Dyeing with Bleach
by Lois Ericson
The idea of creating uniquely colored or patterned fabrics with dye or paint is certainly appealing, whether you're a garment maker or a fabric artist. If you've hesitated to get involved, or are looking for a new slant on the subject, consider this much simpler, almost equally provocative, surface-altering method: removing color instead of adding it. Read more fabric tips like this by purchasing a print subscription of Threads magazine which come with FREE access to our tablet editions.
There is a variety of ways to remove color (the technical term is discharge) from dyed fabric, but for controlled results on all kinds of fabric you generally need lots of experience and testing, plus some highly toxic chemicals. I find it much safer, and certainly a lot more fun, to simply experiment with the less-predictable but still compelling effects of applying ordinary household bleach to dark, natural-fiber fabrics, either by spraying or brushing the bleach on flat fabric (Resist-and-spray technique), or by dipping the fabric in it, after protecting part of the surface in some way from contact with the bleach (Wrap-and-dip and Pipe-wrapping techniques). That's how I created all the patterned fabrics shown here. Let's look closer at a few of the many simple, spontaneous ways to create discharge patterns with bleach, starting with the fabrics most likely to respond well.
|No fancy equipment, no dangerous chemicals. Removing color with bleach may be the easiest surface-design technique yet. The fabric at right resulted from spraying a bleach solution over cedar boughs arranged artfully on the cloth (left).|