Wednesday, November 13, 2013

one way to distress fabric

Thanks for all your comments on my valued pillows. As requested, I am happy to share a quick tutorial on how to distress/bleach fabric. Tara talked me through the process several weeks ago over the phone and was kind enough to give me permission to post about it here. It's fun, quick and it will have you looking at your fabric in a different light. Be careful though, it's a little addictive. You may want to bleach every fabric in sight-just to see what happens!
The fabric is Nana's pantry by Connecting Threads.

11/18/13 edited to add: it has come to my attention that vinegar is NOT recommended for this process. It could cause a reaction that could be harmful to you. Apparently the vinegar bath will not stop the reaction to the bleach and your fabric will eventually deteriorate. Please see the updated instructions below. I apologize for the mis-information. If you want to read more on the subject, please read through this page. If you have completed a project with the technique I shared, I'd recommend that you rinse your project thoroughly in a mixture of Anti-chlor and water to stop the bleach reaction on your fabric.

Supplies:
Fabric
Household bleach-regular or ultra
Tongs or gloves
Anti-chlor (can be ordered through dye suppliers)
3 ice cream buckets or large containers
Water

Set Up:
Prep your fabric. I started with a fat quarter of each fabric and cut them in half to yield fat eighths. Set one piece of each fabric aside (control) and use one piece of each fabric for the bleach treatment.
Take an ice cream bucket (or similar sized container) and fill it 3/4 full of water. Add between 1/2 to 1 cup of bleach. I didn't measure my proportions, so it may take a little playing around. Start on the conservative side. You can always add more bleach if needed.

Fill an ice cream bucket 3/4 full of water, then add 1/2 teaspoon of anti-chlor. Mix to dissolve.

Fill the third bucket with plain warm water.
 
Distress that fabric:
Take a piece of fabric and place it in the bleach water. Use tongs or gloves to swirl the fabric around for a short time....start with only 10-15 seconds....then take it out. Let it drip just a bit, then place it immediately into the anti-chlor and water mixture.
Swirl the fabric and let it stabilize. If your fabric hasn't bleached to your liking, you can put it back into the bleach and water mixture. Some fabrics bleach better than others. Some colors fade faster than others. ALWAYS place the fabric into the anti-chlor bath after it's been in the bleach bath. Don't exceed 45 seconds in the bleach water.
Sometimes it takes a dip into the anti-chlor bath to see the reaction. Once the fabric is to your liking, place it in the warm water bath. Rinse thoroughly.
Hang it on the clothesline (if you have one) and admire the beautifully faded fabric. Isn't that just the prettiest?
Once the fabric has dried, press well and starch if needed. I find it hard to work with pre-washed fabrics. Starching them helps. It was wonderful to play with piecing the bleached and unbleached fabrics together. The values that emerged were amazing! And yes, I mixed unwashed and pre-washed fabrics into the same piece. I don't anticipate any issues with that. (I've done it before without a problem.)
I hope you give this technique a try. It was SO MUCH FUN to experiment and play. I was seriously giddy, and that was in spite of (not because of) the bleach fumes. Speaking of which, ventilation is a good idea.
If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments.


43 comments:

Barbara said...

OMG this is so kewl - many thanks for porting your method as I sure will be trying it !

Paula @ Sewy Stuff said...

Those are some pretty cool effects! Thanks to Tara for sharing with you so you could share with us.

Barbara Konkle said...

Wow! What a cool effect!

Angie said...

This tutorial is absolutely awesome---thanks so much to you and Tara for sharing this with us. I cannot WAIT to try this. :)

Lisa said...

Oh oh, I may just have to try this!!! I am heading to my stash now...haha!!! Looks like so much fun. I can imagine how it JUST miiiight become addictive.

Tracy said...

I agree with all that's been said! Thank you!

Teressa P. said...

If you make a quilt with it and wash it will it affect how it looks after you wash it (fade or run, etc.)? This looks like so much fun and very addicting. Thanks for sharing!

Stacy Olson said...

I love this idea. Thanks for sharing!! Your pillows look great!

Christine @ sew bossi said...

This is really great! Thanks for the tip.

Christine said...

When first reading about it, I thought the idea was crazy but these value changes look absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing this tip!

Jackie said...

Gave a shoutout to your tutorial on the Canadian Quilters Association fb page.

Beth said...

Love this idea, thanks for more specifics.

Karen H said...

Very neat, thanks for the tutorial. I need to try this!

Nicole said...

Wow! I've never heard of this. Thanks for sharing!

katechiconi said...

I'm going to try this with blacks to see if I can get a dense dark grey print I've been looking for. Thank you for the tutorial

Mary said...

