How to wash hand embroidery with no worries

I love to delay washing my embroidery pieces. Somehow, when an article is finished, I just don't want to do anything with it except looking at it and taking pictures. 

That's why I'm really happy that I'm using water-soluble markers for transferring embroidery! Thanks to that I can't avoid washing the piece even if I want, otherwise, the little blue lines will spoil the whole beauty... 

Considering that each embroidered piece is almost like a baby to us, no wonder that we want to keep it as safe as possible and fear anything that can possibly damage it. Water is no exception. It does present a risk for the thread to color bleed, and if tap water is too hard, metals can spoil the piece as well.

So, what do we do? I believe washing is still necessary, just with certain precautions taken in advance.

First of all, we need to prevent the dye bleeding. For this, it is essential to test your piece and the colors used in it on colorfastness. I use cotton swabs for this purpose. I wet it under running water and then gently rub over all the colors of my embroidered article. Special attention should be paid to the reds.

If everything is good and there's no color bleeding, I take a bowl and fill it with barely cold water (right on the border between cold and warm) and a modest portion of dishwasher liquid.

I put my embroidery piece in the bowl and let it soak for few minutes, stirring it time after time. Then I pour out the soapy water and fill it will cold water from the tab and rinse my embroidery in it. I pour the water out again and fill it and rinse. I repeat these steps until I get my piece completely clean from the detergent. During the last rinse, I add a tablespoon of white vinegar to restore the sheen of thread. 

Once I'm pleased, I take two dry and clean towels, put my piece in between and stroke over it in various directions. The most important is to avoid the fabric to touch itself. After the wet piece gives a part of the water to the towels, I spread it on top of the towel and allow it to air dry until slightly damp. Then comes the turn of ironing. 

To be honest, I've never encountered color bleeding (May God save us all from this misfortune!), so I can't share any personal advice for such cases. However, thread producers say, that even if fabric gets color stained, it is still possible to clean it: put your piece in cold water with dissolved detergent for a longer time, at least 30 minutes, and then rinse until you are pleased (in cold water as well).

Well, don't know if it really works, but I have to warn that using bleaches, acids, alkaline and solvents is out of question in any case. These substances will interact with chemicals used in the thread dye and may ruin the whole work.

Other “don'ts”:

  • No wringing, folding, squeezing, pulling the fabric with hand embroidery.
  • No washing in unclean sinks and bowls
  • No washing if embroidery contains silk or woolen thread. These require professional dry cleaning.
  • Don't wash vintage pieces as freely as newly embroidered. Some old articles may have their thread or fabric ruining, so active washing can destroy them completely. It doesn't mean though that they shouldn't be cleaned at all, just they require a special care.

What is your method of washing hand embroidery? Maybe you've experienced the greatly feared color bleeding and know how to deal with it?? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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  1. I have read your post and this is simply an amazing to increase embroidery knowledge for beginners really appreciate your writing skill.

  2. Thanks for this great site! I just made a pet portrait piece that was incredibly shiny, but after washing it and blocking it on cork (without scrunching it), the stitches look misshapen, shrunken and dull. I used DMC floss, luke warm water, and Dawn soap as I usually do. Is there anything I can do restore the sheen of my piece? A vinegar rinse? Block it in the hoop to get even more tension while drying?

    1. Hi, lholland!

      I can imagine how pretty the portrait must be, congratulations for completing such a complicated project!

      It is such a pity it lost its sheen though and I can't figure out what could be the cause... because usually, in my case, the sheen comes back after it dries out completely. Could it be that you applied too much soap perhaps?

      I do add a bit of vinegar to my last cold water rinsing, actually. I didn't notice big changes compared to a couple times I omitted this step, to be honest... But it is definitely something you could try! Hope it works for you!


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