Saturday, October 20, 2012

Caught by the Color Catcher!

I’m a “sometimes” fabric washer.  I know that is a whole hot topic, and I’m not wanting to start a war between the washers and non-washers ---but I have my reasons and what I do works for me. 

Shrinkage is not my biggest worry.  BLEEDING is.

I am suspicious of fabrics that look dye saturated – especially purples and reds.  Solid blacks are also one thing I pre-wash because I want to get the chemicals out of the fabric before it rots. 

There is SO MUCH dye in black to get it that black that the fabric can just rot away over time.  In fact, I had made a quilt top with solid scraps and gave it to my friend Tonya, and as she was quilting it, some of the blacks were shredding.  UPSETTING!

This is the tale of the purple/magenta I washed last night---

I bought the fabric you see above in Southern California last January when I stayed with Sherry.  Remember our trip to M&L?? 

Go check that post – it’s hysterical! I love the photo of the antics it takes just to GET the fabric out from the bottom of the stack!

I want to use this fabric as an inner border, but it had that deeply-dyed look to it, and I thought it might need a pre-wash.  I wet a corner of a kitchen washcloth and rubbed it over the fabric, checking the washcloth to see if any pink came up.  It did.

In the washer it went – with my regular detergent, hot water and a COLOR CATCHER!

Y’all!  THIS is what came out of the dryer:

stash 001

The Color Catcher is DARK PURPLE!

stash 002

Here it is after air drying, on top of the fabric.

I use these whenever possible.  I wish I could say I swear by them, but I have come across some fabrics that never stop bleeding no matter how many times you’ve washed them.  Still ----these are my go-to item for pre-washing anything heavily dyed or saturated with intense color.

This meant that I wasn’t able to put the borders on last night like I wanted to --- but that is what today is for!

I’m turning on the QuiltCam about 2pm Eastern Time this afternoon---hoping to catch the European Contingency!  I’m STILL  ((YES, STILL!!)) cranking out Bow-Ties sewn into blocks.  I will push this project as often as possible to get it DONE.  I wish I could say I was ready to start working on the borders, but I don’t even know what the layout for this will be yet ---I’m just SEWING.  So be watching the clock, I’ll post when the cam goes on!

Have a great Saturday, Everyone!


  1. I like the color catchers so much that I give one box of them with the quilt that I'm giving. My big red quilt is two years old and has had many washings and it still turns the two color catchers bright pink. But the red/pink has never gotten on the creamy neutrals, ever.

  2. You don't need to buy anything special to act as a color catcher. Throw in any other piece of cotton, an old cotton towel or hunk of muslin for example. The dye migrates to like fabric. The original color catchers were nothing more than a hank of toweling secured to a weight so that the piece would move through the washer. There was nothing added to them! I have not looked at the new ones to know whether there's something added to them, but you really don't need to spend the extra money.

    1. Thanks, this is good to know! I haven't seen them for sale here (Israel), but now I know what I've been doing all along - tossing a piece of white cotton into the wash with the fabric in question - is fine!

  3. Your philosophy about washing fabric is exactly the same as mine. Love those Color Catchers also.If you washed something and it bled, you can use Synthropol to get out the dye that ran. If you have a fabric that keeps on bleeding, I have had success with Retayne.

  4. Just checked the Shout ingredients: Specially treated cellulose sheet and fragrance. That's it. Looking further, the "specially treated sheet" reads: Specially Treated Cellulose Sheet

    "Our Specially Treated Cellulose Sheet is a cloth-like sheet that is processed so it will absorb loose dyes in the wash. It is designed to not break down in the wash, but instead retain its cloth form and keep the loose dyes contained."

    Translation: it's been needle-punched or otherwise "webbed"--there's nothing added to make it catch the dye. Any piece of cotton will work the same.

  5. Holy moly!! Gonna get a box of those babies! Thanks for sharing this VERY scary story!

  6. I agree Bonnie, they sure do work. Most fabrics are ok, but it just takes that one. I once had a dark blue fabric that never stopped bleeding, it must have missed the process that sets the dye.

  7. Anonymous7:50 AM EDT

    I love color catchers too and always tell people to put one in the wash when washing their quilts. I give all my used sheets to a friend who uses them in her art work. So they are never thrown away.

  8. That us great. I was just telling my husband this morning there is a quilt I need to wash but I am afraid it will run. It was a gift & I know it was never pre-washed. I was going to buy the sheets but I may just try an old bed sheet in there.

