Hopes and Seams

Crafts, refashions, and sewings to DIY my way through life

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall – Bleach Dyed Dress

All summer long, I had eyed a number of bleach dyed tops, skirts, and jackets, but didn’t want to spend the cash for anything new. So I put bleach dyeing something for myself on my summer to-do list. By the time I was done, it was fall! 🙂

a blue a linen sack I could find

as blue a linen sack I could find

I started with this linen dress I found at the thrift store for $3. I thought the cobalt blue was so pretty, and the pockets were interesting. But everything else needed some changing…!!!

alterationsI did a number of pretty standard alterations:

  1. marked at my natural waist and cut
  2. brought in the sides and sleeves, trimming off the excess
  3. resized the new skirt by making 6 uniform box pleats. I considered just gathering it like I have before, but the fabric is a bit thicker and I thought pleats would be faster to do

IMG_1909-001After that, I sewed the new bodice and skirt back together: I matched them up at the waist seam, with the right sides facing each other.

IMG_1921-001It was already MUCH improved. But I knew this little gem had more to show!

bleach dye materials

Needed: big bowl or bucket, sponge, GLOVES, straight up bleach, concrete slab or giant table covered with tarp (not kidding)

I got my materials together and found a nice flat concrete area to work on. Some notes on the materials and work space:

  1. I needed a large surface area that was flat, big enough for me to lay the entire dress out without wrinkling
  2. The work space needed to be something I could drip undiluted bleach all over. The concrete outside my front door was perfect after I made sure it was clean of debris, but I would have used a tarp on a big table if I needed an alternative.
  3. I was dip-dyeing my dress first, so I chose to use a smaller, narrower bowl versus a wide bucket because I didn’t want to pour more bleach than I would need to saturate the hem of dress.
  4. I had a big soft sponge, the kind you shine cars with, but a smaller sponge would have been fine too.

Starred Photos5I started with the hem: I kind of rolled my dress up so that it would fit the width of the bowl, being VERY CAREFUL that the hem was uniform all along the bottom, and put my gloves on. After filling my bowl about 4 inches deep with the bleach, I lowered the dress in until it was standing on the bottom of the bowl with the surface of bleach reaching 4 inches up the hem, and “creeping” up. 

One thing I didn’t know about bleach dyeing is that the bleach does not change the color of the fabric right away. I thought that the moment the fabric would hit the bleach, it would turn white. So it was rather anticlimactic when I built up all this courage to finally dip the dress and it didn’t change color at all and just looked…wet. I held it in there for a good 4-5 minutes, and it only changed to a pinkish color! I was bummed. But when I took it out and lay it carefully down, it started to turn whiter and whiter as it dried! So I ended up dipping it once for a few minutes, and then letting it dry for about 10, and then dipping it one more time for another 4-5 minutes to make sure the hem was as white as can be.

Starred Photos6

front and back splatters

I couldn’t get any action shots of the next steps because I was, well, in action 😦 but after getting the hem all white, I wanted to have a splatter effect that grades up the dress. I put my gloves back on, and tried my best to get the skirt as flat and even and unwrinkled as humanly possible. I took the sponge and filled it with the bleach in the bowl – not completely soaked so it’s dripping full, but full enough to squeeze a good cup full at a time.

With my sponge loaded, I held it over the area nearest the hem, and SLOWLY squeezed the bleach out, carefully splattering it in a somewhat uniform way. I did the first liberal squeeze onto the bottom of the dress, and then did the smaller drops for the area a little above, so the drops get smaller and smaller.

After that, I literally just cupped a little bleach in my gloved hands and trickled it along the middle – the area between the hem and waist – of the skirt. Finally, for the top part, I wet my gloves in the bleach, and let it drip off my fingertips for larger drops, or flicked my fingers to get the small drops along and above the waistline.

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES: It’s REALLY IMPORTANT for the dress to be flat!!! The bleach pooled along even the slightest fold and wrinkle, making pooly lines of bleach instead of the more roundish splatters I wanted. I was able to fix it by adding MORE bleach to round them out, but I wish I had been more careful from the beginning.

Again, it only turns white after it completely dries, so after letting it dry, I took another look at it, and did “touch ups” with my gloves until it had just the right amount of splatters. After that, it was another 20 minutes to air dry completely, an express spin in the washer and dryer and…

bleach dress 1

dumb pose #1

my new fall dress with old summer trends! 🙂 On an unrelated note, my husband made the credenza behind me. Isn’t he cool? I always say HE should be writing a blog.

bleach dress back and front

back and front or dumb pose #2 and #3

bleach dress close up

bleach flowers

I reallyyyyyy LOVE how the splatters look up close. There’s something almost floral about the pattern!

before during after

before – progress – after

The end! Husband always chides me for taking “ugly” before pictures and then trying to look super great in the after pics. He says it’s manipulative. So here’s a before/during/after pic to fairly represent the state of things. See – I’m happy allll the way through!

little boy bloopers

🙂 and this makes me happy too.


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