Thursday, 18 July 2013

Fabric preparations

Finding myself with an empty washing machine recently, and no clothes waiting to be washed, I took advantage of the gap to pre-wash som fabrics for later costume use. Often, people can be unsure if they should pre-wash a fabric or not. Pre-washing removes any sizing which may be on the cloth, or in the case of fibres such as linen or cotton, can shrink these fabrics before use so the finished garment won't become distorted if it's washed afterwards. As a general rule of thumb, treat the fabric as it will be treated when it's in use - if it's for a garment that will be washed often, or will be used for detail work like embroidery, make sure to prewash. If it's a fancy fabric unlikely to ever see water, like a brocade, you may be able to get away without the pre-wash, but make sure you remember that.

On this day I decided to prewash some light black linen, a purple brushed cotton and some ivory cotton voile, yes all in the same wash. I know, I know. I never learn. This is not the first time a foolishly choosen slection of fabrics in pre-wash has colour bled on me. For some reason I think, especially with purple fabrics, that this time the dieties of fabric will look with favour on my industriousness, and will grant me an un-bled wash. But the gods of costuming care nothing for my neglect to seperate whites and colours.

And now you're thinking - that fabric...if that's the fabric she was talking about, it doesn't look like there's a colour bleed there. And you'd be right, this is the pre-washed fabric after I fixed the run, and here's how. 

Often, when faced with a colour run, there are commercial products that can assist in reversing the mistake. I tried one of these, but it lighted the pale purple cotton to a pale pink - even less desirable as a colour. So I decided to bleach the fabric. Word of warning here, bleach, in addition to removing dye, will also weaken the fibres over time, so this is not the best of methods to use on very delicate fabrics.  

I wanted a very weak solution to bleach my fabric, because I wasn't removing that much colour and cotton voile is not the most robust of fabrics. I disolved about 1 tablespoon of ordinary household bleach with 1.5L, a full kettle, of boiling water, then added cool water until I was able to put my hand into the water to be able to stir the fabric. Using latex gloves, I massaged the still damn fabric in the water, making sure all of it was exposed to the solution. I left it soaking then for about an hour, then machine washed it as usual at 60oC. And voila! Lovely white cotton voile. It's even better than its original ivory colour...


  1. I've found it's often possible to fix a colour run by immediately rewashing (as normal) the accidentally dyed item. Immediately as in, out of the machine - oh fuck it's run - right back into the machine.

    1. Unfortunately, I did try that on this wash but it didn't lighten it enough. The white cotton is intended to be a camica, or chemise, so it had to be a white colour rather than a washed out colour.