|Stupid bleach spots... I'm gonna cover you!|
I made this do double duty as an anniversary gift for Hubs. I am trying to do a handmade gift every year that corresponds with the traditional list of anniversary gifts (year one is paper, year two is cotton, year three is... well we haven't gotten to 3 years so I don't know yet haha). Last year I made him a photo book on Blurb.com that was a fairytale starting with how and where we met all the way through our son's birth and so on. It spanned about 6 years, so there were lots of great pictures and it was both sweet and funny. This year, I took his shirt and wrote the lyrics to "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. Bleach pen shirts are all over the interwebz, so I wont go over board on the instructions, but I will share some of my experience with you.
You will need:
a Clorox bleach pen (don't get the color safe one!)
a dark colored t-shirt, preferably a ruined one :-)
several pieces of cardboard that fit in the sleeves and across the whole center of the shirt
a printed out sheet of your lyrics, poem, whatever
a large work area (I used my floor, but the kitchen table would have been easier)
A full bottle of hydrogen peroxide
A sink or tub for rinsing
a load of whites in the washing machine
Step 2: Put on your gloves and begin writing. Use the narrow tip end of the bleach pen and GENTLY squeeze as you write. To get it started you may want to dab at a piece of scrap something to get the tip of the pen wet with bleach gel. You don't need a lot of bleach to make it work, and the less you get out the less it will run and get "blobby" so a thin layer is best. Just make sure it looks a little wet. Don't worry overmuch about your penmanship as it will look cool and stylized and nothing like your actual writing, but do leave a little extra space between letters so they don't run together. Mine is only barely legible, but I like it that way. Make your letters as big as you want to fit your words well in the pattern you have chosen. I did a mix of cursive and all caps to lend emphasis and style. If you want, you can write in chalk first and then trace your letters with the bleach, but I am not that patient, so I went for the big time right away.
Step 3: Write fast. No, seriously. You can really damage your shirt if you go too slowly because just like when you get highlights, the bleach is blowing out proteins in the fiber of the shirt which removes the color, but can create holes if you leave it too long. As you move down the shirt you can skooch the cardboard down with you if you don't have a piece big enough to cover the whole thing, so you aren't bleeding through. You run less risk of bleed through once you are done writing on the section unless you have saturated the fibers with bleach, which I already told you not to... just sayin.
Step 4: If you are concerned about taking too long to do the whole shirt, take the shirt to the sink and wash out the excess bleach. Leaving your gloves on, run some water over the shirt and quickly rub out the bleach under the stream. Work from the top to bottom (or from the words you wrote first to the ones you wrote last). If you work reasonably quickly and rinse well you wont bleach out the background by rubbing the gel over it. Squeeze out the excess water. Pour a little hydrogen peroxide over the lettering until the shirt is saturated, let it sit for a minute or so, then rinse it out. This will counteract the action of the bleach so you don't continue the chemical reaction blah blah blah. I used vinegar for mine, but apparently that is super dangerous as the leftover bleach and vinegar can create an INCREDIBLY dangerous gas, so don't do that. I read up on it since and supposedly peroxide is much safer. I'm no chemist, so if you injure yourself, please don't sue. I'm just doin my best here folks :-) I think I rinsed mine well enough to not run any risk of the chemical reaction, but please be safe. The gas is so dangerous we are talking one good whiff and you are DEAD. Double Plus Ungood.
The downside to all this is that you will want to let your shirt at least mostly dry out if not totally before you go back to working on it. Remember how impatient I am? But the upside is that you will end up with a much more consistent text color rather than having super light at the top and super dark at the bottom, and the top will be less likely to develop holes over time as you wear the garment. Again, that whole less damage to the fibers thing.
Step 5: When you are totally done, rinse out the bleach as described in step 4, peroxide it and let it soak for a few, then rinse thoroughly. Toss in the washer with whites that can handle the bleach (no silk undies) or in an empty washer but shame on you for wasting water, and run a full cycle on hot with two rinses. I added vinegar to my fabric softener container so it would rinse with vinegar and stop that chemical reaction some more, but again, its up to you to determine the safety factors. Dry as usual. For the next few washes you may want to avoid washing with darks that may be damaged by bleach, but by this point with all the chemical neutralizing we have done, you are probably pretty safe.
shirt: free for me, but a new one runs maybe $5
peroxide: $1 from the dollar store, maybe less.
Bleach pen: about $3
Total - for me, $3. Not bad for an anniversary gift!
If you have to buy everything, $9 (depending on how much writing you do, you may have enough bleach pen to do more shirts, too!)
Time: with no stops for rinsing, about 30 minutes plus washing and drying. With stops for rinsing, about 2:30, maybe more if its a humid day.
I plan to play with this for more shirts that have been ruined by stains, bleach, etc, to give them a cool new life. I also want to try the spray bottle bleach with a stencil method as that seems like it would go faster and has different options for graphics and large images. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and the hubs says he will totally wear it, so hooray! Happy anniversary baby!