting all Kona White for the quilt… but I figured, it’s scrappy anyway, it shouldn’t matter. Right?

Then came August 19th. We had had visitors for the weekend and this quilt was on the bed in the guest room; and our cats had slept on it during the day, so I wanted to wash it because it was one of my entires for the Guild Show that will run in conjunction with next week’s American Quilters Society Show in Des Moines.  Later that evening I posted this to facebook:

“I am a Shout Color Catcher disciple; but the ONE time I forget to throw one in the washing machine, I get pink bleed on a quilt. And of course, I didn’t discover this until i pulled it out of the dryer. I’m sick about it. Just ordered Sythrapol Detergent that will be here by the weekend and commenced praying for the miracle this situation will require. Another fabulous Monday.”

Well, as it turned out I DID have one Color Catcher in the load (I found it on the floor later) but I should have had a BOX of them in there!  I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of PINKness of the quilt, but then again, I was TRAUMATIZED by the whole situation, so maybe I subconsciously chose not to take a photo for posterity sake in case I couldn’t get it out, anyway!  The outer border was VERY pink, and the white was all a little pink looking. So…

  • First I soaked it for a few hours in Norwex detergent, then washed it (LOAD #2).
  • Then I soaked it overnight in Sythrapol, and washed it in hot water (LOAD #3).  Better, but not white, yet.
  • Again I soaked it overnight with Sythrapol, and washed it in hot water (LOAD #4)
  • Then a wash with just cold water and a small amount of diluted bleach (LOAD #5. NOTE: each wash included three color catchers) the pink is nearly gone from the border print.
  • Another soak and wash with diluted bleach and Dawn Dish Soap (LOAD #6)
  • Looks pretty good, so one more wash to rinse whatever detergents are still hanging on in there (LOAD #7).

As you can tell in this pic of the used Color Catchers, there was still pink leeching out after seven washes!

Sythrapol Color Catchers

But, as for the whites, they did not turn “pink” consistently.  Apparently my “Kona White” background included some other whites, or maybe some Kona pieces that were pre-washed as well as some unwashed Kona.  Either way, certain blocks had a VERY pink background.  Most of it is invisible today, unless I point it out to someone.  Which, anyone who reads this and then sees the quilt on display next week in the guild show will be able to spot it.

This is a pic taken last night in our backyard:

After The Rain _ quilt post laudry disaster

Overall, it looks pretty good (crinkly, as it’s been very well-laundered) 😉  But up close, there are a few white patches that still have a slight pink tint:

After The Rain Yellow Block


One of the tips I got: a long-arm friend of mine, and longtime quilter said she always washes her quilt with Ivory Soap.  It’s pure, no dyes or perfumes, additives.  I think I’ll make that a new practice; as I will going back to pre-washing.  And I’ll continue to use Color Catchers in every load of laundry I do!

But, I did drop the quilt off last night for our Guild Show, along with two Row House Creations quilts:

Lavender One Big Cabin Girl Quilt Racoon, Owl Squirrel Baby Quilt

Fox in a Box Fox and Geese Applique Quilt

We drop our quilts off at a LQS, this is one side of the room as it looked last night (the last night for entries), there must be 300-400 quilts all tucked away in pillowcases waiting to be hung for display:

AQS Quilt Drop Off

I’m glad I’m not judging them, but it must be a little like Christmas morning to open all of these pillowcases and unfold what’s in them!

Our Des Moines Area Quilters Guild Show runs October 2-5 in conjunction with the AQS Show at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Do you pre-wash?

What do you use to wash your quilts?


14 thoughts on “How I almost ruined, and then saved, a quilt:

  1. I’m so sorry about what happened to your quilt! Glad you saved it, though! Aren’t you supposed to use Synthrapol in hot water? I don’t prewash. Well, maybe linen, but that’s it. I am gonna take my chances with Color Catchers until it happens to me. I have heard that you can prewash charms in a lingerie bag, but it might be better to handwash those or just soak them in a pot. I really hate working with prewashed fabric. Maybe with lots of starch or sizing, it would be okay.

  2. Oh, that totally stinks! I never prewash, at this point I assume quilt shop quality fabrics shouldn’t bleed. But maybe that’s a wrong assumption… I’ll be sure to wash my next white quilt with multiple color catchers 🙂

    • Michelle, I think i did use Hot water with the Sythrapol, Cold with the bleach and other detergent as suggested. The hot pink backing is what I believe is the culprit, and it is a Moda Maggie & Sharon print from 2006.

  3. Oh my! I am glad that you could save your beautiful quilt!
    The color catchers you used in the first washes look horrible!
    I always prewash. My sister once had a piece of red Debbie Mumm fabric, so it was good quality, and no matter how often she washed it, it never stopped bleeding.

    • There are four very small patches of a vintage red fabric in my quilt, from my grandmother’s stash, that I thought could be the culprit; but after seeing the color catchers and some other “evidence” on the quilt I’m certain it is that Moda backing piece. I’m afraid it will always bleed, like you said. The amazing thing is, the bleach washes didn’t seem to dull the other fabrics–which I am very grateful for!

  4. Always, always, always! I always pre-wash my fabrics. Always have; always will. And in spite of that, I have had TWO after-I-was-done quilt-washing disasters – in pre-dye-catcher days. You don’t know how much I relate to the pain you went through. It’s horrible. (And don’t use FriXion pens and expect those to wash out either!) Tough lessons to learn.

  5. Oh man Doris, what a story! So glad it had a happy ending. Like you, I prewashed before the advent of precuts then stopped. I do use Color Catchers in everything quilt washing load though. The only issue I’ve had is with my son’s star quilt bleeding a little but I think that’s because I left it in the wash too long after the cycle was complete. I am bookmarking this post in case I ever need to do seven loads 😉

  6. Wow, what an ordeal! I love that quilt and am so glad you could save it. Those color catchers you display are shocking evidence! Do you just buy color catchers at the grocery store? I’ve even had some fabric that has bled onto itself during the prewash (besides that, my favorite pajamas are gray).

  7. i’ve never ever pre-washed fabric. mostly because i live in apartments, but probably more likely because i’m lazy and that’s an extra step. i also just commented on somebody else’s blog that i’ve never knit or crochet a swatch before starting a project. i’m lazy.

  8. I used to prewash everything. Like many others, until the advent of precuts and then abruptly stopped. Now I’m worried about my Marcelle Medallion, which I didn’t plan on washing anyway, but I did a test on some of the Kaffe woven stripes (red/hot pink/purple) and it bled all over the white cloth I blotted it with. Yikes! I had planned to block it kind of like Linda did to her Bloom quilt. Uh uh. Not taking any chances…

  9. Holy cow! You have to wonder what fabric started the whole thing… And if it bled that much in the first wash, would one prewash have fixed the colour? Glad you rescued it. I’d have cried. I always cross my fingers with “unknown” fabrics (brand, fiber content, etc…) but I’ve been pretty lucky with my quilts so far. Good reminder that luck can run out, though!

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