A tutorial- how to ensure your quilt will have a colour run disaster

I have never had success in getting the colours to run in any of the quilts I’ve washed. And boy in my house where quilts are regularly  used and abused is washing a frequent event. However that all changed with this beauty when an accident with mud and tea (don’t ask…) meant a wash was essential. So I thought I’d do a quick tutorial on how to ensure as much as you possibly can that you get that elusive colour run…



1. Choose your fabric colours carefully.  A pale but interesting quilt like this one made of good quality but mostly unsaturated colours is less likely to run.



Better to choose dark colours, reds are perfect. But the almost cast iron guarantee to colour run I’ve found is using a dark red flannel backing.


2. Choose your design carefully. This may sound obvious but if you make a quilt solely from red or dark flannel fabric such as the one below then of course the colours may run (hurray) but into each other and not show (boo). You need to include a pale preferably white/cream for maximum effect.



3. Do not use colour catchers, let all that loose dye do its business. I did use colour catchers, quite a few, but whilst they came out very pink there was obviously too much loose colour for them to contain

4. Use a small domestic sized washing machine for a very large quilt, even better if it has built in water and energy saving features. What this means is that your quilt will sit for a significant amout of time completely immobile, absolutely sodden and all squashed up giving plenty of opportunity for the red fabrics to touch the white ones.

5. Put your quilt in a tumble dryer without checking

If you follow these tips you should find a quilt that close up looks like this and has a lovely patchy pinkish hue!



Of course this tongue in cheek tutorial is a rather sorry and cautionary tale in how not to do something. I love the flannel backing on this quilt but next time it will be the palest they do….after all you can’t see it in normal use. The quilt has largely been rescued I’m pleased to say by the use of all these…..


When I realised that one of the culprits is my A rated energy saving washing machine I took it to our local launderette to use their big drum machine, which is quite possibly older than me, with the latest colour run treatment and that worked well. I’m pleased air drying has left the flannel as soft as before and it has the most gorgeous crinkly effect.


Which leads me to the contentious area of pre- washing fabric to eliminate the risk of colour runs.   Quilters and I’m guessing dressmakers as well fall into two camps on this topic. I don’t pre wash as I don’t fancy the extra work, I like the shrinkage and crinkly effect it makes (which I accept for dressmakers is a big no no), I like the feel of unwashed fabric and I’ve found in this sad tale that the red flannel just kept giving up red dye! So prewashing may take away some of the loose dye but from my experience it isn’t eliminated with just one wash.

One huge advantage of going through these trials and tribulations is that I’ve learnt loads and I have certainly fallen in love with woollen batting as a practical choice.  I genuinely have lost count of how many times the quilt has been washed and yet it’s still warm and cosy  and any doubts about how washable a wool batting is have been well and truly banished.







5 thoughts on “A tutorial- how to ensure your quilt will have a colour run disaster

  1. I’m so sorry you had such a color run problem, and I’m glad that you were able to resolve it. I have also fought the red bleed on white fabric issue with a quilt, and honestly multiple re-washes in a row without letting the quilt dry is what finally did the trick for me. Thanks for linking up to share your cautionary tale.


  2. Eeek! What an experience. But honestly in your last photo you can’t see it at all. Promise! I think red is always the culprit in these things too, I mean how often do you hear stories of tragedies with blues? Never!
    E xx


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