How many of us diligently prewash our fabrics before we sew with them? I had a learning experience that motivates me to always do it!
Most fabric is printed and tends to bleed little, but some fabric is dyed and dyed fabric can bleed a lot. A whole lot. Turn your fabric over. If the back is mostly white-ish, then it was printed.
I made some Christmas pillowcases for the kiddos with contrasting cuffs. I dutifully prewashed the main fabric with a color catcher. The color catcher came out nearly white, so that fabric didn’t bleed much. (The color catcher may not protect your other fabrics fully but it’s a good indicator of whether your fabric has bled). I pulled red and green fabrics from my stash for the cuffs. Since red fabric is notorious for bleeding, I prewashed it even though I was fairly sure I had already done so.
Yikes! It didn’t bleed - it hemorrhaged. The color catcher was the same color red as the 1/2 yard of fabric. I washed it again - long cycle, extra rinse. Same thing on the color catcher. I spent the next two days with it in the sink; agitating, soaking, rinsing, repeating. After 8 cycles, including an overnight soak … it was still bleeding red dye. Closer examination showed it to be a dyed fabric and obviously the dye wasn’t set well. Picture the disaster if this had been part of a red and white quilt.
Needless to say, I got rid of that fabric. And now when I choose fabrics, if there are light fabrics included in the project I’m going to ensure the dark fabrics are printed (instead of dyed) just to be safe.