cross-stitch quilt block in red embroider floss bleeds when wet

Asked February 12, 2014, 6:02 PM EST

I inherited a red cross-stitched quilt top. As I pressed it, some of the water from the iron caused the red floss to bleed. Before I do any more with it, I want to know what can be done to keep that floss from bleeding in to the white background, thus making it pink.

Minnehaha County South Dakota

1 Response

You don't say how old your quilt top is so it's hard to tell what type of embroidery floss was used. Has this quilt top been washed or dry cleaned? Was the water from steam from the iron or a cool water droplet from the iron?

True embroidery floss is LESS LIKELY to bleed (but there are no warranties) and red craft thread is almost guaranteed to bleed. New threads bleed more than older ones because of the regulations governing the manufacturing of the thread and the dye used. Red thread is the worst when it comes to bleeding and it seems yours is not colorfast since the water from the iron caused it to bleed.

The heat from the iron could also permanently set the bleeding color onto the white fabric.

Your safest option at this point is to talk with your local dry cleaner and have them test for colorfastness when exposed to dry cleaning fluids. If you are lucky and dry cleaning fluids do NOT affect the stitching, the dry cleaner MAY be willing to clean and press the entire quilt top but may require you to sign a waver before attempting it.

If steam caused the bleeding, you can try DRY ironing the piece on the wrong side using a pressing cloth (a thin piece of WHITE cotton or muslin fabric) between the piece and your iron. Make sure there is NOT water in the iron and the iron has dried before pressing the quilt top.

Before you put the time and effort into quilting this top, test a small portion of the piece to see if it can take a cold-water wash. dip a small inconspicuous spot into cold water or wet the area and press the area with a white cloth to see if the red dye bleeds. If it does, you won't be able to wash the quilt top---could be a problem with a well-loved quilt.

The next time you or someone you know attempts to embroider--especially with red and deep colors, pre-treat the thread by soaking in 2 cups of hot water with 2 tsp white vinegar. Let set for a couple hours and RINSE, RINSE, RINSE. Wrap in a WHITE towel to absorb the water and hang to dry. So sad to put in all the time and love to create such an heirloom and have it ruined by bleeding thread.


I'm sorry you had this problem. I know how important a quilt top can be. Good luck!