Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Help!!! Leather Dye Disaster


I firmly believe that you develop a closer relationship with clothing you've made yourself than stuff you've bought in a shop. So much of yourself has gone into them, the initial vision, choosing the right fabric, making decisions about fit, details and fastenings, not to mention all the time and effort. And when they turn out a success and serve you well time and time again, well it's a pretty special thing in my book!

Which is why I'm so upset and confused about my bird skirt. My bird skirt first rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a project fail, coming to life when my lace applique detail attempt couldn't stand up to laundering. Since that time, the bird skirt has been a good friend to me, particularly throughout Me-Made-March and Me-Made-May. It even provided the inspiration for another.

So what's up? Let me explain. Obviously I laundered this skirt a squillion times whilst living in Spain, if I recall correctly, sometimes using washing liquid meant for babies and sometimes using normal washing powder and god-knows what heat setting on the washing machine. No problems. I returned to the UK in August and washed this skirt at my mum's using non-bio powder and a low-heat setting on the machine: CRISIS!!!!!! The skirt came out with black marks obviously where the leather appliques had touched the red fabric during the washing cycle. The only way we were able to get rid of these black smeery marks was to leave the whole skirt in a very mild bleach solution. This did pretty well, but when we washed the skirt again, more marks came back. WTF, people???!!!!

I can't put it in a bleach solution again as the red has already started to turn an unpleasant un-red shade and I don't think it could handle any more. I think I've finally accepted this incarnation of the bird skirt is dead, but I really want to figure out why as I have other projects using this technique up my sleeves.


What I can't fingure out, is why, after many many washing cycles in Spain, did the leather suddenly release a load of dye once it reached English soil? My best friend also has a couple of these skirts I made using leather appliques on poly-cotton twill fabric, and she has had no problems in the past with either or hers too. Does anyone have any ideas? What if I'd always hand washed it? Would that prevent it from ever happening? But why, if I clearly didn't need to for the vast majority of it's life?


These pics don't show the smeery marks very well, but maybes it gives you an idea. If you have even an inkling why this has happened and how to avoid it again, please please leave a comment. I can't have any more beloved garments go the way of this one!

20 comments:

Stevie said...

Oh that sucks! I'm sorry that is horrible when you have to give up the ghost with something you made! I have a blue skirt I hand sewed with blue and green sequins around the hem, took literally hours due to inexperience but I loved it to death and got lots of compliments. It was the first thing I ever made but It too has run its course. The sequins have no colour and are snapping off, it's too big and has no zip but I can't bring myself to throw it out!
x

Carina said...

Do you think it might have been the pressure of the spin cycle, which might have been more than when you were handwashing it?

Either way, it's very sad - it's a beautiful skirt.

Minnado said...

Ah, what a shame, that was such a lovely skirt. I don't know about washing leather but I have found that using the supermarket non bio powder has really severely faded the print fabric of several of my me-made clothes. So I tend to avoid these powders now for anything I want to keep in good condition. Only problem is the price of other powders :)

Claire (aka Seemane) said...

I wonder if like Carina said above the spin cycle forced the leather against the red-fabric harder causing it to rub dye off?

Or, when you washed it previously (without any problems) if it was the only item in the washing machine drum.. i.e. could the presence of other clothes again cause extra weight/pressure on the leather to rub against the red? Or, did you wash it inside out this time - so that the right side of the red was more likely to come into contact with the leather (than had the skirt been turned right-side-out)? Also, was the skirt put into the drum folded-up or just loosely any-old-how... it's not that I know if any of the above do/don't make it more likely to rub-off-dye, but maybe if one of these circumstances have changed since beforehand then maybe you'll find your secret magic formula for happy-wash days?

daiyami said...

Could the water matter? Hard vs soft water making the leather color rub off?

Rueby... said...

I know for some reason you have much fancier laundering powders and machines outside North America...but here, I wash everything but towels on cold and use much less detergent than recommended. My items always come out just fine, and I don't use a dryer at all for clothing. For most of my vintage/handmade, I also handwash using SOAK though. I'm guessing it was a mix of water/detergent difference that causes it unfortunately.

MindLess said...

Don't you think it is possible to dye the skirt a darker colour, so you don't notice the marks any more? I could imagine the skirt in aubergine (easy to dy on red unlike blue or green, which would also look great)...

christina said...

