When you think of fabric dying, you assume that you will be changing the color of a fabric by adding color to it. Discharge dying isn't about adding color to fabric, it's about removing color from fabric. It's really a technical term for bleaching. The first step in learning about this process is using products containing bleach to remove the color from black cotton fabric.
As part of a fundraising auction for my quilt guild, I offerred to give a workshop on discharge dying along with lunch provided by Terry Kramzar, at my home. Adequate ventilation must be provided. Since it was a very wet and rainy day, we did our experimenting in my garage with the door partially open. I decided to make it an experiment and discovery day. The discharge products included Clorox bleach in a spray bottle, Soft Scrub with bleach, Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Clorox Bleach Pen and Lysol Mildew Remover.
All kinds of crafty items were made available for making designs on the black fabric. These included quilting stencils, foam brushes, sponges, plastic needlework canvas, bicycle parts, foam rubber stamps, bubble wrap and stick-on letters.
Let the games begin! It is so energizing doing this type of experimenting with a group. You feed off of each other and as one person tries something, another tries it and does it one better. Everyone tried the different discharging materials, different lengths of exposure time and different crafty items. It was surprising that even though everyone brought their own black cotton fabric, they all pretty much discharged to a rust color. I thought we might get more variation. One of the fabrics was more of a black tone on tone and that bleached to a different color. A poly-cotton , more poly than cotton, became grey after extended bleaching.
After being exposed to the bleach, the discharge process must be stopped, or else the fabric can become very fragile. This is important to know: YOU MUST USE A SOLUTION OF SODIUM THIOSULFATE (Bleach Stop or Anti-Chlor) TO STOP THE BLEACHING PROCESS. This is available from Dharma Trading (http://www.dharmatrading.com/) . You only need a teaspoon for 2.5 gallons of water. This product removes all of the excess chlorine. There is a lot of erroneous information out there, that you can use vinegar. VINEGAR WILL NOT STOP THE BLEACHING PROCESS! After soaking the the Bleach Stop for a least 25 minutes, soak in regular water and then wash in your regular laundry detergent.
We had a blast! A makeshift clothesline in my garage shows how prolific everyone was and the amazing variety. The consensus was :
Favorite Discharge Agent: Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner.
Favorite Design Aid: Stencils and foam stamps