  9. That us great. I was just telling my husband this morning there is a quilt I need to wash but I am afraid it will run. It was a gift & I know it was never pre-washed. I was going to buy the sheets but I may just try an old bed sheet in there.

  10. Thanks Beth in TN... I use to just thow in a white sock or a pair of my husbands tightys but I too have switched to color catchers. I do like the artwork idea too.

  11. I use the color catchers almost every time I wash new fabric, or a quilt for the first time. I love them! Maybe a plain old piece of cotton fabric would work the same, but I have the box of color catchers on a shelf next to the washer, and don't really need to think about it before hand, I just find one and throw it in. And, I know these work..... I would still be nervous about throwing in a piece of cotton fabric.

  12. Thanks for the info on the black. I don't pre-wash either. I have a quilt I started 15 years ago with black as the background. It is on the bottom on my UFO list, a very long list too. Might have to move it up, to see if it is too late for that one. Guess I have another load of laundry to do today. All the black fabric that is sitting on the shelves, yards of it. I do absolutely LOVE color catchers though.

  13. Bonnie, like you, I seldom wash my fabrics. Batiks are a must wash, as are most reds. However, last year I had completed a king size quilt for a gift which had a dark blue main fabric and a lot of white background. When doing up the binding, I spritzed the dark blue when pressing and the blue came out on my ironing board. I was mortified...thinking that all that work was going to be ruined. After talking with my LAQL, she advised I was the whole thing when finished with Synthropol. I did just that and no worries. I also use Retaine, as Mary Ellen spoke of above. I so agree about the chemicals, but when I own thousands of yards from the store I closed, it is overwhelming to think I need to wash it all at once.
    Be well my friend.
    Faye in Maine

  14. Don't forget: put the color catcher(s) in a lingerie bag...
    I once had the utmost pleasure of digging into the washing machine's bowels three ( yes, THREE!!!!!) times in one afternoon to get the catchers out of the sieve ( only once) and the pump (twice...)
    The hundred times before this all went well, but this single time must have been on my lucky day.
    Thank you, the machine is well again, and I survived =^}

    Hope to catch you on the cam!
    love from Amsterdam, Irene

  15. I love the colour catchers - I received a box in a gift exchange on a quilting list. Unfortunately, they are not available where I live :( so I am making the box last as long as possible. It's amazing the colours those things are when they come out of the wash.

  16. Here is an article telling you how to make your own color catchers. Yes, there is a chemicel used, soda ash.


  17. I am a washer, as well and still "gift" a few color catchers with the quilt that I give, for the first few Washington.

  18. I bought an *expensive* fluffy burgundy toweling dressing gown once. It bled for 4 YEARS until I tore it up for dishcloths in a stress one day, then the washing up water would go pink! It never seemed to FADE though, just bleed!

    Just last week I re-washed some brown batik backing that bled the first time, not good to wrestle and iron as it was extra wide!

    I have never seen colour catcher here , I wash everything. (:~/ I do have plenty of old sheets though, thanks for the tip girls!

  19. Anonymous9:32 AM EDT

    color carchers are great

  20. Whew! Glad you prewashed that fabric! I have never bought color catchers, but instead I use pieces of "boring" fabric....maybe whites or other odd pieces that for one reason or another haven't been used yet. They will absorb dye from new fabric...and this changes that "boring" piece of fabric into something prettier and more interesting. (Check to be sure the fabric used as a color catcher is not going to bleed!) That purple fabric probably would have created a very interesting new fabric if you washed it with an odd piece of fabric in place of the color catcher. (Do you know of any reason NOT to do this? Please let us know!)

  21. I'm sure that a piece of plain white would pick up any dye in the water, but what would prevent that dye from also being picked up by the light fabrics in the quilt?

    However, when I preshrink fabric, I do include a piece of plain white muslin to see if the color is going to run. If it does, I then know to avoid or pretreat the fabric. I always have a lot of scrap muslin hanging around left over from my garment sewing.

  22. I only prewash really suspicious fabrics, but I always wash finished quilts with a Color Catcher. Works great. As another commenter said, I also include a few Color Catchers with all the quilts that I give as gifts. I write washing and drying instructions on an envelope and tuck a few Color Catchers inside.
    I also found that Color Catchers can remove dye once it has bled: I soaked only the borders on a quilt to remove the water soluble applique stabilizer because it felt so stiff after I sprayed it (really dumb move). The dark turquoise border bled into the yellow inner quilt. I was crushed. Only thing to do was to try a Color Catcher. Into the washer it went--unfinished, unquilted. Thank heavens it worked.

