In this section of the blog are some tips and explanations that will hopefully be of help to some of you. I hope to address here the questions that I'm most commonly asked about hand dyed fabrics. So if there is anything you would like an answer to please just ask and I'll answer it if I can (keep it to stitching!).
Washing Hand Dyed Fabrics
This is one of those slightly thorny issues, you buy a piece of fabric and it's marked "These fabrics are not guaranteed colourfast: please take care if you should wash them as colours may bleed". Which, I know for many stitchers causes headaches. Many people like to wash projects before framing them, particularly if it's a large project such as a Chatelaine or a HAED. While I don't recommend washing hand dyed fabrics here are a few guidelines if you know you're going to want to wash a finished piece, before you start stitching, which might help.
So what is the risk if you do wash them? Basically it is that any unbound dye in the fabric will run (in other words bleed) and may be taken up by threads and discolour them (this is the same reason washing hand dyed threads on a finished piece can be risky, though then it's normally the fabric that becomes discoloured). While we hand wash and rinse all fabrics after dying them there may still be small amounts of unbound dye on the fabric, it's similar to buying a pair of black jeans they've been dyed and washed to remove excess dye but you still wouldn't put them into the washing machine with a heap of white laundry.
So how can you minimize that risk? Basically, if you know that you are going to wash a piece stitched on a hand dyed fabric when it is complete, check how colour fast the fabric is before you start stitching. Paler fabrics there will be very little colour bleed from, stronger colours (e.g. dragons night sky) are much more likly to bleed. To check the fabric and remove any excess dye left from the dying process, rinse it in cold water, and when it is damp put a white tea towel (one that you don't mind getting dye stained if there is bleeding, kitchen paper should work as well just make sure it's non-patterned) on top of it and iron it with a hot iron and see if there is any colour transfer to the tea towel. If no colour transfers you should be reasonably safe to wash your finished stitching from the fabrics point of view (you might want to check your threads as well to be on the safe side, particularly if you're using hand dyed threads).
If you see colour transfer, what then? You can reduce the risk of washing a fabric even if it's bleeding by hand washing it gently and rinsing it until the water runs clear. Check it again with the iron. You can repeat that as many times as you need to until you're happy you can wash the finished piece. The fabric colour should not be affected too much by hand washing.
If when you're stitching you get some marks on a hand dyed fabric which you haven't prewashed (which is the situation I normally end up in), you should be able to remove them by getting that area of fabric wet and using a gentle hand washing detergent, bleach based ones are obviously not a good idea! if you're in any doubt check on a fabric edge where it will be covered by framing.