How to Hand Dye Fabric with Stencils and Discharge Agents – Quilting Daily

Usually when hand-dyeing fabric you’re trying to put color in. With discharge dyeing, your objective is to remove color in an artistic way. You can create patterns on fabrics using many of the same methods you would use for other surface design processes, including painting and shibori techniques.

Discharge dyeing with a freezer paper stencil, using deColourant Plus. By Judy Coates Perez


Surface design artists have typically used chemicals like bleach to discharge the fabric. But in the past few years, safer reductive discharge products have come on the market that allow you to discharge dye without as many precautions necessary. (Nevertheless, these products should be used in a well-ventilated area; people with respiratory sensitivity may want to use a mask. And you should wear gloves and use a separate set of equipment dedicated to nonfood use.)

Fiber artist Judy Coates Perez has written about these products and techniques in Quilting Arts Magazine and also demonstrated their use with stencils, stamps, and shibori dyeing on “Quilting Arts TV.”

Here is how she uses deColourant® with freezer paper stencils to create a design on batik fabric. Note: deColourant removes the color from the fabric. DeColourant Plus removes the fabric color and also adds a new color.

Discharge Dyeing with Freezer-paper Stencils

1. Draw a design on freezer paper and then cut out the design using a craft knife and cutting mat. Retain the cut-away paper from the inside of the design to create a second reverse image.

2. Iron the freezer paper to the fabric. Using a foam brush, apply deColourant paste to your fabric in the desired areas. Let dry and then heat with an iron using steam.

how to hand dye with discharge dye painting
Judy shows how hand-dyed fabric looks before (left) and after painting on the discharge agent.

3. Create a reverse image using the freezer paper that was cut away from the inside of your design. Iron the stencil to a piece of fabric and mist the background with deColourant spray or brush a variety of colors across the background. You can also try misting a light spray of deColourant over a dried clear-painted stencil image.

Tip: When using the spray with freezer paper or plastic stencils, be careful you don’t oversaturate the fabric, or the design will not have a crisp edge.

Judy demonstrates this and her shibori-style discharge dyeing technique on QNNtv. With a subscription you can learn a new kind of surface design, machine stitching, or quilt design technique every day!

P.S. Have you tried discharge dyeing? What’s your favorite method? Please leave a comment below.

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