I think this is a great project for anyone on a tight budget. Thrift stores are full of ‘nearly new’ shirts that will make perfectly great recycled artistic gifts. We picked up a few old shirts at Goodwill and a fresh bleach pen and had such fun enhancing our finds.
We practiced on an old shirt to see how much detail we could include. Writing is a little tricky, you must keep it big; tiny script won’t work. Easiest designs were long vines, hearts, sunshine and of course a peace sign.
I suggest having a few sketches handy. Put down a plastic tablecloth and keep a paper towel handy for wiping the end of the pen occasionally. We also found a toothpick worked well to pop any air bubbles.
Take your time to work slowly and keep a steady hand. It’s difficult to do anything other than draw free hand because chalk or anything else would compromise the application of the bleach. Let your work set for about 10 minutes before rinsing. You can watch to see how bleached out you want your piece.
We worried that we’d have trouble with the bleach running into the unbleached areas of the shirts when rinsing, but we didn’t. We worked quickly, rinsing with a steady spray nozzle.The green shirt above is very dark so after about 10 minutes I washed it and the bleached area turned a beautiful bright green. The striped shirt with its bleached peace sign surprised us, turning the coolest shade of reddish pink. It looks so retro.
Have fun with this! We have all kinds of ideas. How about a pillow slip with sweet dreams or Goodnight. Maybe names or nick names on Christmas shirts. Have fun!!
- it worked well to use old or pre-washed t-shirts
- wear an apron to protect your clothes
- the bleach gel can come out a little globby so start moving the pen along right away.
- have everything ready before you begin.
- have plenty of cardboard to slide into sleeves and body of shirt
- try to position the shirt before you begin so you won’t have to move it around to do the other sleeve. The less you move it the less chance you’ll touch the bleach to an unwanted area.
- keep designs simple. Bleach pens are not for fine work.
- make sure the bleach pen is for ‘whites’.