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Easy Craft Programs for Your Library: Bleach Shirts

by on January 9, 2018

Crafts can be a great way to get adult and young adult patrons into the library, especially if they are easy to do and easy to teach. The first step in teaching crafts is to make sure you know how to do it yourself, that way if you can’t find a volunteer for the job, you know exactly what must be done.

In this second in a series of posts about crafting at the library, I will detail how to make Bleach Shirts. This is one of the easiest crafts you can do in the library. You will need a sink, so as long as you have a water source, you, too, can teach this class. It doesn’t take long, about an hour is all you need.

Supplies you need are: 100% cotton shirts, newspaper or cardboard, gel bleach pens, vinegar and water. Make sure that the t-shirts are 100% cotton. Any polyester blend will not take the bleach. The darker the material the better: black works best. And it doesn’t have to be a t-shirt. It can be any kind of garment or piece of material as long as it is 100% cotton. Leggings are also a fun garment to work with, and the results can be fantastic. Garments should be clean and free of lint and animal hair. A great place to find suitable t-shirts is at Michael’s craft stores. At regular price they are a great deal. Buy several shirts in different sizes for those patrons who come without a shirt or who may bring the wrong kind of shirt.

You can find the gel bleach pens online at amazon.com. Be sure to purchase the gel pens. The gel is easier to use on fabrics, especially for intricate designs. Regular bleach pens may be too liquid and not allow you to get a clean line. Use the newspaper or cardboard as a separator between the layers of fabric so that the bleach doesn’t bleed to the opposite side of the garment.

Apply a thin line of gel onto the fabric in any shape or form. Words work well, too. Pinterest has visual examples to show students the possibilities they have when working with the gel. Stencils also work well, as does some larger stamps, for those afraid to freehand a drawing or text. Use painter’s tape to make geographical designs. Let the bleach stay on the fabric for at least 20 minutes. You will be able to see the color change, especially on dark or black fabric. You can also use liquid bleach and a spray bottle. This, of course, is going to be a bit messier and may need extra newspapers to lay down around the garment, but it can create a nice speckled effect.

After 20 minutes, rinse the shirt thoroughly and then set in a solution of 1/2 cup of vinegar to 2 gallons water. Soak for about 5 minutes and then wring dry. Provide plastic bags so that patrons can take their shirts home to dry. They also can wash their shirts with regular soap and water while still wet in order to get all of the vinegar out.

There will also be a lot of left over bleach left in the pens so you can reuse the pens for another project.

In the end you have a t-shirt with a handmade one-of-a-kind design.

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