Bleach dying fabric with sumac leaves

I had this piece of black jersey fabric and wanted to make something special with it. I have been playing around with tie dying and came across bleach dying so I figured I would give it a try.

It turned out great, after a botched first attempt.  

Before you start, gather your supplies. You'll need bleach, water, a spray bottle, a bucket or other container large enough to fit your fabric, vinegar, cotton fabric in dark colours or black and items to use as a resist.

I used sumac leaves for a resist. You could use leaves, branches or any other objects including cut outs from paper.

I wanted the leaves to lay flat so the edges would bleach crisply so I pressed them under pots and cutting boards overnight.

First, get the neutralizing solution ready. This stops the action of the bleach so it doesn't get lighter or burn your fabric. Trust me, while bleaching is not the time to remember you don't have the neutralizer ready. Mix a cup or two of vinegar with water in your bucket. Make sure there is enough to soak your length of fabric well.

Second, test your spray bottle. Trust me, while spraying is not the time to discover your bottle is brittle and has a crack in the bottom that will drip all over. See where I'm going with these warnings? My botched attempt involved drips, then a pissed off slamming down of the spray bottle which exploded all over my fabric. Did I mention my neutralizer wasn't ready? Sigh.

In the spray bottle, mix bleach and water. I used about 1/2 cup bleach to 2 cups water but use any ratio you like, it's not vital.  The stronger it it's, the faster it will work. I wanted a more subtle effect and a bit more working time. 

Test a tiny bit on a corner of your fabric, just a drop. This will give you an idea of the final colour. If you have black, it will have been dyed a different colour first, and that is what will show up when you bleach it - not white. Brown is quite common. This suits natural object resists well.

Lay out your fabric somewhere flat that won't be harmed by bleach. I used my driveway.  If you must do this inside, make sure there is lots of ventilation and use plastic drop cloths.nif outside, pick a day that's not too windy. Lay out your resists.

Wear something you don't mind getting ruined by accident. Amazingly, this didn't happen to me but it would be easy to get a drip on yourself or have wind blow the spray over on you.

Spray lightly all over - more where you want it lighter.

You can see it working very quickly.

Work quickly as the bleach will keep working and will weaken your fabric if left on too long. When ready , take off your resists and submerge your fabric in the neutralizing solution. Swish it around and start rincing it out. Rinse many times with fresh water.

When done, lay out or hang up your fabric to dry. 

It will look dark at this stage but when it dries, you will see your work clearly.

Here is the dry fabric.  The pattern is crisp, and the colours are soft and varied.

I am pondering a long skirt pattern for this, as I think I'll get more use out of that than a dress, but I will need to make a mock up first from other similar fabric to avoid messing up. I have visions of a swirly inset panel of gauzy brown fabric ... I'll post the skirt when I get around to making it.


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