I’ve been sewing a long time, and I consider myself fairly au fait with the trials and tribulations which can occur while wielding a needle and thread (having experienced them all at least three times before learning better).

But I did find myself rather aghast when the dark blue thread on a recent piece bled and I had to do the whole thing again!

colourfast title

Changes in the chemicals used to dye thread means that water soluble dyes are more common (good for the environment) and the dyes can bleed or run into surrounding areas while they’re being washed (bad for the stitcher).

So profit from my experience, and before you set off an a grand embroidery adventure try this test.

colourfast 1

Snip off a short length of thread, dampen it and place on some white kitchen towel to dry. If there is a stain, you can either set the entire skein of thread or adjust your washing techniques accordingly.

colourfast 2

You set the colour by soaking the skein in salt water and then rinsing in lots of cold water until it runs clear. (Various methods include adding the salt to boiling water and letting it cool or adding two tablespoons each of salt and white vinegar to cool water.) Allow the skein to air dry and then use as normal. (Don’t get too cocky once you’ve set your skein, it can still run if you use hot water or steam!)

A few caveats – just because one section of a skein doesn’t run doesn’t mean another part won’t. In general, the deeper and more saturated the colour, the more likely it is to run. Reds, dark blues, dark purples and black are ones to watch out for. Use the test as an indication and then balance the hassle of setting the skein against the frustration of having the thread run.

colourfast 3

Wash your piece in cold water with pH balanced detergent (I throw a little salt and vinegar in, just in case) and rinse. If you do get a run, keep rinsing – you can also run an ice cube on the affected part to help remove the stain.

If you don’t have to wash your piece, don’t! You can also mist it with cold water before pressing for a happy medium.

Have you ever had a problem with running thread dyes? Any fabulous solutions?