Friday, April 27, 2012

Art Quilting Tips - Discharging

Discharging Fabric Some of you mentioned that you would like to know how to discharge fabric, so this is my blog post for today . . .

Discharging is the process of removing dye from fabric so that the original colour shows through. You have all done this before ... think of that favourite T-shirt that got spattered with bleach when you were doing laundry, or the slacks that you dripped dish washer detergent on . . . that's discharging!

When we are discharging fabric for use in an art quilt we like to be a little more selective in how the design emerges and what the final effect is. Different dyes discharge to different colours so you will want to do a small test sample if you are looking for specific results. Here are a few ideas for you to try:
  • Use bleach in a spray bottle (can dilute with water up to 1:1) 
  • Use dishwasher gel or bleach-based bathroom scrub 
  • Try a bleach pen Have an old credit card handy for spreading the gel onto stencils, stiff paint brushes 
  • Temporary spray adhesive for the backs of stencils 
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacy) 
  • Have a couple of buckets of rinse water handy 
  • Wear rubber gloves or latex gloves to protect your hands 
  • Wear a respirator mask to protect your lungs 
  • Wear old clothes!! 
For a first attempt, use a piece of black or dark coloured cotton and place it on a plastic-covered work surface that is away from anything that could be harmed by bleach (this is a great project for a calm day outside).

Use stencils or masks (spraying the back of them with temporary adhesive will make it stick closer to the fabric and you will get a cleaner line) or work free-hand. When using a stencil, I would recommend using a thicker form of bleach (gel or paste) and pulling the bleach across the stencil with an old credit card or other straight edge.

Bleach takes different periods of time to discharge different fabrics ... keep an eye on the colour and be ready to neutralize the fabric when the colour change looks right.

When the fabric looks like it is the right colour dunk it in a bucket of warm water and rinse it quickly ... then dunk it in the next bucket of water to rinse it some more ... then neutralize any leftover bleach by pouring 3% hydrogen peroxide over it ... DO NOT use vinegar to neutralize the bleach as it creates dangerous fumes. Wash the fabric well using your regular detergent ... dry ... iron ... and use it in a new project!

This cuff bracelet that I made was created by discharging a piece of black Kona cotton on which I had placed a piece of cedar bough before spraying it with bleach. This cotton discharged to a lovely warm caramel colour.
This purple batik fabric was discharged with dishwasher gel, using a stamp that I created, and the colour ended up being a soft grey-blue.

Have fun with this wonderful process and enjoy the surprise results that you achieve.

 Read more about the process of neutralizing bleach on Paul Burch's website here

 Feel free to comment or convo with questions on discharging . . . Kathy

1 comment:

Magpie Quilts said...

Great technique! Will have to try this next time I have my quilty friends here and the weather is nice. I really love the effect of the cedar branch on your cuff.