Saturday, July 20, 2013

Textile Designs with Bleach

Our new couch is arriving in mid-August, so, of course, we are now redesigning the rest of the living room to match it (shhh...boyfriend hasn't caught on yet, or at least, is choosing not to mention this state of affairs).  The new couch doesn't come with throw pillows so I am making a few of contrasting fabrics.  We ordered down pillow inserts from Amazon, and I've been madly browsing Pinterest for interesting ideas.

I wanted to do a pillow with text on it, and found this great quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "They fell briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered."  Love it.

I have a couple yards of dark, lightweight denim and thought it would be neat to bleach the quote onto the denim pillow.

You'll need:
dark fabric
bleach pen
stencil (or freehand)
cardboard, large enough to more than cover the area you will be bleaching
ruler and chalk
well ventilated area (I worked next to a open window)

1. Lay the fabric, right side up, on the cardboard (to protect your work surface).

2. With chalk and a ruler, mark off your outside dimensions of the pillow.  I also marked the 1/2 inch seam allowance on all sides, then a further 1 1/2 inches inside as I didn't want the quote to go all the way to the seam.

3. Mark straight lines across as your guide to the lettering.  I wanted very regular, straight text but swirly cursive could also be fun.  My stencil letters were an inch tall and I included 1/2 inch between the bottom of the letters to the top of the next row.  Stencil, or write, your lettering using tailor's chalk.
Marking off all guide lines.

4. With even pressure, begin writing with the bleach pen, which was a gel so the letters kept their shape and the bleach didn't bleed into the fabric.  Do some test lettering on a scrap.

Let the bleach sit.

5.  Let the bleach gel sit on the fabric for about 1 hour.  I noticed that the gel had dried at that point.  Rinse the gel under water.  I also washed the fabric with soap to remove as much of the bleach residue as possible.  The fabric also needs to be machined washed.

The lettering, after washing off the bleach
The bleached effect is so neat, I sketched a starfish on a scrap of denim too. I like how the bleach doesn't fade the fabric evenly, making a unique effect.

Some tips for writing with a gel bleach pen:
  • Try to use even pressure to get a uniform bead.
  • If you want a narrow bead, write so that the bleach comes from behind the pen, so forming curved letters like Cs and Os have to be done in two parts, first the top curve then the bottom curve.  Basically, you don't want to drag the pen tip through part of the letter you've already written.
  • If you pause in writing, be sure to tilt the pen tip up so the bleach gel doesn't gather in the tip and come out in a splat.

Next up: constructing the pillow!