13 April 2015

The Art of Bleach

With a practice pair of stockings made, I had lots of blue knit fabric left over for another two pairs. I'd planned on bleaching the remaining fabric ever since I bought it and it turned out to be blue instead of white.

This was my first time bleaching anything, however, and I was quite nervous about it. I envisioned patchy, damaged fabric and my hands burned by the evil bleach. I knew I had lots of fabric to do, so I cut out my pattern first to save on the amount of ground that needed to be covered. I'm not sure if this was the right thing to do, but it didn't have any major adverse effects down the line.

I did a test on a small scrap of fabric. The blue colour was already quite pale (pale enough to photograph white) so I knew I wouldn't need industrial amounts of bleach. I mixed four parts water with one part household bleach in a small tub I use for hand-washing garments. I left the scrap in there for thirty minutes before going back to check.

It was pure white! I hadn't expected it to work so quickly or so well. The test piece wasn't patchy at all, and it hadn't disintegrated away into nothing. I rinsed it well in cold water and hung it up to dry.

The test successful, I filled my bathtub with the same ratio of bleach and water. I used up all of my remaining bleach, but only managed to fill up the very bottom of the bathtub. Luckily the stocking pieces were covered completely by the solution, and I sat diligently using a chopstick to push all the fabric underwater and getting rid of any air pockets.

I left it for half an hour, and came back to some very white pieces of fabric. After checking that the bleach had worked on everything evenly, I rinsed the fabric in the bath before moving it back to my small tub.

(This is simultaneously the hardest to edit and least useful picture I have on this blog.)

Now, in all of the instructions I read I was told that I needed some sort of bleach stopper. This makes a lot of sense, bleach is vicious enough to keep working on fabric after you've rinsed it off. From what I can tell, there are a few products in American supermarkets that are sold to stop bleach, as well as hydrogen peroxide in pharmacies.

Finding something like this is New Zealand was near impossible, so I ended up with a teeny tiny bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I'm not sure what you'd do with this amount of hydrogen peroxide but here we are. I filled my tub a quarter of the way up with water and poured my precious peroxide in. I made sure to mix it up well, and checked it every ten minutes to stir the fabric around. In total I left it soaking for almost an hour. I rinsed out the peroxide and washed the pieces with some gentle handwash soap, then left them to dry.

The next day I inspected my results. All the pattern pieces were evenly bleached and were a bright white colour. There was a slightly slick feeling to the pattern pieces that the test piece didn't have. I'm not sure if this was the peroxide or the handwashing, but it wasn't too noticeable. The fabric wasn't as soft as it has been, and the edges were slightly frayed. I ironed all the pieces as the edges had rolled up, and my first attempt at bleaching was finished!

I'm really happy with how it turned out. Even with limited resources I ended up with some beautiful white stockings (or I will when I get around to making them). Although I won't be doing more bleaching anytime soon, it's a new skill I have in my creative arsenal.