be your self: a lesson learned

be your self: a lesson learned

By Patricia Belyea


I started on my newest quilt at The Joe Retreat in November. The idea was to have a little fun after working on my book for three years! Scissor-cutting fabric and sewing together folksy words with bits of light blue, white, and bright colors led the whimsical composition.

I surrounded my message, Be Your Self, with a scrappy medley of color blocks, two happy rabbits hand-dyed on vintage yukata cotton, and a wonky curved detail. Also included in the design was a bold black and white polka-dot fabric generously given to me by a Retreat participant.

After I made a back, sandwiched the quilt, and hand stitched it with lopsided flowers, I dunked the project into a bathtub of tepid water. This step was to remove the stitch guidelines and prepare the quilt for blocking.

Then something went wrong—terribly wrong. When I pulled the soaking-wet mass out of the bathtub, both the front and back were covered with blotches of purple-black. Although I always pre-wash my fabrics, I had never pre-washed the black and white polka-dot piece!

Immediately I washed the mess with OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, twice. (I used a one-hour load cycle with cold water, extra rinse, and low spin.) There was some improvement so I kept the project wet by running the cycle again with no detergent while I zipped to the store to buy more stain removers.

The fourth cycle was with OxiClean White Revive and the fifth with Clorox Stain Remover & Color Booster.

The cleaning agents eliminated 95% of the dye problem but also roughed up some of the fabrics so they look worn out. I deemed the project acceptable although no show piece. So I continued on and finished the quilt with a turquoise facing.

My intent all along was to share this quilt with students in my Yukata Quilting Workshop where we focus on creativity, curves, and yukata cottons. The lesson: yukata cottons and curves can compliment a quilt, not be the only features.

Instead I was the person receiving the lesson. ALWAYS pre-wash your fabrics, Patricia! Even today’s commercially printed fabrics can have dye issues. I never want to repeat the anguish of believing I’ve ruined a quilt.

Have you experienced a similar crisis with a quilt project? How did you resolve it?