For my DIY project, I set out to make my own customized t-shirt design using stencils and bleach. Going into this project, my experience with anything arts and crafts related was very limited, and I’ve never attempted to modify a t-shirt personally, much less with something like bleach. All that considered, I was nervous going into this that I might not be able to replicate what I saw on the tutorials I found, on top of actually finding the materials I needed to make the project work.
To understand what I needed to do, I sought out a series of tutorials explaining the process. While looking for these guides, I had a few principles in mind. For one, their method had to be relatively simple in design and execution. I wanted something that would be easy for a newcomer to replicate without an excessive need for special materials or techniques. I also sought out resources that took care to visually show how the process worked, either through pictures or videos. While I know from experience and from the learning style survey we took that my preferred method of learning is through hands-on practice, I also gravitate towards visual learning; simply reading a guide on how to do something doesn’t quite compare to seeing it done for real, at least for me. The tutorials I found generally fit this theme, and all of them were created by people who clearly had experience and passion for creating their own t-shirt designs, so I found them to be reliable for what I wanted.
Of the sources I decided to use, I ultimately found a tutorial posted by mikesaurus on instructables.com to be the most useful. Their guide showed a step-by-step process, with pictures, of how to properly bleach a shirt, showing what materials were needed, how everything should be set up, and what precautions to take. It was also among the simplest in terms of overall design; more advanced guides I found required higher-grade material and lengthier processes to create very intricate designs, but this one just required a t-shirt, bleach, and some cardboard to work, visualizing each step and listing the more specific details. The other tutorials I found helped to give me a broader idea of what direction I should take for the project and how these materials worked, as they usually had more complex approaches to the design, but ultimately they served as more of a general source of information while mikesaurus’ work served as my primary guide.
Fortunately, once I started the project the materials weren’t all that hard to come by. I bought two plain, black t-shirts to apply to bleach to alongside some pieces of cardboard to use as a makeshift stencil outline for the design, and combined an ordinary bottle of bleach with an empty spray bottle I had to apply the bleach (the spray bottle was recommended by the tutorials as an easier way of safely bleaching the shirts without overdoing it). Initially I had a specific image I wanted to try and put on the t-shirt, but once I began applying the bleach, I found that it was a little too specific; the bleach seeped a bit past the stencil lines in a way that made the original design incoherent. With that experience in mind, I shifted gears towards making a more abstract design, reshaping the stencil to accommodate for the bleach’s properties. From there I created a more distinct design with a few extra flourishes added for good measure.
This project has been an interesting learning experience for me, not just in how I’ve learned the basics for a new technique for customizing clothing, but also in coming to better understand how I learn. The peak of my understanding of what I was doing occurred when I was working with the materials myself; watching videos and following pictures helped me get to that point, but I did my best work when I had tested the waters myself and figured out how I could work with the materials I had. It’s easier for someone with a kinesthetic learning style like me to grasp a concept when I’m given the reins to play with it myself. It’s always been like that for me, especially when it comes to my field of coding in CS. Once I figured out how to use the tools I had, I was able to make my shirt into something a little more interesting, even if it wasn’t my original idea. This project helped me recognize what that style of learning was, and how I can benefit from it in the future.
“T-shirt Designs with Stencils and Bleach”by mikeasaurus on instructables.com
“How To Stencil With Bleach” from onegoodthingbyjilee.com
“How to make an awesome shirt with bleach and stencils” by gasconlincoln on Youtube.com
“How to Design Custom Shirts in Bleach” by NightHawkInLight on Youtube.com
“Tutorial – Bleached Stencil Shirt” by JeskiMakesStuff on Youtube.com