I'd also suggest dyeing it over instead of tossing it away. It would destroy the effect caused by the contrast but save the skirt.
My guess for the cause would also be the washing detergent. Perhaps it's having a chemical ingredient that attacks the dye. Perhaps using another gentle detergent might solve the problem in the future. But it wouldn't be able to remove those stains.

Sarah said...

Oh, no! The only thing I can think it may be is differences in water type: hard vs soft. As for skirt repair, I'd redye it red. The leather should be fine. Either way, it will save your beautiful skirt from the bin!

Laura said...

Oh, that's just terrible. It's a beautiful skirt. I came to suggest overdyeing also.

Though I found this, which would at least be worth a try? http://www.ehow.com/how_5891995_remove-leather-dye-stains.html

Little Miss B said...

This is such a shame, was your washing machine in Spain a top loader because the drum ones we use in the uk are a lot harsher on clothes, I wish we could get top loaders hear I would be able to machine wash so many more things!

Corrine said...

So sorry about your skirt, it is so cute. After multiple washings the leather may have started to break down and the dye within the skin itself may be leaching out due to a difference in mineral content of the water (calcium, iron, or magnesium) for example. As mentioned before detergent formulas could also be a factor. I think over-dying would be a good idea instead of discarding the piece. If you come across one of the synthetic leathers in your travels/work try those for applique. They tend to hold up better with washing. Hand washing may be your best options for special items.

Ashley said...

Oh no, that is such a sad story. I really wouldn't have expected it after so many times in the wash previously. :(

Law said...

That is sucky. I know down south we have really hard water. Dunno if that is why, but a lot of people above have mentioned it as a possibility. It's very chalky round here, could that be a reason?

Ruby Star said...

yes iv'e had this happen before on clothing that has previously been fine. It happens occasionally when clothing is left in the machine after the final cycle. the washed clothes against each other 'bleed' onto clothing pressed next to them. If hung straight away it doesn't happen. i move around the country also so the minerals could be the answer too. I put preen stain remover on the mark then re wash and hang imediately and it has fixed the problem. since you have bleached it i would dye the fabric back to red. good luck x

Theo said...

I would also guess that it's the softness/hardness of the water. This affects the pH which will in turn change how the detergent works.

Little Miss B - I'm confused, are you saying about top-loading machines being better for clothes? As far as I know, the front loading machines are much better for clothing because they use gravity instead of agitation to clean your clothes. Plus, they save tons of energy, water and detergent. I apologize if I am misinterpreting your statement, I just don't want people to have the wrong information.

Gail said...

I can only think of one - dry clean only! Leather isn't made to be washed.

Zoe said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, both the tips and the commiserations!

In response to some of the points brought up which may provide more clues:
-Both washing machines in question were front loading, so that isn't a factor.
-My best friend (whose skirt didn't suffer the same fate) lives in the same town as my folks (whose evil washing antics caused this catastrophy), so it can't be a hard water/soft water issue either.
- Actually, since posting this, I have found out my best friends skirt HAS suffered the same fate ( inexplicable black marks after many previous washing cycles), but her's happened when she was in Australia!
- This skirt was definately never the only item in the washing machine ever. And probably always just chucked in.

I think I'm going with the different detergent (perhaps in conjunction with different water quality) as the most viable explanation. Though any more ideas are of course very welcome.

Thanks also for the idea about dying it. I was going to dye something else red so it won't hurt to chuck it in as well and keep my fingers crossed.

Thanks again everyone! xxx

Stevey said...

I am really sorry for you. That skirt sure is beautiful.
As to reasons for this desaster I can only guess too. Perhaps it was just the combination of different water quality, detergent, cycle....

I made a wool duffle coat for my son when he was about 4. So, at an age when you can expect to wash clothes frequently. It always worked out fine with normal detergent, normal cycle even spinning or the dryer were no problem. Until I used a detergent specially for wool. The colour truly bleed out and there was no stopping it and I tried a lot even redying. If you soaked it and lifted it out, the water would be browner than a puddle of mud.

loopylinda said...

I haven't noticed any reference to 'Colour Catchers', made by Dylon and available in supermarkets. These are small sheets of I don't know what that you toss in with your wash and they attract the loose dye in the water. I often throw in two as they can be re-used if not much discoloured. Maybe try test washing materials for future projects under identical conditions but with these in too? Good luck!

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