Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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The Mother of All Humility Mistakes


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There are some stories that shouldn’t be told. Those regrettable moments when we embarrass ourselves so badly that we cause others to feel embarrassed for us – these are the moments that should be kept hushed, within familial circles and among close friends, protected by that little bubble of “We-love-you-too-much-to-let-other-people-know-just-how-stupid-you-are.”

In my family, it never really works that way. We’re pretty up front about things, and we don’t mind laughing at ourselves. In this particular case, though, there’s a bit of an obligation to share a little stitching-related experience I had yesterday, so that you can learn from my mistake and hopefully never do what I did!

Hand Embroidered Pall

This is where we left off yesterday: the pall was soaking. That’s also the post where I discussed “humility mistakes” – that little mistake that you leave in your work, because no one, after all, is perfect. Whatever. The mistake I was talking about yesterday, I discovered, was not really The humility mistake.

There was a little voice in the back of my head when I put the pall in to soak (in lukewarm water), and the voice said, “You know, that’s silk. You’ve never actually done a prolonged soak with colored silk. You better be careful.” Another voice chimed in quickly – too quickly: “Oh, for heaven’s sake. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not going to happen. You’ve soaked other things embroidered with this same exact thread. Just get it over with.” (The maniturgium I embroidered was worked with the same color dark gold, for example, and I soaked it briefly before ironing it…)

The other voice replied, “You better not soak it for very long……”

And then…. I proceeded to forget about it. I got busy with other things.

After about an hour and a half, I meandered into the kitchen and saw the bowl of water sitting there with the pall immersed in it. “Oh yeah,” said I. “I better take that out.” I took it out, rolled it in a towel, and left it for a bit. This is my normal procedure when removing embroidery, or even plain linen, from a soak. Then, while the piece is still somewhat damp, I iron it on the wrong side, on a stack of soft flannel cloths covered with a clean flour sack towel.

I took the pall out of the towel. And that’s when I noticed the drastic change in the pall.


Hand Embroidered Pall

had turned into this:

Hand Embroidered Pall

The prolonged soak had drained the color from the darker gold thread.

Hand Embroidered Pall

And the color had crept out into the fabric, in a kind of pinky glow….

Hand Embroidered Pall

… a pinky glow that caused my stomach to sink, and my face to turn red in shame, and my inner voice to say, “Oooooh. You bloomin’ idiot. I told you so.”

Oh well. Sometimes we do things like that. And if it’s not a good experience for me, it is certainly a good experience for you – or at least, for those of you who might do the same thing if not sufficiently warned!

The thread, Soie d’Alger by Au Ver a Soie, is definitely my favorite stranded spun silk to work with – that hasn’t changed. It’s a quality silk. I’ve never had it run before, but I’ve never left it soaking in a bowl of water for two hours, either. It was just plain water, nothing in it. No dish soap, no anything. The darker gold is the color that ran, which is to be expected. If color is going to run, it’s always the darker colors that do it.

I can’t explain why the color ran, except that I left it to soak for a long, long time. Silk, in general, is not really meant to be “washed” the same way that cotton is. The prolonged exposure to the water loosened up the dye and sent it seeping, I suppose. The threads aren’t guaranteed colorfast, anyway, I don’t think.

Well, as I sat contemplating the problem for a bit, I decided that the situation really couldn’t be worse – there wasn’t anything I could do to render the piece less usable than it was – so why not try something? Why not try a “fix” that might fix it? And if it doesn’t fix it, it doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t use it as it was. I knew I couldn’t get the color back, but could I eliminate the pink glow?

Hand Embroidered Pall

Throwing caution to the wind, I took out my canister of the strange and mysterious substance called Orvus. Orvus is a solution that is commonly used to shampoo horses. Yes, I said horses. In fact, I’ll talk more about Orvus a bit later – for now, just know that I resorted to Orvus.

Hand Embroidered Pall

“After all,” I said to my niece as we both stood there, staring at the bowl, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

“Maybe all the green in your basting threads will bleed,” she replied.

We looked at each other.

“Hm,” said I. “That’s a thought.”


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(40) Comments

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry. Bleeding is always my worst fear, believe me I know that sinking feeling. I hope the Orvus works- it is a wonderful thing.

  2. Oh No Mary!

    I do so feel for you. In my family, that’s a DOH moment!

    I do hope the Orvus works ….. never heard of it, but fingers crossed that it works!

    Cheshunt, Herts, UK

  3. Thank you for sharing this awful experience. Good to help others avoid it. Great to know I am not the only one who does things like this — things that make you cringe & feel embarrassed even if you DON’T tell anyone! Looking forward to the next chapter of this story!

