I have been pulling together some really lovely batiks in autumn colors for a friend who has commissioned a queen-sized tree of life quilt. This is going to be a bed quilt, and the background is going to be Kona snow or eggshell. Because it will see real use, it will also be seeing the washing machine, more likely than not, and that means the lovely fabrics need to not bleed.
My favorite method of prepping batiks–and it probably is totally not-quilting-canon I’m just telling you right now–is to gather a bunch of large bowls together, fill them with super hot water and a drop or two of regular dish detergent (or a few grains of Charlie’s Soap), and see what happens when I drop the different swatches in. Some choices are already pretty color fast, and have very little dye that comes out. I am thrilled when this happens, but more often than not, the water often turns a deep shade of green or blue, yellow or red or brown or whatever color is in the water.
At this point, I squish the fabric in the water with my hands to make sure it’s good and saturated, and then dump the water, mostly wring out the fabric and run it under some water, then repeat the whole process of the hot water bath until the water is CLEAR. Then I dump the whole lot in the dryer and make sure they are preshrunk. I don’t like to take chances with batiks.
It sounds time-intensive and it can be. For the amount of fabric I’m working with, I’m expecting this to take at least an hour, possibly two. However, for a customer quilt, I just don’t trust not being able to see what the batiks are doing in my washer, and not having absolute certainty that they are going to be bleed-free when my customer gets them. This method has worked for me–three customer quilts with very light backgrounds, and not one bloody batik disaster.