Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fading Fabric With Bleach... What I Learned

I bought 40 brightly colored fat quarters about 7 months ago, intending to make a vibrant, colorful quilt. As I recently shared, though, I have decided to make a hexagon quilt, and I thought it would be a cool effect to fade the fabrics so that they looked more vintagy.

As you can see, some of the fabric responded very well to the bleach... other pieces, not so much. I'll go into more detail color-for-color a bit later in this post.

I searched all over the internet and Pinterest before I did this, trying to find a some pictures and examples of bleached fabric before I dove head first into this project, but there just wasn't a lot of inspiration to be found. So hopefully this post will help someone else who is toying with the idea of bleaching fabric have a better idea of what to expect before they take on the challenge. I learned 3 things:

About 30 minutes into the bleaching process, I realized that it was probably a ridiculously stupid idea for a pregnant woman to be standing in her bathroom with bleach fumes watching the color slowly strip from her fat quarters. In the end, we had to open all the windows of our house to let it air our while we went on a walk for a few hours.
If I ever have the crazy idea to bleach a ton of fabric ever again, I will definitely be doing it outside in a well-ventilated area.

Overall, I would say that I am happy with the results of my experiment, but there were a handful of fabric pieces that just didn't seem to want to fade AT ALL. I found that this had less to do with the color (though many of them were darker fabrics), and more to do with how thick and rigid the fabric was. Softer, lighter fabrics took to the bleach very quickly (some a little bit too quickly!), and thicker, coarser fabrics were immune to the bleach. In fact, I ended up submerging many of these thick pieces of fabric into 100% undiluted bleach (you are supposed to mix 1 part bleach with 2 parts water) for a few minutes, and they still remained practically unaltered.

I took pictures of all of the colors before and after so that I could easily view the results:

My findings are that red, purple, and green were most changed by the process... aside from a couple of pieces of fabric that were significantly coarser than the others and thus, just didn't take to the bleach.

Red tends to fade to orange, purple to pink, and green to a limey gray color.

Yellow didn't do as well as I would have expected, but still had some noticeable differences.

Thick or thin fabric, blue dye seemed most resilient against the bleach. I see almost no change in the before and after of the blue fabric.

If I ever have the crazy idea to bleach a ton of fabric ever again, I will definitely be taking the project outside! And for best (most faded) results I know that I want to use soft, thin fabric with lots of purple, green, and red hues... avoid blue tones.

I hope this information is helpful for somebody! Have you ever bleached fabric before? Did you find similar or different results? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!

I'm linking to these parties.


Ioana-Carmen said...

Love your style! maybe we can follow each ohter?:X

itsbreezy said...

Thanks so much for this post! I too, have looked all over for info on fading fabric and couldn't find anything. This really helped me!

Karen Barbé said...

Hello Mandy,

Thanks for posting about your experience. I found your post after googling about bleaching fabrics for quilting. At this very moment I'm waiting for my first bleach test. It's a grey-printed think cotton and I think it won't fade a thing. I'll consider your results for picking the next fabrics. Hope it works!


clo said...

This post is very helpful (including the part about being pregnant and inhaling bleach fumes, precisely my situation!). I dyed linen today, hoping to get a very light, pastel pink but I still used too much dye so it just looks like a bright baby pink which I don't like. And apart from this post indeed there isn't much out there about fading colors, so thank you!

Michael Wilson said...

Love your blog BUT it is insanely hard to read! from one blogger to the next, pick a different font! (no matter how pretty this one is!)