Stencil bleached jeans: Surprising (moderate) success!

September 11, 2007 at 6:27 am (Crafting)



Well! I was all geared up to report on this project as a sad example of some projects just not working out, and only one sad little lesson learned, after many hours of work wasted.


As you can see, the result is actually not as bad as I’d initially thought! Check a look at the pix, and then I’ll tell you the story.

This picture is very representative of the real color of the actual jeans. The first picture of the whole piece is also pretty close.The only thing that’s wrong with it, in terms of color representation, is that the contrast between the bleached and the non-bleached is actually a little less than pictured.
This is a view of the main splotching of bleach that I discovered after removing all the masking, it’s right in the front, and doesn’t really look all that great, I’m trying to think of ways to cover this up, or recolor it. But unfortunately, the color of these jeans is kinda odd, sort of a grey-blue, instead of your standard ‘bluejean’ color. So recoloring could be mighty tricky. Any light patch that is not clearly a star, is splotch.
Ok, this is a little hard to see, but I’ve got the right edge of the jeans folded over, to show the back side just a little. Above the hammer loop, you can see the other bleach splotches that happened, from excessive pooling. Those splotches don’t bother me at all.

bleachjeansbug.pngWhen I started out, I knew I wanted to do *something* bleachy to my jeans, but I just had no idea what. Then I remembered the Autographics “Metamorphosis” design (from Blik, a cool wall/glass/car decal company) I’d seen a few weeks earlier (see pic) and I remembered liking the way the transition was, between dark figures on a light background, to light figures on a dark background.

But I didn’t want butterflies, so I thought stars would be perfect! I used Illustrator again, to help me draw the stars, and arrange them, and also work out how the transitions were going to happen, that part was tricky. And then the cutting! Oh man, I cut out stars for so long. Nnngh. Then I took everything upstairs and took my time getting it all masked off. I had everything covered so well, I had every inch of the jeans protected, except for the bits to be bleached. I was proud of my work. Then I grabbed my trusty bottle of 50/50 Bleach and Water, and sprayed away. I wanted the bleached parts to be bright and really pop. Well, nothing happened. “Maybe jeans bleach slower than t-shirts”, I thought, so I went downstairs for 5 minutes, to breathe and let it develop. Coming back, still nothing. Absolutely nothing. I did this at least 3 more times, perhaps 4, spraying it again, and waiting, to no avail. There was a slight difference now, but it was so slight, I could hardly see it. Getting frustrated, (And asphyxiated!) I followed Kanten’s advice of upping the bleach percentage in my spray bottle. Reluctantly, now wanting to just ditch the whole project, I did this, and I think my bleach percent was around 80%. I sprayed it again profusely, and went down again to wait.

Coming up for the final time, I had to admit that you could *kinda* see the difference now, but it was getting too late to work on it any longer, and I still wanted to have time to wash and dry this before bedtime. Instead of saving the cardstock stars as I’d intended, I just crumpled them up as I removed them, they were sopping wet from all the spraying and sitting. Removing the masked areas, I was horrified to see the big bright-white splotches right on the front of the jeans, -this was just the last straw. I’d ruined my only good pair of jeans! Augh! I held it up, and as I looked at the stars, they were so subtle, I just knew that I’d be the only person who ever really knew I’d labored over decorating these pants. In disgust, I chucked them into the washer, I had the water and soap ready and poured, and turned it on. It was late, and I never did get around to transferring them to the dryer, and actually, I forgot in the morning, too, so they sat there, forlorn in the washer until about 3pm, when I came home briefly, threw in a load of clothes, and washed the jeans again, with them.

Late that night, I finally got the jeans out of the clean laundry hamper to survey the ‘damage’. It was surprising; the contrast was much better, on the dry denim! I spread them out on the ground, and yes! This was actually not too bad! Satisfactory, even! The splotches of pooled bleach were still there, and they looked horrible, but aside from that, !!!

I’m glad that I didn’t do all that work for nothing, it was a huge job. Next time, I’m going to start out right from the get-go with the higher-percentage bleach, and also DO A SPOT TEST!! Yes, a very important lesson to remember. I think most cotton T-shirts are going to react with some predictability, but on other fabrics, spot-testing is just essential.

I welcome your comments! ^_^
PS: How am I going to play down those horrible splotches on the front of these jeans?


  1. Ego said,

    What is moderate about that? ZOMG, I adore the way you’ve got the bottom leg all pale with dark stars and it moves into pale stars.

    You are so much win, that looks FABULOUS!

  2. Ego said,

    I have an idea for the splotch on the front of the jeans.

    Get a patch.

    An actual, honest to god, 3d patch. Surely there is an appropriately-sized star patch out there somewhere that’ll cover the spot and make it look like maybe your bleach design is so cool it’s COMING TO LIFE.


  3. Spring Joy said,

    wow cool I love these jeans they look perfect and the extra white spots actually add to the look and I thought they were on purpose
    keep them!
    Love it!

    time for you to Flex. :-)

  4. steph said,

    hey i LOVE your jeans! i tried to bleach a lizard on mine but it just went bleuuuhhh! try looking for some spare denim that you have cut off something and bleach it then cut it into A star and pin it on with safety pins or sew it on to cover up the sploches. or you could paint over them with acrylic to make em look different i dunno but they are just gorge! well done i wish mine would work…

  5. SoofeVem said,

    Thank you

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