Giving Your Fabric a Bleached Makeover

When I began the search for the fabric for my Perfect Spring Dress, I received numerous comments and emails about how I should keep in true form of the dress by finding a border print fabric. I’ve looked. They are hard to come by.  I had an idea dawn on me after the fabric had been voted on and I decided to give it a try. I did try this on the original winning fabric with no result, because it was made of a colorfast polyester/cotton blend. And then unfortunately I ruined that version of the dress anyway. I had read about fading fabric with bleach over at Wisecraft awhile back and I thought I could, just possibly, achieve a faux border print look with a little help from a few cups of clorox and some water. This was an interesting experiment to say the least, but one that surprisingly worked, maybe not to achieve a border print but a different looking fabric. The method was easy enough. I wanted the bodice to be the most faded here. To do this, I cut the pattern pieces first and then bleached them. The same was done for the skirt except, I bleached the skirt in sections starting with the top section. I dipped the skirt into the bleach mix starting with the top and allowed it to sit for 1 minute before moving the skirt down 6 inches and then repeating this process until I got to the bottom. Then I soaked the pattern pieces in water and apple cider vinegar (a neutralizer) to stop the fading. I air-dried the pattern pieces before sewing them and well, there you have it. I’m fairly happy with the result, however I think I could have bleached a little bit longer just for a little more fading. And the tie is bleached too. What was once a rust orange is now more of a poppy red. What do you think? Have you tried this before? Have you ever thought about it?

How did I come up with what increments and how long to soak you may ask? I tested a scrap of fabric first to see how long it would take to get the desired effect. Only 5 minutes. I divided 5 by the inches of my skirt which was 29. Rounding off that number gave me 6. Yeah. I’m a mathematician and totally didn’t know it. Ha ha ha.

Same printed fabric for each dress

The way weird thing is that doing this to the fabric weakened the weave to a point where it’s more like an apparel fabric than a quilting weight cotton. You have to be pretty careful, I mean this does weaken the fibers and weave of any fabric. In that one post on quilty cottons Hillary pointed out that quilty cottons don’t wrinkle quite right for apparel. I agree. But I found that this bleaching thing really strips the fibers of the dye (that I think adds to that weird wrinkling) and weakens the fiber to a point where its more pliable as a garment fabric rather than quilting. You should try it and see what you think. Also, I think the faded coloring gives it a more vintage feel and surprisingly, a totally different look than the original fabric. What do you think?

Here’s a link to an article I read on Threads about this type of thing and then there’s Marta’s book which is about how to do this sort of thing in depth.


12 thoughts on “Giving Your Fabric a Bleached Makeover

  1. Very interesting. The dress looks lovely bleached; it softens the look to make it light and airy. Good job with this; I may have to try this one day!

  2. It looks really great! Might be a way for me to use all those wild but wonderful prints (f.ex. old curtains) that make me feel invisible, they might work if they’re a bit more subdued.
    What kind of bleach did you use (ie, what’s the active component in it, we have different brands here and bleach is not so common at all)?
    Oh, and I LOOOOVE your banner…

  3. What a good idea! I’m a huge fan of the border prints myself, but there are not enough options out there! I would have never thought of bleaching, thanks for the brilliant suggestion and showing us how it’s done.

  4. I love the effect you have got bleaching the fabric, and as another commenter has said I might try it on some curtain fabric I have as it is far too stiff for clothes and the colours are are bit too defined. I’m not sure it would change enough for this kind of floaty dress but it certainly might for a skirt or maybe a bit more tailored frock!! It would need careful thinking about as I don’t want to look like my granny’s sofa walking the streets!!

  5. Yay! you did it! This turned out so beautiful! It looks great here and I think it would be a great tool to try on some other things too, like printed napkins!

  6. Oh thank you! And I really do think this is a great way to tame those wild prints. I used Clorox brand bleach and here in the U.S. it’s located in the cleaning isle of the supermarket. Hopefully this helps.

  7. Thank you so much for your reply to my question! I’ve been busy as a bee (not sewing I’m afraid) and didn’t have the time to either answer or try it out, but I will keep this in memory and try it out later on!

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