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Bleeding colors…help!

SisterT | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I bought some beautiful pieces of hand-woven fabric.  They are cotton and multicolored.  I want to use them for embellishment, but I have already discovered that the colors run.  Is there some way I can treat the fabric in order to prevent this?  Can someone at least give me the proper term for the procedure so that I can do my own search?


Sr. Tracey


  1. sueb | | #1

    There's no way to stop the colors from running.  The best thing to do is to presoak all the color out until the water runs clear and then use them for embelishment on your items.  I typically soak my handwoven fabrics in a warm water bath with a small amount of liquid detergent.  Soak for 10 -20 minute at a time, drain the water, sqeeze the water left in the fabric and then soak it again.  You'll need to do this until the water runs clear.

    Good luck !



    1. SisterT | | #2

      Aaack!  Not the answer I wanted, but I believe you.  The problem with soaking is that there are white threads that drink up those lovely colors....

      Thanks for the tip!

      Sr. Tracey

  2. ma7 | | #3

    I have had success with Retayne, a liquid product to stop the bleed; it's a color fixative for commercially dyed cotton fabrics.   Made by G&K Craft Industries Ltd. Somerset, MA 02726-0038.  There are also products at the supermarket like Shout Color Catchers which you put directly into the washer.  We frequently use it when there is a new tshirt which might bleed.  Good luck, M A

  3. nargis | | #4

    Try soaking it in salt water overnight. hope this helps.

    1. mem1 | | #5

      I have had success with salt too perhaps try boiling it in salt water.

  4. mem1 | | #6

    I have used salt water and boiled the fabric and that has worked so ????

    1. edgy | | #7

      Also, check out Dharmatrading. They have a product (it might be Retayne), and they're great to deal with and free with advice.nancy

  5. SisterT | | #8

    Thank you all for the advice.  I think I'll try the salt water on a piece, and if that doesn't do the trick I will look for Retayne.


    1. SewTruTerry | | #9

      There are all kinds of fixes that will retain the color in the fabric.  The term is mordant if you look into any of the many books on dyeing fabric. It would help if you know what kind of dye was used. Also would help knowing the fabric content unless I missed that part on your post.  There are different kinds of mordants on the market based on the dye used and the type of fabric.

      1. SisterT | | #10


        Thank you very much.  That was exactly the information I was seeking.  The fabric content is cotton, and I think I can probably trace likely dyes used.


        1. SewTruTerry | | #11


          After I posted my reply I went back to your original post and read that it did say cotton.  I then looked up for the cotton fabric and if most of the dyes are somewhat plant based you should be able to use Alum which you should actually be able to find in the spice aisle of your local grocery it is usually used for keeping pickles crisp.  I think if you can even find pickling salt that should work as well.  Just disolve the Alum or pickling salt that you will use in very hot water and add it to the cooler water that you are going to soak the fabric in.  I know that you can also add Borax to the water which will make it fizz up so I would use it in a well ventilated area and then add your fabric and let soak for 20-30 minutes.  This should do the trick. 

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