My bleeding quilt and how I fixed it

I was slightly traumatized after the holidays when putting away my decorations.  Even though I’ve heard of a bleeding quilt, I was surprised when it showed up under my Christmas tree.  My red and cream tree skirt had water spilled on it and the red fabric bled into the surrounding cream fabric.  Ouch!

Bleeding quilt and how I fixed it with Dawn dish soap @ The Crafty Quilter

Bleeding quilt and how I fixed it with Dawn dish soap @ The Crafty Quilter


It was bleeding in several large areas and I didn’t expect a full recovery.  Thankfully, I remembered an article I read from Suzy Quilts:  How to Fix Fabric Bleeds.  And guess what friends.  It worked!

I put enough VERY hot water in our bathtub to cover the tree skirt and then I added the magic ingredient:  Dawn dish soap, about 1/3 cup.  I followed Suzy’s instructions almost to the “T”.  Instead of letting it soak for 12 hours, I stopped at 6 hours.  But that was enough for my little Christmas tree skirt.

Bleeding quilt and how I fixed it with Dawn dish soap @ The Crafty Quilter


I think the Dawn dish soap suspends the fabric dye in the water.  Another reason to keep Dawn around! I rinsed it really well in warm water and then I put it through the washing machine on a light cycle with no detergent.  It came out perfect!

Bleeding quilt and how I fixed it with Dawn dish soap @ The Crafty Quilter

Bleeding quilt and how I fixed it with Dawn dish soap @ The Crafty Quilter


I know someone is going to ask about the tree skirt pattern.  It was a freebie online many years ago and it’s no longer available.  Coincidentally, I met the lady who wrote the pattern (for Darlene Zimmerman) during my lecture at the Cumberland Valley Quilters Association in Tennessee.  She happened to be in the audience and told me about the pattern.  I’m not sure if she can recreate the pattern, but it would be worth a try.  Many people have asked me over the years.

Christmas tree skirt made by Julie Cefalu @ The Crafty Quilter


Anyways, back to the fabric bleed issue.  Just thought I would pass this along in case it happens to you.  And thanks to Suzy for saving the day!

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About Julie Cefalu

Hello! I'm Julie and I love to quilt, craft, read, garden, hike and spend time with my family.

50 thoughts on “My bleeding quilt and how I fixed it

  1. Do you have to wait for a bleed to do this? Can you soak the red fabric then dry and iron it first? Thanks!

  2. Wow! I’m so glad I ran across your blog on bloglovin! I had the same issue with my red & white tree skirt and it worked like a charm! I have a larger Christmas quilt soaking in the tub now….not sure if I can rescue it as it went through the dryer already, but it’s worth a shot! Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing that! It’s a very handy thing to know. We always think that won’t happen to us, but sometimes it does. And that technique should even help when other items bleed in the laundry.

  4. Hi Julie. thanks for this. Living in the UK I’m not sure what the ‘Dawn’ equivalent would be but so pleased that you saved your Tree skirt. I loved the pattern so much that I have mocked up a pattern to use as my next charity quilt for the ‘Helping Hands’ fb page. If you could contact the original author of the pattern and ask her permission I am more than happy to share the pattern via your blog. Thanks for everything you share, Best wishes Nicola

    1. Hi Nicola – if you receive permission to use, would love to get the pattern from you. It is so beautiful – we have always had a real tree, but have been leary about using red in a skirt. This makes me want to just do it 😀

  5. That tip could be worth a lot to anyone who ever uses red….who doesn’t???? Amazing stuff that blue Dawn; I always have some but I don’t think I would have thought of it for this!!! Thanks to Suzy Q and to you! Now if I can remember it if/when I get in this pickle.

  6. I have referred many a quilter to the dawn fix you mention. It is amazing stuff and we always have it on hand – mostly for deskunking!I have often wondered whether I should pre-wash with it. What do you think?

  7. Yay for the magic of Dawn! I would have been terrified the hot water would shrink the fabric. Courageous you are. Wonderful share.

