DIY: Bleach stamping!
Using diluted bleach on dark colours is like the bizarro-world version of dyeing light colours! You’re just taking away pigment instead of adding it. There are a lot of great bleach stencilling and painting tutorials out there and Google awaits you with open arms and a bouquet of options. But our lovely Rosalind, who you may know from our Facebook and Pinterest, had a genius idea: stamping!
Since it was her idea, I am letting her take the wheel with the words!
First off, general safety tips!
Follow precautions on bleach bottle and do this in a ventilated area! Craft safely!!
What you’ll need to start:
• Bleach •
• Vinegar •
• A plastic or glass container large enough to submerge tights in water •
• A small, shallow dish or lid (I used a yogurt lid) •
• Paper towels •
• Spray bottle •
• Tights (Foot Traffic’s Signature Cotton Tights are thick enough to not bleed through, even to the inside)
• Rubber stamp(s) – choose patterns that are bold, with no fine lines. Abstract designs tend to work a little better. •
• Newspaper •
• Gloves (optional) •
• A outfit that you can risk getting bleach on •
1. Keep it clean! – Cover your work area with newspapers or a dropcloth.
2. Mix neutralizer – in the large container, mix vinegar with water, about 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water. You don’t have to be super exact. This solution is to stop the bleach and make it safe to toss your stamped tights into a load of your regular laundry for the final washout. No need to run the machine for one item!
3. Make stamp pad – fold a paper towel down to the size of your dish or yogurt lid. You can cut or tear it down to size, but be sure that you do have a few layers in there. Pour a little bit of pure bleach onto the pad – enough to dampen the towel, but not to form a puddle around it. Basically you want it to be about as wet as a real stamp pad with ink would be.
4. Mix bleach spray – in the spray bottle, mix a little bit of bleach into some water. Since you want to be able to distinguish your stamps from the nebulous mist effect that the spray bottle creates, make this pretty well diluted, so that the bleach acts very slowly and can be neutralized before it gets as light as the stamps.
Lots more after the jump!
Trial and Error!
Using either fabric similar to the tights you’re using, or else up near the waistband (which won’t be visible once worn with a skirt), do a little practice with your stamping! Not only will this give you a good idea of which stamps will work for this project, but you’ll be able to develop a bit of a stamping technique before you start on the real project.
I found that having an extra paper towel around to clean up the edges of the stamps helps a lot with leaving a clean pattern.
Stamping – the real deal
Part of the beauty of making your own patterns is that you can avoid the dreaded side seams where printed tights tend to have non-aligning patterns. That’s because it’s hard to print in 360 degrees around a tube, so most places lay them flat and print the front, then the back. In order to have a pattern that “wraps”, I started by re-flattening the legs on these tights, so that the creases where they had been folded are on the top and bottom of the leg.
I chose to stamp “polka-dot” style, so I did a spaced out line of stamps up each crease. Using the Foot Traffic Tights, you shouldn’t have trouble with the bleach bleeding through, so once the top side dries a little, you can flip them over and get the creases on the other side.
Once you have the sides done, it’s very easy to give the tights a little shake, and they flatten back to how they were with the creases becoming the side folds again. Now you do another row of stamps up the middle of each leg, in between the placement of the side stamps. Flip and get the back. Personally I didn’t worry too much about spacing them perfectly, since I’m going for the hand-stamped look.
You don’t have to go for the polka dot pattern at all – you could try going in spirals around each leg, or go for something more organic altogether!
Since you’re only applying a very thin layer of bleach, it will dry very fast. On black tights, it will turn orange, then fade into yellow as it dries. Once dry, the bleach is no longer active, so you don’t need to worry about neutralizing after this first stamping stage, and the stamps shouldn’t smear.
The nebulous mist effect!
In order to make this into a more cohesive design, I chose to lightly mist bits of it with the diluted bleach that I put in my spray bottle. The bottle I got was a bit drippy and messy, so for a more even application, I chose to put the tights onto my half-mannequin so that I could easily get to all 360 degrees. You can also use a pants hanger for this! A did a couple of large, gestural spritzes, one around the hip on one side, one closer to the ankles on the other side, and a little bit in the back. I could have gone farther, but it’s good to start small and build up when you’re working with bleach. I just wanted sort of an inconsistent patina effect.
Watch it carefully! By now my stamps have gone yellow, so I want to stop the spray while it’s still orange, for the sake of contrast. Once the bleach reaches the level you want it at, dunk it into that vinegar bath to stop it!
Once you’ve neutralized your bleach, you can either rinse the tights and do a little more spritzing if you feel the need (once damp, the spray will look even more nebulous, since the bleach will get dispersed further into the damp fabric ) or wash them out. You can hand wash, or if you have a load of laundry to do, the vinegar will make them safe to add to your other clothes. If you do put them in the machine, wash in cool water and hang dry.
Once your tights are dry, rock them with an awesome outfit!
Yay for Rosalind!! These turned out so great. Now, I gave this a try with some 100% nylon stockings, out of curiosity, and it totally did not work. The sponge brush I used changed colour and the stockings did not! Then smart Zaffie, who runs our Tumblr, reminded me that nylon needs acid dyes and since bleach is a basic it wouldn't do anything to 100% nylon. PH science!
The Signature Combed Cotton Tights are only 60% cotton, so you should have luck finding styles to work with even if you search with "Cotton less than 65%" as a value in Advanced Search. We hope you have lots of fun making things your own and revitalising old styles! We love to see how folks personalise their socks and tights, so please share your crafty goodness on our Facebook, Tumblr or drop us a line!