As some of you may have noticed, if you’ve been by the Etsy store and had a look around, in my product descriptions I always note that each piece has been machine washed prior to being listed. That’s absolutely true. Each and every one of my creations is washed in the gentle cycle with a hypoallergenic detergent free of dyes or scents then tumbled dry on low with no fabric softner. There are a few reasons for me doing this.
First and foremost, I want to ensure the integrity of the item; the stitching and embroidery work. I want to make sure that even after a cycle in the washing machine, the stitching and embellishments stay intact. There are times, especially when hemming blind, I might run off an edge and a bit of hem will flip out during the cycle. Washing prior to listing an item for sale helps me to know I’m selling a quality product and if I do happen to come up with a raw edge somewhere, at that point it is totally repairable. Now, the embroidery embellishments are another story. If that stitching happens to come loose during the initial wash cycle, there isn’t much that can be done. That particular piece is called a loss. Once the hand-embroidered top is quilted to the backing, there’s no taking that apart to re-stitch the design. Aside from it already being quilted, there is a secondary problem with not being able to recreate the design, and this same issue serves as another reason I pre-wash items.
The blue ink used to print the pattern onto pre-printed embroidery items will normally wash out during the initial wash cycle phase of production. Cold water normally takes the blue residue right out of the fabric. You can see how that’d be a problem with being able to recreate a design that came apart at the stitching post-wash. However, another issue that can arise from this blue ink is that it actually doesn’t come out of the fabric. It doesn’t happen often, but last week I had a case of it here in the studio that turned into a disaster, to be quite honest.
I usually wash two or three pieces together as I normally never have a problem with the blue ink. I’m fully aware what can happen, I just try to have faith it won’t. I’ve also never in the years and years I’ve been doing this ever had a case of it anywhere nearly as bad as this was last week. The ink from one single piece bled not only all over that piece but transferred to two other pieces I was washing with it. I’d done everything I know to do to prevent this transfer of ink. I washed in cold, rinsed in cold, used the right detergent, and used the color-catchers you can toss in your laundry. Everything was going along well, then I opened the washer after the cycle was done. To my dismay, the quilt that was responsible for the bleed pretty much had a blue background rather than the white it started with. The other two pieces had transfer marks along the edging and hemlines.
So, what’s the answer when this disaster strikes?
I separated the items by severity of the issue. The problem causing piece went into the deep sink for a soak in cold water for a couple of hours. In the meantime, the other pieces were sprayed with a stain remover and put back in the washing machine. After a couple of rounds of this method and using a Tide pen as well as an old wives’ method of vinegar bath, nothing worked. In effect, the three pieces are now in the total loss bin.
I’m still unsure as to why this particular piece caused this issue. I don’t know if the printer was extremely heavy handed with the printing, or if the ink itself was defective. I’ve never had a piece that I couldn’t get the bleed out of before.
The takeaways from this experience? Thank goodness I do go through the extra step of washing prior to listing an item! I’d be appalled if a customer received an item then washed it and opened the machine to find what I did. And, no more washing multiple items. I always saw washing one single item as a waste of water, electricity, and time. From now on, this final step will be taken more carefully regardless of cost to ensure nothing ends up in the total loss bin and my customers continue to get the quality they expect and deserve.
After just a sewin’ the blues…lesson learned.