So most of my do-it-yourself projects turn out to be for decorating your space, but lately I've been dabbling in some crafty fashion. You may have already seen my handwritten scarf project or glitter-toe nude flats. (...And if you haven't, you probably should after reading this post!) This time around, I got my bleach on. What?! Bleach?! That's absurd. Well, just you wait...
You'll need a solid t-shirt. Darker, bolder colors will work best. Lighter ones will be more subtle. I went with a bright, minty turquoise (is that a color?) t-shirt from Target that set me back about $5. You'll also need a bleach pen. Choose one with a fine-tip option since it makes drawing easier. This Clorox pen cost me about $3.
Before you begin... Think of what you want on your shirt. Until you become a master of the bleach pen, it's wise to choose an uncomplicated design. Simple, easy-to-read words and clearly defined shapes will turn out the best. I sorta knew this going in, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and aim for a more intricate design anyway.
In order to have a template of sorts, I placed a piece of poster board inside my shirt and traced along the neckline so that I would know where-about to draw my design.
Then I started sketching my design with a pencil. To know me is to know I'm obsessed with deer... so it was a natural choice. Once I started doodling, I couldn't stop. I also wanted to re-use one of my favorite e.e. cummings lines, "Your head is a living forest full of songbirds." So that's where the banner came in. Then I had the marvelous idea to make little leaves grow off of the branches. And add songbirds around the banner. And some roses.
I traced the main lines of my design with black permanent marker very heavily so that when I placed the poster board inside the shirt it would shine through and I could trace it. Even if you're not tracing the design, you should still put a piece of thick poster board or cardboard inside the shirt. This will prevent the bleach from bleeding through to the backside of your shirt... or whatever surface you're crafting upon.
You have to squeeze the pen as you draw. It can be tricky so take you time. Also, the bleach tends to bubble. It's ok. Just pop the bubble with the pen tip and keep going. I drew the main lines of my design (trying to trace through the shirt when possible) and then went back to add details.
When you've drawn the entire design, let it sit. The longer you let it sit, the more the bleach lines expand. If you don't want wide lines, keep an eye on it every few minutes until the lines are to your liking. I let mine sit a little longer than I meant to, which lessened the readability of my banner words and also blurred some of the details.
When you think the lines are set and you can see that the shirt has been bleached in all desired areas, run the entire thing under COLD water. Rinse off all of the bleach. Toss it in the dryer or let it air dry. Then wear and wash as normal.
I'm quite pleased with how my bleach pen project turned out. I wore the shirt out the next night and received quite a few compliments. Since I left the bleach on longer than I meant to (resulting in the widened lines) I wasn't too confident that anyone would be able to see that it was a deer. ...But they could! So it was a success in my book! I'll definitely know to do thinner lines and not let it sit as long next time.
I did use up an entire bleach pen on this project, so if you're planning something big you might want to have an extra one on hand. I'd also recommend doing this project in a well-ventilated area or with a mask to prevent inhaling the strong bleach fumes. I ended up with a bit of a headache after being hunched over the bleach for an hour. (Not good, I know.)
One last word of warning: This is so fun and easy that it's addicting! I immediately wanted to do this to other t-shirts. It'd be great for solid curtains, pillow cases, bedding, scarves, etc.! You'll definitely being seeing more bleach pen projects here on Lovely Undergrad in the future.