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Discharging Dye From Black Cotton Fabric Project


Supplies Needed:

A Flat Item to create a shadow - such as an interesting leaf - you can also create a shape of about anything from heavy paper

Black Cotton Fabric

Colorful Batik Fabric

Bleach (such as Clorox)

Spray Bottle


'Wonder Under' paper-backed fusible stabilizer


Variegated Colored Sewing Machine Thread

Rubber gloves / Apron / Mask - Remember to use safety precautions when using bleach, it can be extremely caustic!



Stop Bath (I used a small amount of Sodium Thiosulphate mixed in water. I have heard you can also use a small amount of vinegar mixed with water / 4 cups water to 1/3 cup vinegar)

2 Large Bowls - one for water to rinse bleach / one for stop bath

I suggest you do a test of various black fabrics with small pieces to find a fabric that discharges to the color you desire BEFORE using a larger piece.  it not only will tell you which fabric works best, but it also lets you know the process a bit better before doing something larger.

Trace the leaf onto the stabilizer and cut out the shape with scissors.


Mix half bleach half water solution in spray bottle

Lay out newspapers and black fabric on a surface outside - to provide adequate ventilation

Place the flat item on the black fabric in desired location (It helps to press the leaf or item in a flower press or large heavy book overnight to make it as flat as possible)

Lightly spray the bleach water solution onto the fabric standing in one position only.  To spray from many directions can prevent a clean shape from appearing later.


As you watch the fabric will begin to change before your eyes. Watch it closely as this will occur very quickly!

Once it changes, remove the leaf carefully from the fabric and gently rinse the fabric in clean water.

Bleach is caustic and will continue to damage the fibers of the fabric if left alone at this point. So, the best advice is to use a 'Stop Bath' to halt this action.  Rinse the fabric in the stop bath solution (see above) for at least 5 minutes.  Be sure to agitate the entire time to ensure the fabric is saturated completely with the solution. 

At this point you can clearly see the shape of the item you laid down on the fabric. The edges will not be perfectly sharp, but softer, much like an actual shadow is.

Dry the fabric

Fuse one side of the stabile to the batik fabric, according to manufacturers directions. Cut out the fabric around the stabilizer. Remove the paper backing from the underside of the shape (leaf). Position the cut out shape just slightly 'off' from the negative shape left when discharging the black fabric.

Iron the leaf / shape into place.

The example shown tot he right was appliqued into place with a variegated thread using a ZigZag stitch. I could have also done this after sandwiching it together with batting and backing fabric.

I chose another fabric to use for the border of the wall hanging. And sewed them together with the center discharged fabric.

Use the same variegated thread to create the veins in the leaf. I also went back and stitched around the leaf pattern for added interest.

I used an organic loose quilting motion to quilt the layers together, you can see a bit of it here in the image provided.


I then wanted to bind the edges of the small wall hanging with an interesting fabric. I laid out some of the choices I had, but nothing really seemed to work.

I finally decided on using the same black fabric I had used for discharging, only this was pieces that were not used in the process.

I also added thin strips hand sewn around the center piece itself.

So there you have it! Have fun, play around with the shadow look and different fabrics.  Try using dye resist for an even wider variety of affects!

Dick Blick


Dharma Trading Company