  8. Hello Julie; I am glad that this worked because your tree skirt is beautiful! I made sure to save this post on pinterest in a couple of spots, just in case. I have not had anything bleed so far, but I also am a prewasher usually and always use the Colorcatchers now also. Yet, good old fashioned remedies are usually the most reliable and it seems that so many of them involve Dawn dish soap, Vinegar and Baking Soda. LOL. Again, so thrilled this worked for you and also Thank You for sharing the Tip! Have a Fantastic Day!

  9. I know this brought some sniffles-after the “grrrrrrrrrrrrrr” settled 🙁 I definitely saved this recipe to my favorites! I’m glad it was fixed, I know i would have been stressed out!! What a beautiful tree skirt. It’s been so long since i had a real tree, too. i might have to consider one again. Thanks for sharing this resolution!

  10. Very glad to hear you managed to save your quilt. I hope I find this dish washing soap here to save my quilt as well. does it work with all color bleed. Idid use color catchers but strangely it still bled over. Thanks for sharing a wonderful tip.

  11. Orvus works quite well. You can buy it in big containers at a farm store as it is a horse and dog show shampoo that is also used as a quilt soap. Much less expensive in a farm store than a quilt shop. I use it for all my laundry and as shampoo. Shout Color Catchers and the product called Color Grabbers is wonderful, too. Turquoise batiks are notorious for color sharing. Dawn is a miracle product. I use that in combination with hydrogen peroxide to get stains out of most everything. It works. It removed wine stains from a white piece of hardanger and works on carpeting too. Google the recipes.

  12. I have a 25 block redwork hand emb quilt that has a few blocks with bleeding. In a quandry as to what to do. I had pre-washed the red sashing but it still bled when water was accidentally dropped on it. The bulk will be difficult to handle but worth a try. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Here’s hugs through the computer. I put my quilt+Dawn+3 color catcher sheets in the washer. I think every bit of the red came out. I’m one happy “girl”. The color catchers were bright red. Thanks so much for sharing-it was so timely in my case.

  13. Is this something you would try on an antique quilt? Just wondering because I have one that bleed years ago, and it is so lovely. I would enjoy having it out and seen.

    And thank you for the info, I will keep this in mind for newer fabric.

  14. Thank you Julie for sharing this wonderful tip! I made a beautiful black, white and red quilt. Even though I prewashed the red fabric it bled. Not knowing what to do about it I just folded it up and put it in my linen closet. I will definitely be trying this remedy!

  15. Oh my, so glad you saved the day. Does Dawn have extra ingredients or would any dish soap do I wonder? I have never seen it for sale here in UK. Thank you for all the tips you pass on. Always look forward to your posts. Beautiful tree skirt.

  16. I love dawn I use it for everything, it really cleans batiks you do need to soak for a little but but it seems to get that wax feel out. Also cleans windows great get a squirt bottle put warm water in and just 2 drops of dawn shake it up beautiful windows.

  17. This post is print-worthy! Valuable information that I shall place with my stash of red fabrics, in the event of future bleeds. Thanks so much for sharing – delighted that it all worked for good and you saved the day!

  18. Thanks for sharing this! If you run out of stain remover for your laundry Dawn dish detergent works well as a stain remover, especially if its a greasy stain.

  19. Glad it worked. I did a redwork quilt, and even though the owner of the store told me I didn’t need to wash the fabric (and I trusted her) when I washed it – it bled. I’m certainly going to try your method and hoping for the best. It’s a full size quilt, so I think I’ll do the 12-hour soak. Thank you!

  20. What a nice tree skirt! It’s wonderful that you were able to take out the bleed. I’ll be keeping your suggestions around. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

  21. So glad to hear the remedy for the bleed. I will keep this information handy.
    Your tree skirt is gorgeous! Thank you.

  22. Julie so pleased that you managed to save your quilt, it is beautiful .
    Are you saying that this is a liquid soap that you would do your dishes with. I will have a look for it here in Australia.
    I do use a product called “Colour Catcher” its a Sard Wonder product made in Ireland. I always put a couple of sheets of this in when washing a quilt. it worked very well for a quilt that was mostly purple,

    Happy New Year Julie. Im looking forward to your posts for 2018
    Gayle Z Australia

  23. Wow! Dawn really is a miracle “drug”. I was surprised when you said you put it in hot water. My mother is spinning in her grave over that… I’m glad is all came out. It’s a lovely tree skirt.

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