Flash from the past! I learned about this bleaching technique at the Rocky Mountain Sewing Festival about ten years ago. This class was taught by a gal who had made a beautiful, long, denim coat and it was bleached with lots of different 'found' but organic objects, like leaves from her yard. So I made a jacket, and first cut out the pattern pieces, so it was easier to bleach. I used regular bleach, and some of these foam stamps, seen below.
I applied the bleach with a foam brush, which was a little tricky... lots of drips, but that only added to the serendipity of the process! I had a spray bottle of vinegar handy too, and after stamping a few images, would spray the bleached images with the vinegar, to help stop the bleaching action. And of course, the fabric was washed afterwards in the washing machine. This is the deal with bleach... it really never stops 'eating away' fabric, and especially if you don't stop the action of the bleaching quickly. It's a bit easier in today's world. We have gel bleach, bleach pens... and lots of other products like DeColorant that remove color at the same time they add a different color; very cool effect (although I have not yet tried that product). Bleach is a dangerous chemical. No doubt about it -- and ventilation is key, as well as caution when applying it. (But it does make your area smell clean!) I enjoyed this technique very much, and loved this jacket when it was finished. I still have it, too!It was also a way in which I developed some of my free motion skills. It was fun and easy, to quilt around the bleached images. I used a Coats and Clark, variegated rayon thread. Which was all we really had available locally at the time I sewed this up. It was a pain... it constantly frayed. OF course we didn't have the type of needles so handily available now, either!
I really enjoyed doing the free motion zig zag, as seen on the collar. It was easy to do, just adjusting the width to meet the edges of the squares... and I only quilted a few of them. To do more would have been predictable... and boring. And it was easier to do free motion on the collar, as it was interfaced and so the surface was thick and stabilized.
Free motion quilting the denim was also a breeze, because the weight of the fabric needed no further stabilization in order to make a nice stitch. As a beginner, I loved that! I also didn't quilt every leaf and shape. I just wanted to add a bit of color, dimension and accent to the jacket.
You can see by the placement of the squares on the sleeves and collar, that it was key to stamping the images when the pieces were cut out, and prior to sewing. I was able to get them where I wanted them, for the most part! And if not... then enjoy that serendipity!
If I was doing this technique now, I would try the gel bleach, and also love to experiment with the new product that has been seen in some of the quilting magazines, like "DeColorant" and see what would happen. The funnest part about bleaching denim, is seeing the underlying color. It doesn't always bleach to white or light blue... amazingly, some denim is first dyed with pink, green, orange, even black, or some other odd color, than the top layer of color you first see. It's always a surprise, and a GREAT ADVENTURE!