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  • Writer's pictureAjda Zorko

Testing color fastness

Why testing color fastness of embroidery threads?

First the background, and the reason for this post. I prepared, drew, and stitched, with love and red Ljubica, a small motif in the style of Slovenian folk ornaments. When I had the border lace finished and sewn, I decided to iron it, "for the finish". This’s when the red color bleeds from the yarn onto the surrounding white fabric.

Ljudski ornament vezen z rdečo nitjo Ljubica na belem blagu
Folk motive embroidered with red Ljubica thread

So what could I have done to prevent this from happening?

When embroidering, especially dark/strong colors on white, it is wise to consider the fact that colors can bleed. Above all, think about how the product will be "used": will it be washed weekly? Will it hang on the wall? Will you wet it only once (not machine wash) and then frame it?

I really did everything I shouldn't have with this spilt red embroidery. This would not have happened if I had:

a) ironed without water/steam

b) tested the yarn beforehand

c) followed the manufacturer's instructions (read below).

I asked Unitas (manufacturer of Ljubica) what the recommendations are in the case of using a strong color on a white fabric:

"Before the first wash, we recommend soaking the product in a generous amount of cold water, without touching with other things. The item should be soaked by itself. After that, we advise centrifuge".

Personally, I wouldn't use a centrifuge: instead, I would roll the product between two towels and let it dry for an hour or two, then iron it without steam/water, still slightly damp.

If you want to be very precise and completely sure that everything will be ok with the colors, you can do a test. I did home testing of color fastness of of black and red yarn from the remanufacturers Unitas Ljubica, DMC and some Indian brand named Red Rose, which I got in a set of various embroidery materials.

Veziljske niti Ljubica, DMC in Red rose na belem blagu
Ljubica, DMC and Red Rose embroidery yarn

I prepared a piece of white fabric on which I stitched a few stitches of red and black from each manufacturer. I marked which thread belongs to which company and marked the type of test. I also prepared a control sample, which was not exposed to any of the treatments, to have this for comparison.

What tests did I do?

I tested ironing with steam and contact with hot water. I also prepared a sample for sunlight testing, which (due to the unstable weather) is still ongoing and I can’t yet show results.

Rdeče in črne niti na belem blagu z napisi kontrolni vzorec, vroča voda, sonce in likanje

What was the outcome?

All black yarns performed well when ironed at the highest temperature, with steam. Even after soaking in hot water, there were no visible changes.

The red Ljubica had some bleeding when ironing with steam and in hot water.

HOWEVER: this is not the use according to the manufacturer's instructions!

French DMC and Indian Red Rose had no visible stains.

I must also point out that the higher quality Ljubica and DMC have other features that the cheaper Red Rose does not have (a lovely shine, smooth sliding through the fabric, and absence of knotting). More affordable yarns can also tear easier, have uneven fibre thickness, can change colors during wear/washing, or begin to form pilling balls - like wool sweaters.

So what is my recommendation after all this?

If you want to make something extra special, with intense color, on a white/very light garment, really follow the recommendation about soaking in cold water or use threads that you do a test for that do not bleed. I myself am biased and really like using Ljubica (because it is more affordable, high quality and made in Croatia). You can also use synthetic threads (artificial silk, polyester) which, due to the nature of their creation, should not leave any color behind.

If you enjoyed bit of reading, stop by my insta page (@ajda_embro_design) where you’ll get an idea for a gift, learn how to make a stitch or find some other useful embroidery information!

Ajda Zorko is a guest blogger. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Štikarca.

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