  4. Oh my gosh! My heart just stopped! What a horrible thing to happen…and it’s like reading a great mystery or watching a “who done it” movie…I can’t wait for the next installment? What happened? Did the Orvis fix it? Did you have to resort to bleaching the whole thing white-on-white? Are you frantically stitching another…and not sleeping, eating, or (shutter) typing??

  5. You cant leave us with a cliffhanger like that! Did it work. Oh please tell. You put so much work into it.It had to.
    I have yet another respect for your work because I stay up till 1.30 am doing your letter C in a satin stitch. Wow you right it takes practice.Lots and Lots :)!

  6. OMG!!!
    I hope from the bottom of my heart you can save the work.

    Yesterday I was surprised when I saw the pall was soaking I thought you’ll use damp stretching as Karen Ruane uses to do…

    I believe you’ll can save the work!
    And I’m curious about that solution used to shampoo horses. Horses??? I’m sure the word horse has a only meaning, hasn’t it?

  7. Oh Mary,
    Were you really as calm and unruffled as you seem?! I completely understand about families sharing their goof ups – we do too and then all of us have a good laugh and all of us learn something.

    I came SO close to doing a similar thing with silk velvet just before I came home to Germany. I went to buy some Solvy so I could embroider on velvet at Christmas. I looked at the velvet and chose red. Yes,red velvet. Yes, Solvy – which one removes by soaking in water. Silk velvet and water. Bad combination. Thankfully my husband was there to remind me that velvet IS made from silk…so I chose velveteen. Whew!

    I sure hope the Orvus works – and then the piece will still be beautiful, just a different beautiful! A bit like using hand dyed, variegated thread maybe…?

  8. Oh, Mary, how upsetting that your beautiful stitching is now possbily ruined my the thread dye. Hopefully Orvus will work. It does do wonders on old delicate dirty quilts, but thinking it probably won’t remove color dye. It may lighten it some, who knows…….anything is worth a try…..

  9. G’day Mary,

    “Dear, dear”, like the little grand daughter says when there’s a worry on.

    We’re all with you Mary I’m sure, in fellow feeling and hope, for a good result.

    Bye now, wishing you good luck, Kath.

  10. That is why I don’t use Au Ver a Soie thread. I had a lovely, long sampler that I spent many many enjoyable hours over. I just rinsed it when I was done to freshen it and only the Au Ver a Soie ran. I didn’t leave it to soak at all. I was and am just so sad about it. Why can’t they make it colorfast? Or, at least add a prominent warning so others won’t make this disheartening mistake.

  11. It’s alright, Mary. We-love-you-too-much-to-let-other-people……!!!

    When soaking in Orvis, does the “running color” become active again? Does the purple glow seem to bleed color, as well? If so, you’ve got a chance to soak it free of the fibers. We are all waiting to hear!!

  12. You are so generous to share your experiences! I can’t wait until tomorrow to find out what happened. I do have a source for Orvus, so if it works, I will buy one forthwith.
    I made a green “bleeding” mistake once and just threw the piece in water with the thread and made the whole thing a light green. I know you can’t do that with this beautiful pall.
    And this might be really insane, but if the Orvus doesn’t do it, you might consider trying Shout’s color catcher. It sure does work in the washing machine.

  13. Okay Mary, don’t panic. I created a stole for my pastor a few years ago. It was a Lenten stole, but I couldn’t find any purple material I liked, so I died some beautiful hemp/linen. I made sure to rinse it with salt and vinegar and hot water until the water ran clear. It is gorgeous!!! Anyway, I stitched the design (nothing as beautiful as yours, but never mind) in bright whites with some silver shot through it. When I was finished, I decided to clean it. You know the horror I felt when after letting it dry partially, I unwrapped it to find that the purple had bled into the white. I broke into tears.

    I went online to see if there was anything I could do, but most of the “advice” I read involved something to the effect of “too bad, so sad”, so I was getting pretty depressed. Then I came across the recommendation to use Orvus. I didn’t have any, nor, living in the city, do I have access to any, but after a little research, I found out that the “magic” is in the wetting action of the product. This is the same action you find in those dishwasher products to help your dishes not get waterspots. The name of the magic ingredient is polysorbate. Believe it or not, I did happen to have some of that on hand. So I soaked my piece in water with a bit of polysorbate and some Oxyclean, changing the water once or twice. I let it soak for a week – no kidding, and it did the trick.

    Take heart. And keep us posted.

