Thursday, February 7, 2008


Some friends and I tried discharging (using a bleaching agent to remove color from fabric) today. We tried “SoftScrub Gel With Bleach” and Jacquard Discharge Paste. On some of the fabrics, one product worked great and the other didn't. On one piece of fabric, neither worked, and we later wondered if it was cotton, or a synthetic. With the discharge paste, you let it dry, then steam it heavily with an iron before the discharging takes place. You have to do this outside, because the fumes are bad. With the SoftScrub, the discharging starts quickly, and did not seem to be speeded along by the steam.

Fabrics react differently depending on how they were dyed. For example, some black fabrics discharged yellow-orange, some almost white, and some pink. You also have to use something to stop the chemical reaction and keep the bleach from eating through the fabric. We used Chlor Out, a product used to eliminate chlorine in fishtanks.

We used rubber stamps, freezer paper stencils, free-hand painting, and also some old cast-iron water meter covers that I have been collecting. (I made friends with some of the guys at our town’s water department, and asked them to bring me the old covers as they replace them with new ones. The ones I have received are chipped and unusable as water meter covers, but they make very cool stamps and door stops!) The first photo in this post, showing stamping with a water meter cover, was done on Robert Kaufman Kona cotton with the SoftScrub.

I also discharged a coat I bought on sale for $10 at my favorite discount store, Target, this week. It was a black-ish gray canvas with a corduroy collar, and the collar discharged an orangy-pink. I used the water meter cover to stamp it first, then drizzled the SoftScrub on top. After it was washed and dried, I went back in with Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow and painted in some of the discharged areas. If you look closely, you can see the word "WATER" in reverse all over it. I'm not sure if it is done yet; I may go back and do more later. Here it is now:

Here's another stamp done with discharge paste on one of the water meter covers on blue fabric:

I also tried dribbling the SoftScrub right from the bottle onto the fabric (black Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton) and got some beautiful gradations from bronze to gold within the drips:

I just love this piece Alisan printed on a piece of cheap red fabric she bought at my least favorite discount store. She got some beautiful oranges and yellows:

And she got some beautiful periwinkle blues on this purple fabric:

A more subtle over-all effect with a rubber stamp, on the same fabric:

DeLane got this cool effect on a fabric that had a black print on top of a bluish base:

If you are a total control freak, this technique is probably not for you. You roll the dice and you take your chances. Of course, once you know a little bit about how the fabric will react, you can plan a bit. This was really fun, and worth further experimentation.