Tuesday, June 14, 2011

(re)design your summer week: fun with batik

Posting three days in a row! Wow, I must be getting the hang of this blogging thing.
Self-congratulations aside, I've been thinking, you know, it's high time we had something extra-special going on over here besides the impromptu photoshoots (you know you love 'em). I then looked in my closet and discovered something.
The majority of the clothes I own don't fit, have sentimental value or are family heirlooms, or are kind of strange (like the pioneer dress). And to disguise this problem I'd been buying newer, cuter stuff that floated over the rejects like whipped cream on cow manure (ok, ok, exaggeration there but I couldn't resist). In the end I simply didn't have very many clothes I wanted to wear and had exhausted my parents' shopping goodwill.
So, (re)design your summer week was born! Every day I'll be posting my own tutorial on how to revamp old clothes using things pretty much everyone has around the house (my sewing machine is STILL on the fritz so there probably won't even be many sewing things....single tear....). If I stick to my plans and post every day and people don't get tired of me posting every day, this may even become a month! (that is....if I have enough clothes for a month.....). So let's get started!
Today, I'm going to be using an extremely tricky technique called Splattering Things with Bleach. No, really.
One of this season's emerging trends is ikat print, which cultures all over the world (most famously Central and South America) used on garments. Fashionistas starting as early as European colonizers saw, liked, and took. Now this ancient design is appearing on modern skirts, dresses, tops, bikinis and pillows everywhere. Here are some examples:
Ikat skirt as seen on Kendi Everyday.

Image courtesy of J.Crew

J.Crew ikat print shorts

J.Crew tank top (what can I say? J.Crew has good stuff!

A while ago for a school project I taught my class how to artistically attack napkins with bleach pens to create a batik-like look, so as you can imagine I had a lot of bleach pens left over afterward. If you don't have a bleach pen many supermarkets carry them (Clorox works best for me because it has a thick tip and a fine tip, which we will be using). Stain remover is not the same thing. If you try to use stain remover for this it will not work out very well. Anyway, when I saw these gorgeous patterns I was inspired to create my own. This is not how ikat OR batik was culturally produced but it mimics the style of both.
 Things You Will Need:
-a bleach pen (or two....depending on the intricacy of the design and how much space you want to cover. I was fine with one for my t-shirt)
-Gloves, so if you're slightly klutzy like me you don't get bleach all over your hands
-a paper towel
-an old t-shirt or anything else you'd like to give a makeover to. This technique works best on fabric that's 100% cotton or close to that. 
-chalk or dressmaker's chalk for drawing your design
-a design guide or inspiration photo unless you know how to freestyle-design ikat print
-wax paper/cardboard
-outdoor space or a well-aired room unless you love the smell of bleach
-sink/tub and faucet for handwashing
-clothesline or chair to drape your wet, drippy creation all over
-a flat workspace like a table or desk that can get accidental drops of bleach on it and nobody will freak out
 This may look like a long list of things but I'm willing to bet you probably have many of these items already. You should probably assemble what you need beforehand so you don't have to run all over the house looking for stuff. *not that I did that or anything*
1. Lay your shirt flat on your workspace and slide a piece of wax paper or cardboard inside it. This will prevent the bleach from bleeding through to the other side.
before: a plain, well-loved purple t-shirt. Did you know that different color shirts bleach to different colors? Blue bleaches to beige-y, red bleaches to light pink, and coolest of all green bleaches to tan.

2. Draw with chalk the ikat design you want to copy. If you mess up, its ok; the chalk will come out in the wash. Choose a design that's widely spaced and not too intricate because the bleach spreads and turns anything complicated into a messy blobby blob. I chose a simple print that I copied from the J.Crew dress/shorts pictured above.

 3.  Give the bottle a test squeeze onto the paper towel to make sure the bleach is flowing right. Using the fine tip of the bleach pen, carefully trace your design with bleach. You don't need much; the bleach will spread. You can vary the thickness of the line by squeezing out more bleach. Use the pen to drag existing bleach along the chalk to make lines thinner.

 4. Once you're done tracing your design, let the bleach dry. This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple hours, depending on how much bleach you put on.

lalala bleach is dry now!
 5. As you can see, the bleach spread quite a bit. Now fill the tub or sink with a few inches of cold water, you don't need much to rinse the shirt off in. Don't use any soap. Dunk the shirt in and use hands to get off the dried bleach. You don't have to use your gloves for this.

 6. When you're finished, dump out the water, give the shirt a squeeze to get the excess water out, and hang on your clothesline/handy porch chair to dry!

Design close-up. I think it turned into batik somewhere along the way. 
As of now, mine is still drying....I'll update this post with a pic of me wearing it when it's dry. But the seventh step is to put on your new(kinda) shirt and enjoy :) After your initial washing, you can machine wash and dry this shirt! (that is unless you're one of those people who have to dry clean your t-shirts....in which case I don't recommend this project).

<3 Maggie


  1. Okay, this is awesome and I seriously need to do it! In high school I "bleach spotted" a shirt, but it definitely didn't scream cute and classy the way this does!

  2. Thanks so much! btw--sorry for the um.....very late response. I'm still getting the hang of this blog thing