Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Designing with Bleach

Here's another method of designing your own fabric. This is another of those "magical" processes that children love! Try this with your kids or grandkids, but be sure to put old clothing on them first!

Some of the leaves in this applique have been enhanced with bleach to make them look more like pathos ivy.

This photo shows just a small example of what you can do with bleach, something to apply it with and a fabric that will react to the bleach. (Years ago, a teacher I worked with gave each child a square of denim and let them make a design with bleach. She later had a mother sew the squares together. It made a great little quilt designed by her students!)

First, you will need regular bleach, vinegar, a disposable container, and a protected surface. I used aluminum foil and paper towels. You will also need something to use in applying the bleach and, of course, you need a fabric. Test the fabric to be sure it will bleach. There are a few that won't. You may also be surprised by the color you get. If you are doing this with children, put disposable gloves on them to keep the bleach off their tender skin and be sure the area is well ventilated.
Second, apply the undiluted bleach to the fabric using the method you choose. You can write words and names using the paint brush......
   or stamp images using a potato that you have "carved" or a rubber stamp.
              Let the design sit until it is bleached out as much as you want, then immediately wash it off under running water and plunge it into the vinegar to stop the bleaching process.
To make the leaves shown at the top of this post, I simply made brush strokes on either side of an imaginary center line down strips of green batik. When I positioned my applique pattern, I used the design to best advantage.

 After experimenting a little, you will find that there is a LOT more you can do . Some cleaning gels contain bleach and will also work. You can also change the color of a fabric that is too bright for your project by bleaching it out. Children love seeing their name magically appear on a dark fabric. Give it a try! There are no rules keeping you from changing a fabric to fit your use. This is a great day to have some fun!


  1. I love your pot with the leaves , I have done bleach painting before but not very often ,I just recently a week ago used a bleach pen on blue jean fabric ,I still have to finish it. You have some good ideas to keep the kids busy ,I have 4 grandchildren living next door ,a project for them to try !

  2. Thanks, Cheryl! I wish MY grandchildren lived next door. They are about 2,000 miles away! I try to make the most of my time with them, though. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Full-strength household chlorine bleach plus full-strength household vinegar does produce chlorine gas. As a general precaution: Don't mix full-strength household vinegar with full-strength household chlorine bleach. The common prohibition is on mixing chrlorine bleach with ammonia, which can create toxic gas and compounds. See:

  4. Wow. Blogger did state to work in a ventilated area and rinse chlorine off in WATER first, so the paranoia on chemical reactions is unfounded. Unless perhaps you're not following directions, doing this in an unventilated area...and not RINSING as mentioned beforehand.

    Great tutorial, by the way. Have done this many times without any irritation to eyes/lungs. 'Course...I did read how to do it carefully, first. Yours wasn't the tutorial I'd followed - but yours is better. Clear pictures, consise directions. I'll be clicking through more of your website, for sure!

  5. Thanks I did the same for my blacks in my mystery quilt . Check my blog please

  6. But without using vinegar


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