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How to Bleach Custom T-Shirt Designs

This month's craft is a wearable art project.
This month's craft is a wearable art project.
Kathy Cano-Murillo

Every month Kathy Cano-Murillo, a.k.a. The Crafty Chica, dishes crafty tips and tricks in La Vida Crafty on Jackalope Ranch.

In my world, anything that adds or removes color is game for a DIY project.

In this case, I'm using old-school bleach to make a cool design on a boring black T-shirt. What I like about using bleach as an art medium is that you never quite know what you're going to get. It's one of my favorite "big reveal" crafts. The makeup of the fabric, the thickness, and the color all interplay, and then there's the whole bleach factor. After I bleach my fabric, I like to add a contrasting color on top to give it more personality -- because sometimes the bleached look results in an icky hue.

See also: How to Make Watercolor Paper Earrings

Here's what you'll need
Here's what you'll need
Kathy Cano-Murillo

Supplies: Plastic gloves Bleach pen (or liquid bleach diluted 50% with water in a spray bottle) Cotton shirt Stencil Repositionable spray Fabric dye Vinegar

How to Bleach Custom T-Shirt Designs
Kathy Cano-Murillo

1. Pre-wash your shirt. Use a store-bought stencil, or cut one by hand using freezer paper and a craft knife. I hand-cut my own stencils on watercolor paper so I can use them over and over. If you cut it on freezer paper, place it on the shirt and iron it shiny side down.

2. If using a stencil that doesn't have a sticky back (like my watercolor paper stencil seen in photo), give a light coat of repositionable spray and place it on the shirt. Make sure the shirt is wrinkle-free under the stencil. Rub over it with your hands to make sure it is secure. If you have used the iron-on freezer paper method mentioned in the first step, then you can skip this part.

 

How to Bleach Custom T-Shirt Designs
Kathy Cano-Murillo

3. Shake the bleach pen and use the thick side with the brush to coat over the stencil. Work quickly because the bleach works fast!

How to Bleach Custom T-Shirt Designs
Kathy Cano-Murillo

4. The bleach should stay on the shirt about 10 to 15 minutes, no longer. Wash your shirt in the machine and add a half-cup of vinegar to stop the bleach from working.

 

5. This step is optional: While the shirt is damp from coming out of the wash, mix the fabric dye according to package directions, and apply. Keep it sealed in a plastic bag for six hours and then wash in cold water.

How to Bleach Custom T-Shirt Designs
Kathy Cano-Murillo

6. Hang the shirt to dry, and wear as you like!

Tips: - Test the bleach on an area of fabric so you can see the results and how fast it turns. - You must pre-wash fabric if using a new shirt, otherwise the bleach will not penetrate. - Make sure to water down liquid bleach, because full-strength may eat through your fabric. - Work in an ventilated area and wear plastic gloves.

Ideas: - You can also write on the fabric - sayings, song lyrics, etc. - Instead of a shirt, you can do designs on fabric and use later for sewing projects. - Aside from a shirt, this project would work great on denim.

See more from Kathy at www.craftychica.com.

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