  14. Hi Mary,

    I love the ‘never a dull moment’ aspect of ‘life and embroidery’, at least in your world. Not that it diminishes the feelings of “OMG” for you. But, the lessons we all get to learn and the crazy humor that goes with it is very wonderful. Can’t wait for the results of the ‘fix’…and who knew that horses (love them) would play a part……!

  15. Oh, Mary. I feel so bad, after all that hard work and it is such a beautiful piece. Will you use it as is, if you can get the pink out of the silk, or will you have to do the whole think over again? Your work is so beautiful, I hate to see any of your handwork damaged.

  16. oh geez – this feels like a soap opera…with a cliffhanger (almost as bad as Who Shot JR!!). I feel so bad about the bleeding issue, but who would have known that would happen. I hope the Orvus does the trick. Holding breath for the next installment….

  17. Ouch. I know the feeling. I recently had a similar experience with some Threadworx cotton on an Afghan I was making for my Mother-in-Law’s 70th birthday. Being an Afghan, it needed to take being ‘washed’. The DMC cotton was fine, as I anticipated, but the Threadworx lightened – the purples turned pink and the greens changed shade and became lighter. Overall, it was still OK (it did not bleed into the fabric), but it’s not as good as it was before and I didn’t have time to fix it. (She doesn’t know, and love’s it … but I do.)

    The thing is, I love the Threadworx colours, so I will use this thread again. I will, however, take considerable care around water.

    I do hope the Orvus works. (Look forward to hearing more about it.)


  18. Well, hopefully the pink will come out, and you’ll be left with a lovely, ‘varigated’ gold!

    I’ve got everything crossed for you, including some internal organs!

  19. Mary take heart ! You and we have learned that if we want to wash silk we had better not let it sit in the water too long. I’m sure there will be lots and lots of times when we’d want to “wash out” a piece that we have done. Especially if it’s a favorite and we display it a lot…it’s “bound” to get dusty…etc.

    So you have taught me “how” to wash my delicate silk embroidery pieces……thanks so much for the continuing tutelage…… hugs…Judy in Pittsburgh

  20. Oh I feel so sorry for you and must say you are remarkably calm but for those of us who live elsewhere in the world want to tell us more about this Orvis stuff!!!

  21. I could cry for you Mary. What a terrible thing to happen to such beautiful embroidery and hours of work.

    I hope the Orvus works for you. What a Teaser to finish off with. I shot over to the blog hoping to find a result of the test, but no..

  22. Oh Dear, I’m so sorry! It was sort of niggling in the back of my mind that you shouldn’t soak it. I’ve never washed my silk embroideries. I hope the Orvus works, but if not, the Oxyclean should. Please let us know what happens!

  23. Hi Mary, Such a lovely piece, I am hoping for a happy ending. But I’m not clear on why you soaked it in the first place. And I noticed there were still marking lines in the piece that did not come out. How do those comes out? Obviously I have a lot to learn about this whole procedure… thanks for any insight you can provide, which you always do!

  24. Mary ,que buen proyecto’ hasta con detalles de lavado””creo el rojo siempre destñe
    aqui no estaba”’una consulta’¿a mi me a pasado con el lapiz..o calco
    es una opcion ,,es bueno saber de estos pequeños grandes detalles
    no tengo truco..que pena
    un abrazo

  25. This has happened to me. A dark green silk bled into the linen after I steam ironed the piece. I contacted the thread manufact. and they said to soak it in ice cold water then let dry on a damp towel. Repeat until problem fixed. It worked! Hope the horse shampoo works.

  26. OMG, I almost cried for you! I hope that you can at least get the pink out, but I know that if you are like me, you just want to throw it in a drawer and walk away. A sad, but good lesson for all of us though, thanks for sharing.

  27. Two thoughts come to mind – the first being, is there some tip about soaking a thread that might bleed in vinegar and water first? The other is what I learned when I had my own experience – was working on a 60″ by 120″ embroidered tablecloth for my mother – had matched all the thread to her dishes, etc., and was at least half way through when I spilled my son’s chocolate milk on it and had to wash it right away so the stain wouldn’t set – it was stamped embroidery, so it faded a lot, but I was still able to barely see the pattern and finish it. What I learned was to NEVER TELL THE RECIPIENT – because I still hear about it every time Mom uses that cloth!

  28. My comments aren’t shown. Well, perhaps you can do a thin outline right along the edges to cover the ‘pink’ . . .

    Or, I would think that the ‘pink’ is yet another part of G-d, as women are also in His Image.

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