I hope that everyone had a good laugh at the epic disaster that was my first attempt at discharge dying!
It was a totally new technique for me so I can’t say I’m too surprised that it didn’t turn out as planned. I ended up with shibori-folded pieces that were more patterned than “shibori looking,” oddly pink splatter patterns, ugly holes from over exposing to undiluted bleach, and a whole lot of lessons learned.
Specifically, I learned:
- I need to use bigger blocks of wood and fold the shirts so less fabric is exposed to get a folded look rather than a stamped-pattern look.
- I need to use a much weaker bleach solution to be kinder on my fabric.
- I need to pull the pieces from the bleach much sooner and let the air finish the job.
- I should use bleach neutralizer at the end to stop damaging the fabric as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, I should have taken one more lesson away from the first round to get exactly the look I was going for… but more on that in a bit.
Discharge Dying Round 2
Fortunately, this project was pretty fun (even if unsuccessful) so it didn’t feel like a drag to try it again. I set out to remedy most of my mistakes. I only forgot to buy a bleach neutralizer so I didn’t do that step, but I used a weak enough bleach solution that it didn’t seem to matter.
I started by assembling all the same supplies as last time. I got four new Old Navy Luxe Line shirts, this time a black t-shirt, a yellow t-shirt, and two identical black tanks:
I also had a bucket, bleach, plastic sheeting, gloves, and a floor that I don’t care about messing up.
And, what better way to make sure you don’t ruin your clothes with bleach than to wear clothes that you’ve literally already ruined with bleach?
I set out to try both of the techniques again, the folded-reverse-shibori look on the black t-shirt and a black tank, and the edgy splattered with bleach look on the yellow t-shirt and a black tank.
Discharge Dyeing Mostly Successes: Splatter Patterns
The splattered patterns mostly worked out, but here is where I made only real mistake of this round.
I started by soaking the shirts in clean water, and then dunked the bottoms in a bleach solution that was about 1 part bleach for 5 parts water. I let them sit for about 5 minutes until the colors just started to fade.
I then carefully laid them out on a plastic sheet. You can see that the colors had barely budged at this point!
I used a rag in pure bleach to drop the splatters over each one until I got a distribution that I liked, and then hung them up so both sides would get exposed to the air to help the dye discharge evenly. (I’m still not totally sure why this air exposure thing works, but it really does!)
Unfortunately, as the colors started to fade I realized that I had mishandled the black tank top, leaving an ugly smudge near the top. I must have adjusted it with a glove that had bleach on it or otherwise brushed against it while hanging up the yellow shirt.
I remedied that by using the rag to splatter more bleach over the top, leaving an all-around streak/splatter pattern rather than a light-to-dark look. I don’t really count this as a mistake, however, just a change in design!
After they sat for about 30 minutes, I rinsed them well and gently, and ran them through the wash.
Here are the results!
Pretty cool, right? Just not exactly what I was going for. The splatters are a lot softer/more faded/streakier than I had intended and than was in my inspiration image.
Do you know where I went wrong?
It was only in looking at how the “splatters” were more like “streaks” that I realized it. By wetting the shirts first (which is recommended in shibori dying tutorials to help the dye absorb evenly) I had made it easy for the bleach to drift out and slip down while hanging, giving me a much softer look. I totally could have anticipated this from the results of my green tank top in round one, but I didn’t think of it. I like how they turned out but not as much as I would have liked a sharper/edgier look.
Will I give this part of the project a 3rd try? Not sure, but if I do I’ll let you know!
Discharge Dyeing Complete Victories: Shibori Folding
However, in the folded shirts I finally had a full and complete victory. It was so satisfying!
I learned from my mistake last time and cut out larger pieces of wood for the two patterns I was attempting.
I used the square pieces on the black t-shirt. I am no expert at folding (obviously) but I will at least tell you what I did. I laid it out flat and folded it in a zig-zag/fan pattern that was the same width as the square of wood. Once folded into that long strip, I folded zig-zag again the long way and sandwiched it between the two pieces of wood.
Once clamped, it was much slimmer!
The tank top I did in much the same way, only I left the top part hanging out so I would get a variation in the pattern when it was dipped in the bleach.
After rinsing them in clean water, I let each sit in the bleach solution for 5-10 minutes before taking them out to finish up in the air. It was pretty amazing how much the colors changed from when I first took them out to when I was ready to rinse about 30 minutes later:
I was so excited to see that these turned out exactly as I had planned!
The t-shirt is by far my favorite, with the exact look I was going for with this technique. I love the imperfect, crisscross pattern and the scale is just what I wanted.
I also like how it didn’t get too pink, and has a little more of a brown/red tinge to it because the transition from black to white is more abrupt.
I’m also happy with the tank. It is a little pinker than I would have liked (I couldn’t get the top to go all-white without risk of over-bleaching and damaging it) but it is just the ribbed pattern I was imaging.
Even better, the fabric is still in good shape, so I know I’ll be able to wear these for a while. And, because Sage got me a lens set for my cell phone camera that includes a macro lens, I can even prove it to you:
Pretty impressive that came from a cell phone, no?
Overall, I’m really happy with “round 2” of this project and finally got at least some of the looks that I set out to achieve. I might try again on the splatters, but probably not for a little while. It’s time to get back to actual house projects!