What is crocking? It’s when you wash something and the dye particles that haven’t bonded completely with the fabric (usually cotton) float free and bond to something else. It is commonly seen when someone washes a new article of red clothing that then turns all of their other clothes pink after a trip through the washing machine.
How can you avoid this happening in a quilt? The easiest way is to prewash your fabrics. After you bring them home, wash them in synthrapol (a squirt of blue Dawn dishwashing detergent — as long as you have an older washer that can handle high sudsing detergents — works just as well) and a dye catcher sheet. This will hopefully take out all excess dye particles that were not rinsed before the fabric was sold.
That’s usually more than enough — but not always. I had a green commercial hand dye I bought once in Florida that would never stop running dye. I finally threw it away.
Reds are notorious for this. I have this problem with even commercially printed cottons. It’s especially heartbreaking when it happens in a finished piece. You don’t want to throw all of your hours of hard work into the garbage.
Fear not. It’s not worth the tears. If you can’t fix it with hot water, Shout, or any other stain remover (short of bleach of course) — they make something that works just as well. It’s called fabric paint.
Admittedly, this works better on some prints than others. There are some textures that cannot be replicated — but then you just need to reframe your expectations and accept it as it is. This is art and I can use fabric paint if I want to.
This is my latest piece.
I sighed when I pulled it out of the washer. (I typically run my pieces in water when they’re done to take out the water soluble glue I use to help me in the binding process — and to prepare the piece for blocking.) I sprayed it with Shout, turned the water to hot, and threw it back in.
No luck. There was still red all around the grapes on the plate. So I spun out the water and pinned it up to dry.
Once it was blocked and dry — I waited a few days. You have to be patient. You don’t want to have any anxiety when you do this.
I pulled out my palette and put a pinch of yellow on it — and by a pinch, I mean a very small amount. Then I added a large amount of white and mixed it together on my palette. I tried it out on a piece of my cream fabric — the same that I will paint on the quilt — and it was too white — so I added another very small amount of yellow and mixed it in. This was a closer match on my swatch. So I grabbed a paintbrush and painted it onto the affected areas of the quilt. I used a light hand — and added water to thin it out so it wouldn’t look gloppy — went to another section — went back after it had dried a little and added a little more paint. I ended up pulling out a smaller brush to get that very small section between grapes.
And voila’! Much better. I believe it now qualifies as show worthy. I’ll give it shot anyway.
Last week, I finished the cardinal and put it in water to soak.
I had a thoughtless moment where I put synthrapol in the washing machine while the bin was filling with water. I thought to myself — that’s a mistake — I should empty the tub and start over. But then I thought — it’s so small — it shouldn’t matter.
If I had been really thinking, I would have reminded myself that red is bad to bleed — but I wasn’t thinking so I threw the piece in the water with a Color Catcher on top (I wasn’t totally brainless).
But of course, as you can see, the reds bled onto the background. This is what it looked liked after spraying it with Shout and washing it with OxyClean in cold and hot water — many times. I couldn’t get out any more of the red from the background. (I was able, thankfully, to shrink it a little. It was just over 12″ square — and for the exhibit I made it, it needed to be 12″ square — which now it is.)
I have had this happen before — with Beach Guardians. Thankfully, the background wasn’t printed so painting it with fabric paint should work. At this point, it was my only option left.
But I put it off — and worried — and procrastinated. No one wants to ruin something in the final stage with paint. I had spent almost two weeks on this piece — and I wasn’t looking forward to that going down the tubes if it didn’t work.
I took my fabric paint and mixed it on my palette — and got really close to where I needed to be.
I think it works.
I compared it to my picture of the piece from last week before I put on the binding — and the background looks less green. That is really only a difference in lighting. It’s almost scary how big the color shift is. This time, I used a side light — and last week I didn’t — but I couldn’t go back & re-take the pic with the bleeding — so I just kept it like this so you could compare apples to apples.
You may have noticed that I used a binding that matches the background. I almost always use black for binding — but as I said — I was trying to make this piece a specific size — and my cardinal just barely fit in the space. The best way to give him some breathing space was to use a binding in the same color as the background. If I had used black, he would have looked squeezed on there.
Did I mention I don’t like making something to a specific size requirement?