Preventing and Removing Dye Bleeding and Running

Preventing and Removing Dye Bleeding and Running
There are few things more annoying than having the dye from your thread coming off on your hands or, worse, bleeding onto the fabric you are stitching on.

Sometimes, you don’t even realise that your hands have been soiled by the dye until you see smudges on the fabric, or until you start using a white floss and see that it becomes discoloured.

The first step is to ensure that before you stitch, your hands are thoroughly clean and dry. If there is humidity in the air, keep a clean towel on hand and use it to blot your hands frequently.

This will prevent oil and grease from your hands being transferred to floss and fabric – and it is sometimes these oils that will cause colour in floss will run.

Most floss and thread that you will use to stitch with is colourfast, and you can stitch without any problems.

However, even with colourfast floss, you sometimes find that the darker, deeper colours can have some dye leakage. You often find these in black, deep red, deep blue and deep greens. Varigated and overdyed threads can also have this problem.

Most modern threads are dyed using a fibre reactive dyes and an alkaline mordant. On cotton, linen and wool based threads, this makes the dye molecules bond and become one with the molecules of the thread.

Silk thread dyed using fibre reactive dyes and an acid mordant also make a good wash-fast bond.

It’s the mordant that fuses the molecules of dye with the fibre molecule.

Most large companies use these methods. Mistakes do happen, though, and perhaps a batch has used too little or too much mordant, weakening the bonding process.

However, many smaller specialty produced and dyed threads are dyed using a direct dye, with no mordant. This gives a very weak fusing and every drop of moisture weakens it more, and causes dye to run.

No matter what method is used, after dying, the thread must be rinsed to ensure any loose dye is removed. Exactly like when you have your hair coloured – the first couple of washes you have dye rinsing out.

You can test colourfastness, and also rinse away any excess dye quite easily, using a method that will work for all thypes of thread.

Remember, that each skein must be done separately!

You will need either distilled water (which can be bought at most supermarkets) or cold boiled water. Straight tap or bottled water is not recommended as it can contain sodium fluoride or other minerals that may react with the dyes.

The water should be at room temperature.

A glass bowl for each skein of thread is also needed – gain glass contains no impurities that could react with the dye.

  1. Remove the wrappers from each skein and untwist the skein. Don’t undo the skein, just untwist it so it is a loop of thread.

  2. Place the skein in the bottom of the bowl and pour in enough water to cover the skein.

  3. Gently swirl the floss in the water and leave it to soak for fifteen minutes or so.

  4. Gently swirl it again, remove from the bowl and rinse with the water in the bowl.

  5. Lay the floss on a sheet of paper towel laid on a dry towel. If there is any dye residue, then repeat the steps above until the water runs clear and there is no residue on the towel (use a fresh piece of paper towel each time).

A word of warning

If you know that the dye used was not colourfast, this rinsing process will cause the colour to fade. If you know that the dye is not colourfast, always refer to the manufacturers care instructions before use.

Spot removal or dye or stains from your fabric

This can always be a problematical thing. By keeping your hands clean, it will go a long way to ensuring that your fabric remains clean.

Hand washing your embroidery after finishing stitching will remove most stains. Using a product such as Syntrapol or Colour Catcher (made by Shout) will assist in ensuring that there is no colour bleed from threads into the fabric.

However, you may need to spot treat small areas.

A good remedy is to mix equal parts water, ammonia, and dish detergent. Using a soft toothbrush, clean the area using rapid strokes. Rinse the area and, if the stain is still visible, repeat until it becomes invisible.

As long as your fabric is a natural fibre, as most of what we stitch on are, these methods will work. If, however, you are stitching on nylon then you may find it extremely difficult to remove any stains.

Any fabric should be washed before you start your stitching. Pre-printed linens should not be washed until your stitching is done, as the printing may wash out.



Shour Colour Catcher

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Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2011 Megan McConnell

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