Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing

Discharged "dyed" Mandalas: no dye added

March 2003

All three of the pictures below link to larger copies of themselves.

mandala tie discharge front of spiderweb mandala discharged shirt back of spiderweb mandala discharged shirt

How I did it


tied for mandala See Tie-dyeing Mandalas and Stars for the mandala fold. In example 23, my folded tie-dyed mandala with white background, I carefully ironed each pleat flat, up-down-up-down-up-down. However, in the case of these two shirts, I simply folded them by hand. With no iron, and with the considerably thicker fabric of the Hanes Beefy Tees I was using, the pleats ended up being less uniform. After folding as pictured below with the navy blue shirt, I tied it very tightly by wrapping artificial sinew, from the local crafts store, around and around, as you can see on the black shirt, shown tied, to the right. The two shirts were tied very nearly identically.

fold one fold two fold three fold four fold five


I used "ultra" (slightly more concentrated the the old "regular") household chlorine bleach, diluted in water, in a somewhat narrow pitcher so that I could stick the point of the bundled cone down into it while leaving the unbound part of each shirt out of the water.

Step one was to fill the washing machine with water, to the highest level, so that it would be ready.

First I tried 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the bleach in about a quart (liter) of water. When I put the black shirt in, results were quick. I took it out, and, since I did not have the cheaper (in bulk) Anti-chlor from PROchem or equivalent Bleach Stop from Dharma (see Sources for Dyeing Supplies), I poured household 3% hydrogen peroxide over the shirt, unwrapped the ties (cutting them with a blunt child's scissor), then immediately place it in the washing machine, including some strong percarbonate oxygen "bleach" in the wash as further insurance that the chlorine bleach would be safely inactivated.

When I unwrapped the black shirt and the white patterns emerged (actually more of a tan before washing), six-year-old Peter, who was watching, exclaimed in amazement. He was very impressed, and wanted me to do one for him. I had another commercially dyed Hanes Beefy Tee in his size, though it was navy, rather than black, so I immediately did so. This time, there was no result at all. The navy dye was far more resistant to chlorine bleach than the black dye had been. I added more bleach, and saw a very slight response. Bored, I went off to play a game with Peter, returning to check every few minutes. After perhaps half an hour, I decided that no further discharging of the dye would occur, so I took it out, rinsed it with water and then peroxide, and washed it with the black shirt. I can't help but wonder if the extended time it spent in the bleach degraded the fabric and shortened its lifespan, but only time will tell. It seems just fine, right now.

Different results

As you can see, the results were very different. The short time the black shirt spent in the dye meant that only the outermost layers were affected at all. The long time the navy shirt spent in the bath meant that the bleach penetrated throughout, resulting in a spider-web like pattern. In both cases, the dark lines left where the ties had covered were distinct and interesting. Note that the back of the navy shirt, which was inside the bundle, has a more even pattern than the front. The back of the black shirt is not shown because it is nearly identical to the front.

Both would make interesting colorful mandalas, if the discharged regions were bleached, but Peter likes the pinkish spiderweb pattern on his navy shirt just the way it is, for now, and doesn't want any dye added. I plan to dilute the bleach considerably more if I do another black shirt, as the effects on the navy shirt are intriguing. Of course, you can never be quite sure how consistantly one item will bleach, as compared to a previous one. Many times, blacks are made up of various different dye combinations, so two apparently identical fabrics or garments may discharge completely differently. As I write this (in the spring of 2003), Dharma has just started carrying blacks to discharge, which may be more predictable.

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Page created: March 30, 2003
Last updated: March 30, 2003
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