March 1st, 2010

I use bleach. I know I shouldn’t, but it just gets things so damn white. I do clean just about everything else with baking soda or vinegar, because they clean just about everything else. But when you have been potty training a certain little boy for over a year (there’s something that’s not so much fun to celebrate) bleach it is. Also, I’m a little sloppy and tend to splash the damn bleach on my shirt, only of course when I am wearing one that is A.) new or B.) my favorite. So after seeing all of Amy’s fabulous bleach pen projects in her new book, I thought I’d rescue a couple of my shirts.


Here is the before picture of the first shirt I did. It looks a little weird because I ironed some freezer paper on the inside before I remembered to take the before shot. I know is just a cheapy target shirt (that describes 80% of my wardrobe) but it fit me well. So of course I had to splash bleach on it.


And here is the after. Yes, I am trying too hard to look cool, but it’s not easy to take a picture of yourself without trying a little. I read the directions for this project after I actually did the project (smart), so I didn’t realize that Amy uses a smaller tip over the bleach pen to get a thinner line. That would make your design look a little crisper, I think, and better overall, because really I’m not fooling anyone: it looks like I drew on this shirt with bleach. But it is a slight improvement over the before and I can leave the house in it without feeling like a total slob.


This is the second shirt I did. I know it’s hard to see the spots, but they were smack dab in the middle and very hard to disguise.  I wanted to do a color wheel shirt, much like this one modeled by the lovely Martha (I could not find another photo of it on the internets anywhere). I’m pretty crazy for the color wheel right now (like this print I love). I feel like it’s a grown up version of the rainbow, which is very big in our house at the moment. I was never one for rainbows, but they are growing on me.  Anyway, the shirt. I wanted the circle to be wonky and off center and partly off the shirt, but the bleach spot dictated where it would go and it ended up just a tiny bit off, which makes it look more like a mistake. Really there are tons more mistakes, but I don’t care, I love it.


I borrowed this stuff from a friend of mine that turns all acrylic paint into fabric paint when you mix it in. It’s made by Golden and called GAC 900 fabric  medium. It works pretty well as far as I can tell. You just mix it 1:1 with the paint and you’re good to go. I think I should have used a little less paint and more of the fabric medium stuff because the shirt is a little stiff in parts, but it’s been through the wash a few times already and looks great. Though with all that bleach on it (the pinky color was made with a bleach pen) I’m sure I’ll wear a hole in it quickly, but i don’t mind really, I’d like a reason to make another shirt like this.

Posted in craft.

20 Responses to bleach

  1. deb says:

    Those shirts are fantastic, I especially like the colour wheel one. Fabric medium is great, it gives you heaps of options with paint.

  2. Katie says:

    Yes!! As a fellow bleach-user I totally understand the need to “cover up” spots with larger designs :) My friend has been purposefully bleaching cloth for a while and I wanted to share a link to a tutorial that she guest-blogged for me. She mixes up a special bleach paste that allows her to make more intricate designs (and the designs are so pretty! I’m afraid my brain would have trouble producing them…)Anyway, here it is:

    I haven’t seen the book that you reference…I’ll have to check that out too. Thanks Meg!

  3. Rebecca F says:

    I found your blog when searching for ideas to cover tin cans. I’m glad I found it! Love it! Keep it up and thank you!

  4. karen says:

    That color wheel shirt is super, especially since it’s in now way a ROYGBIV type thing. Now I want to make a color wheel shirt that’s all shades of gray and brown. Hmm.

  5. Gabrielle says:

    i, too, am guilty of using hard core bleach and many shirts of mine have paid the price!

    i even have one that has a spot strategically located right at the breast area – yikes. this will be a great fix for a shirt I just don’t want to give up!


  6. These look great! I think they are both really fun and a great way to not have to throw away a great fitting t-shirt! Now they need to come up with a way to disguise those tiny holes that always seem to appear on the front of my fav t-shirts…

  7. Mom says:

    How come all you youngies have such good solutions to some of life’s persistent questions? You’re just amazing.

  8. Rach says:

    If only we knew this years back – when my family owned a cafe our work blacks got constantly splattered with bleach from cleaning. We could have all looked so cool but instead we looked poor ’cause we had to keep buying new uniforms!

  9. Ellen says:

    So, if I happen to make a color wheel shirt but promise not to wear it whenever we are around each other, would ya shoot me? So incredible! You have the best eye!

  10. Ellen says:

    @oonafrey- i’ve seen folks stitch around those little holes tightly with a zigzag, and make the cutest intentional looking holes….

  11. Kelly says:

    Well, I love both of the shirts! I have several pants that I need to try that with. I never thought of using a bleach pen to make them part of a design, but it seems so obvious not that I have seen your results. Can’t wait to try it out!

  12. […] still just wear them as-is and try to ignore the fact that they are obviously messed up. I love how Meg of Elsie Marley transformed two of her accidentally-bleached t-shirts into something really cool. Using ideas from Amy Karol’s Bend the Rules With Fabric book, she created two […]

  13. Kristena says:

    These are completely brilliant!!! I’m really digging triangles these days. Which sounds weird. But I am! :)

  14. hena tayeb says:

    that is so cool.. love the idea. don’t use bleach so never really had that happen to me yet.. but incase i ever do and it does i know what to do. thanks

  15. Lisa says:

    Hey that’s so simple, but ingenious. I really like both of those!
    Love your blog.


  16. urban craft says:

    Wonderful wonderful fix!
    I’ve used felt to applique a cool character to the boy’s shirt when he gets stains on them. But that doesn’t really work for an adult shirt. Now I almost want to “accidentally” bleach my shirts.

  17. Torie says:

    Love your blog SO MUCH! Shaklee makes a cleaner called Basic G that kills more pathogens than bleach and continues to kill pathogens a lot longer than bleach even after it is wiped off. It also won’t take color out of clothing and you just use a tiny amount in a big spray bottle of water so it’s really affordable.

  18. My husband has many a shirt with bleach spots on (he’s the only one that uses bleach around here – not because of any ideals of mine, I just refuse to buy / make anything white for me or the kids these days…). I’ll have to ask if he wants me to doodle on them with a bleach pen. I doubt it – he doesn’t seem to care if the shirt has paint spots or rips in, so I doubt the bleach spots faze him… Oh well..

  19. rxanna says:

    Wow. I have one shirt I absolutely love that sits aimlessly on my dresser. But that fabric medium trick sounds like fun.
    I guess I have some paint to do. :)

  20. Viviana B. says:

    Great! The first one is really wonderful! I’ve got one shirt I love but it has bleach spots on; I’ll try to make it as nice as yours!