DIY: Bleach Shibori…

I’ve been wanting to have a dabble with Shibori for a while. I particularly love all the indigo Shibori projects that are popping up all over. But I’m also a fan of using everyday household materials/supplies for creative projects. I guess I just love the idea that if the creative mood strikes, I can just have a rummage in my cupboards and whip something up from what’s there. Rather than having to drive 40mins to my nearest craft store or order supplies online and wait with baited breath for them to arrive. This is one such project. Bleach, string, and a cotton kaftan top I had languishing in my stash, and hey presto….bleach Shibori!

Shibori is a method of dying pattern into cloth (or in these case a kind of reverse dyeing with bleach) through a process of folding, pleating, gathering, and binding. Bleaching works best on natural cellulose fibres as opposed to synthetics, so this cotton kaftan was the perfect subject to experiment with. I started with folding my garment in half, and then pleating it concertina style up from the hem…

….folded the whole thing in half, and then bound tightly with randomly wrapped string….

Place in bleach solution and weight down with bowls or similar to ensure it’s fully submerged. I used a whole 79p bottle of bleach to about half a sink of water. That’s about as technical as I get! I left it in for just under an hour, checking the colour lift intermittently….

…and this is how it came out after I’d removed the string! (That hole on the left? Managed to that when I cut the fabric along with the string! Duh!)

After that I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed again in cold water, hung to dry and pressed.  (I’ve since discovered that it’s recommended to use a solution to neutralise the bleaching process as it continues even after washing apparently. So just a heads up if you’re planning on replicating this. Google neutralising bleach. It seems a product called bleach stop aka Sodium Thiosulphate is quite popular. But also a solution of hydrogen peroxide in a 1:10 ratio with water will apparently do the same job.)

I think this turned out rather cute! I like the way the sleeve edges and hem carry the bulk of the lightening, and the slight “ink blot” effect down the centre that comes from folding the garment in half before bleaching, and I love the effect the string binding has given along the hem in particular, like a forest of sapling trees in silhouette 🙂

I’m already hatching plans for objects to use in more Shibori!

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  1. Carrie Margulies November 17, 2014

    It’s beautiful! It’s also amazing to me that leaving the garment in 100% bleach for an hour only resulted in bleaching on the surface…I work in a lab and I can tell you that bleach is a strong strong strong chemical and you need to take caution near it. Otherwise you end up with non-intentional Shibori dyeing 🙂

    • Portia Lawrie November 17, 2014

      Aw thanks Carrie:) the bleach was diluted though! Probably about 30% bleach. 1 regular bottle in half a sink of water. Defo wouldn’t recommend 100% bleach! You’re absolutely right 🙂

  2. EmSewCrazy November 18, 2014

    This turned out very lovely! I really enjoy using bleach to “reverse dye” things!

  3. November 18, 2014

    Looks super cool!

  4. emily.marie November 18, 2014

    Reverse tie-dye is so great- a little more predictable than using dyes and not knowing exactly what the color is going to look like. This is such an awesome quick makeover, turned out really well and it’s a lot more interesting now! Good idea on taking photos while you’re cinching and folding it up in case you love how the design turns out and want to recreate it. I’m definitely going to start doing that!

  5. Susan July 11, 2015

    Your shibori tutned out beautifully! I have just found your site, and lovin the stuff you do….using things on hand, not too technical, and making something lovely. I have done some shibori after seeing a tutorial on tv. The lady demonstrating used a vinegar solution ( maybe a cup to 2 gallons cool water) to neutralize the bleach and stop the reaction. I’ve had good success with that. Thanks for the brilliant ideas!

    • portia July 11, 2015

      Wow, thanks SUsan! What a lovely comment to make 🙂 and yes…gonna try the vinegar solution on my next bleach project!

  6. Miriam December 30, 2016

    Lovely results! This reminds me that sometimes the BEST results are when one is bold, I mean, BOLD! As one comment pointed out,since bleach is alkaline, to buffer it and cause it to become inactive you would add the opposite, an acid. Something like vinegar or lemon juice are perfect examples of relatively safe household items. So, if your hands are ever slippery feeling with hand bleaching a laundry item, just rinse with some water and vinegar. Soap is alkaline so it only adds to the slippery feeling! Just found your site, love it!


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