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Ask the Crafts Dept. : Set Dyed Fabric & Prevent Bleeding

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Ed Mitby asks:

I recently was in India and purchased several tablecloths and table settings
that apparently are made with vegetable dye.

Supposedly you are supposed to soak these in salt water before washing to
prevent bleeding, but how much salt, what water temperature, and how long?

Very good question! I didn’t know the answer to this myself so I called the experts at Dharma Trading. They really do know everything about dyes and dye processes, an amazing resource!

Some textiles produced overseas are often not rinsed of excess dye, this keeps water usage to a minimum and saves time. This means dyes can often transfer to your skin or worse dye an entire load of laundry. Apparently the salt and vinegar techniques are more fiction than fact, and don’t really do anything to set dyes or remove excess dye.

The best option is to set the dye with a product called “Retayne” and hot water. This will fix the dye particles in the fiber and prevent color bleeding during washing. The second step is to remove all of the excess dye with “Synthrapol” and hot water. This product removes excess dye and keeps loose dye particles in suspension so they don’t stain other areas of fabric, great for patterned fabrics when you need to prevent lighter areas from getting stained with dye from darker areas. In the end this process helps you achieve a textile with vivid color that will not bleed in future launderings. This process is also great for quilters, it can keep say the red squares in your quilt from bleeding into the white ones.


IMG_0360I called on Dahrma trading for advice on the Ombre story I worked on in 2008. This is some of the initial testing I did, you can see the Dharma Trading dyes above. I used Synthrapol to keep the white areas white.

* Do you have a craft question you’d like to ask the experts? Please click here for more information! Remember – all queries must be sent VIA EMAIL to be considered. Thanks!

Comments (4)

  • Thanks so much for this post, Nick! I have a colorful, embroidered Mexican Otomi
    textile that could use a wash, but I've been hesitant, because I'm afraid the colors will bleed... I will look into the Dharma Trading products for sure!

  • There is a really cool advertisement the Michaels Stores are using right now. It has a picture of Martha with these huge orange paper folded "flowers". I have asked and searched every where for information on what they are and where I can find directions on how to make them myself. I have had no luck, can you help me?
    Cheryl Richardson, Richmond VA

  • Hello

    I know i don't have the right site for this question but I didn't know wcich was the right one. Maybe you can help me just the same. In the receipe forChewy Oatmeal Blondies. What does mMrs. Martha means by Every Day Baking Mix.Thank you.

  • Crafter Comment:

    Here is a link - it is to a recipe for the mix

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