I will be surprised if black works. It usually bleaches to a blue/lavender color.

Brenda said...

oh my gosh!! that it SO COOL!!

Candied Fabrics said...

Hi Amanda!

Actually, vinegar is NOT the way to neutralize bleach! It turns the active ingredient in bleach into more dangerous and caustic chemicals. This is a myth, like adding salt to wash water of fabric that is bleeding, that is all over, but I'm sorry to say is wrong! (And, although I don't want to scare you, you can end up making chlorine gas if you add too much vinegar to bleach).

The chemist who has written extensively on this subject and is respected by all knowledgeable fabric dyers is Paula Burch, her page that explains the chemistry behind my warning, as well as 3 ways to safely neutralize bleach, is right here:
http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/neutralizingdischarge.shtml

I hope this is helpful!

ms lottie said...

That is the neatest!! I think it's the first totally new idea I've seen for ages. Itching to try!

leanne said...

so cool - great way to get instant value changes - thanks for sharing the technique !

Maggie said...

Can't wait to try this! Thanks xx

Freddie said...

I love the idea of this. Might wait till summer though.

Suzanne said...

I'm adding this to my to do list. . Thank you to you and Tara.

Thimbleanna said...

Wow -- thanks for the info CrazyMom. That little pillow is just the cutest!!!

WAZOO! Quilting said...

Thank you Cray Mom! I am repairing an antique quilt and will try this with the fabric I have chosen and is too bright to play well with the other fabrics. This may be a quilt restoration answer to buying all that pricy vintage fabric!

Donna Phelps said...

That really is cool and I love the end result. What a great idea for using more of one fabric in a quilt.There are, I am sure, other possibilities for this technique. Thanks for sharing.I will be trying this soon.

Donna Phelps said...

Amanda, I did not see your comment until after I had posted and I do understand what you are saying. The technique itself,of bleaching and neutralizing is a wonderful idea, I will be reading up on the neutralization issues to make it safer. Thanks for the input.

kmodich said...

Whoa! That is so cool! I didn't realize that is what you had done with that fabric. I want to try this now!

Penny Schine Gold said...

I would like to second the concern about the process you've described. Bleach needs to be used with caution, with anti-chlor used to stop the action. Otherwise, you will find that the bleached fabrics deteriorate, as the bleaching action is not fully stopped. You should also wear a vaporizer mask when working with bleach, and work outside. Hope you do a follow up post with corrections.

Aliceart said...

Thank you for this. Wonder how it will work on the old dull hand me down fabric I have so much of? I'm going to try it and see...even if it just makes it into lights, I could use that more. Thank you for sharing.

Anne said...

Thanks so much for posting about the process. I just might give it a try sometime. Wish I'd known you were going to be in Colorado as I'm not far from Ft Collins and would love to meet you sometime and take a class.

Lana said...

LOVE!!!! I can't wait to try this!!! I think this is just what I need for my Shabby Chic quilt!!!! Thank you for sharing!

Ramona said...

I have pieces in my stash that I'm just not crazy about anymore. This may be the answer to putting them to work. I bet this produces some interesting results.

Lisa Nelson said...

Amanda - My concern is the smell of the fabric afterward. Is it bleachy? Vinegary? Just wondering. I know some folks are sensitive to smells. :)

Cyndi Frailing Nelson said...

What a fantastic idea!! I am going to have to try this!!!

Lorna McMahon said...

Why didn't I think of that?!! Love this! Thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

Very very cool! Thank you for sharing!

The Colorful Fabriholic said...

Cute idea and your fabrics bleached out nicely, BUT - please note that chlorine bleach causes cotton fabric to deteriorate. You have to stop the bleaching process, and vinegar doesn't do it. You can get info and anti-chlor at Dharma Trading, here: http://www.dharmatrading.com/fabric/bleach-stop-sodium-thiosulfate.html
A reader commented about using this bleach technique to restore a vintage quilt. Please don't. The continued effect of the chlorine will deteriorate both the new bleached fabric and the rest of the quilt even further.

FlourishingPalms said...

What an interesting thing to do! I've never heard of this, and actually can't imagine myself ever wanting to bleach perfectly good fabric (ha!), but your finish sure looks great! Thanks for sharing something new to me, a 30-plus year quilter.

Emma Tate said...

I think the reader you're talking of, meant, she was going to bleach the new fabric she was going to use to restore the vintage quilt. Not the quilt itself.

Betty said...

What a simple and beautiful way to make more matching fabric: LOVE IT
Thanks!

Nadra Ridgeway said...

Such a brilliant idea! And the result is just so beautiful!!!
Nadra

margaret said...

thanks for the update, will look out for some anti-chlor to be on the safe side.