Bleach and I are not friends. For one thing, the smell nauseates me. For another thing, there was this time I tried to bleach my curtains, went overboard, and everything tasted like pool water for a week. And for another thing, regular liquid bleach and accidents like to happen waaaaaaay too often. Have you ever accidently splattered bleach on your clothes and grumbled loudly as your red shirt suddenly turned white? Of course you have. Sometimes, it’s a spot, and sometimes it’s a splatter. Well, now that the weather is warming up enough to do projects outdoors – let’s embrace liquid bleach’s slightly more predictable cousin – gel bleach – and do something creative! Let’s turn bleach’s color-altering properties into a tool for homemade textile production.
I know what you are thinking; Is that toilet bowl cleaner?
Yes honey, it sure is.
And you are literally going to craft the shit out of it.
Gel bleach (usually found in the bathroom or laundry cleaning section)
Natural fiber fabric
Scissors, needle and thread (or sewing machine, depending on final project)
Note: Fabric choice will impact the strength of the bleaching effect. Fabrics made from a combination of natural and synthetic fibers will change color, but may not lighten as much as others. And no matter what your fabric source, wash and dry the fabric first to remove any sizing or fabric softeners as they will dull the final outcome.
Safety first: While this project is very easy, it is not for small children. Bleach is a chemical substance and should be kept out of reach of little ones until your fabric is washed thoroughly.
Working outside or in a well-ventilated area, pour ½ cup of gel bleach into a paper plate and drench the leaf completely. You will find that sturdy, rigid leaves will be easier to handle, but lightweight leaves may generate the most interesting shapes. Consider using a leaf picked up on vacation or from a favorite location – that way, not only will your fabric look cool, it will have a special story as well! No matter where you source your leaves, experimenting on a scrap piece is a good idea.
Same as with a rubber stamp, apply the leaf to the surface of the fabric, pressing on it with your fingers to be sure the leaf leaves a mark on the fabric. Don’t worry about dribbles, they only add to the charm!
Repeat the drenching and stamping process over the surface of the fabric following a loose, grid-like formation. The longer the bleach sits on the surface the lighter and brighter the fabric will become, though, it will usually turn red or orange before turning white. How long to leave the bleach will depend on the fabric and personal taste, but you can usually expect anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. If you like the look of the reddish leaves, above, rinse the fabric as soon as you see fit.
When the desired bleaching effect has been reached, rinse it in the sink for two minutes then treat as regular fabric; wash, dry and iron flat. Now the fun begins!
Simple sewing project ideas; a tablecloth, napkins, curtains, or throw pillows. A bolster pillow like this makes a terrific project because it changes the whole look of a couch or a bed, and, it can be made out of one yard of fabric and sewing three simple straight lines. This particular body pillow fit into a 18”x48” bolster, but size will vary depend on how the length of the pillow and how stuffed/overstuffed you like your cushions to feel. Target sells a nice thing they call a ‘body pillow’ for $12. I highly recommend.
So, objectively speaking, do the spots look the leaves as I originally intended? Not really.
Do I like it even better this way? You bet!
It’s sort of a cross between a dot and an ikat. And it is one of a kind, that is for sure. A friend recently gave me her old sewing machine so I’m on the hunt for simple sewing projects I can pair with homemade textiles. If you have any ideas, holler!