  23. If you make homemade color catchers with soda ash, the soda ash will help fix the dye in the fibers. The color catchers or another piece of cotton are meant to CATCH loose dye that is still on the surface of the fabric. For instance, indigo is one dye that leaves a lot of dye on the surface--that is why when you wash blue jeans, you may get residual blue on your washer or dryer drum. With any of these, the best time to use them is BEFORE you put the fabric into the quilt or you may still have loose dye that lands onto or fixes into an adjoining fabric. The only reason I brought up the idea of plain cotton as a substitute is because some people don't have access to the commercial product and/or you might not want to spend money on something that you already have on hand! :)

  24. Can you use dye catchers on hand washing? Ty

  25. I use your method of deciding what to wash, and what not to wash. If it looks suspicious, it gets washed. Only I use 6, 7 dye catchers. Not one. I may also wash several times. Your fabric is beautiful! I thought maybe it was from your Bali trip---but, I see it's from a shop in Calif. I look forward to seeing it on your quilt. I also love your quilt cam episodes. I'm not always able to watch, but look forward to them when I can. I hope to meet you some day Bonnie as I have enjoyed reading your blog for a long time----

  26. Is this your border fabric of choice for the Bow ties? I'll have to see what you show on QuiltCam later. Maybe it's for the next Mystery?? Good thing you pre-washed that piece. I prewash as much as I can, I don't trust those rogue dyes that want to ruin my quilts. It's amazing when you wash a Name Brand and it bleeds. Especially the Red, Green and Blacks always get the Color catchers and a good washing!

  27. The process of making batiks involves adding wax, dying the fabric and then then boiling the wax out. I have found them to be the most color stable of all fabric. I do throw in a color catcher the first time I wash the quilt. I work in a Batik only quilt shop in Texas, so all my quilts have at least some batik in them. Because of these same processes I find them to be less subject to shrinkage. If it is OK to mention it...Fabric Fanatics in Plano, Texas will be hosting Bonnie Hunter December 30.31. and January 1 for a Mystery (same one on two different days, and a technique class from her new String book) spaces are still available. Call the shop at 972-881-7750 or visit online at fabricfanatics.com

  28. Had a great time when you were here (come back someday). Yesterday was a local shop hop; we stopped by M&L on the way home.
    I have the brown version of that fabric for the back of a quilt with lots of white in the top. Guess I better prewash with a color catcher.

  29. I've been having more problems with blues bleeding the last few years. And I've also gotten to where I throw two boxes worth of color catchers win with the fabric. I've had some nasty bleeders...

  30. Anonymous2:23 PM EDT

    Interesting you used one color catcher and I would have used three .... the important thing is you caught some color...

  31. I used 11 color catchers when I washed my son's quilt. They all turned out purple, I had washed this quilt before, and it was not a batik. To see pictures of my experiment.


  32. I just love that fabric! you American gals have such a fabulous selection of fabrics.

  33. Hi Bonnie

    I don't wash my fabrics either


    I DO wash all the quilts with color catchers

    would have that all the hard work was ruined by one stray fabric dye

  34. Oh Bonnie I actually have that fabric;) from M&L. I hit that store often since it is only a few miles from home. Great for backings I just bought some Moda for $3.99yd. But I always prewash from the stacks and color catchers are a must often those fabrics are from odd lots.

    Next time you are in LA I'd love to take you to the textile district

  35. my favorite color catcher story is about a batik rainbow stacked coin quilt I made and washed dried before I realized the reds bled all onto the surrounding white. A friend told me about color catchers so I went and got some and rewashed the quilt. It took all of the bled color out of the white. I don't know whats in them, but to me that was magic.

  36. I was just about to cut into a brand new piece of black. I think i'll sew something else this morning and stick it in the washer! Especially since i'm pairing it with white tone-on tones.

  37. Synthropol is fabulous for prewashing bleeding fabrics. I order mine from Dharma's.

  38. Anonymous5:09 AM EST

    I use colour catcher all the time for everything, I usually wash-by colour, and start with lights, working my way through to darks, and re-use the colour catcher, although if i suspect heavy colour loss i will chuck in an extra one. Also, I think I washed with salt once to help 'fix' the dye.
    from maria maria.j.hewitt@googlemail.com

  39. Anonymous1:40 AM EST

    I bought some dark purple flannel from JoAnns for use in a rag guilt for my granddaughter...I washed it twice in hot water and two color catchers in each load...The last load still showed purple on the catcher...Do I need to keep washing the fabric until the catcher doesn't show any purple??Thank you so much!! Rhonda DeButts....rhondadebutts@yahoo.com


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