DIY ombre dye velvet curtains?
November 17, 2013 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I bought a pair of very hefty velvet curtains and am wondering whether or not it is possible to ombre dye the bases of them with bleach... this is soooorta the look I am going for, and the curtains are dark green and 9' long. I don't want to ruin them, they are very nice curtains... how well does velvet bleach? Thanks for any and all suggestions!
posted by qzar to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ombre is usually a process of adding color, not taking it away. Also, bleach can be notoriously fickle and differ in color. Plus, velvet is a very thick material to attempt an effect like ombre. I wouldn't chance it.
posted by xingcat at 5:12 PM on November 17, 2013

Bleach can be really unpredictable, and can turn colored fabrics a weird shade of yellow. Trying to bleach even part of a large, heavy piece of fabric like velvet is going to be really difficult to do evenly and it will be tough to keep the bleach from dripping/running and spotting the fabric in ways you didn't want it to.

It's a great idea, but trying to attempt ombre with bleach sounds like an exercise in rage and frustration. I wouldn't try it.
posted by corey flood at 5:24 PM on November 17, 2013

Sounds very difficult, wouldn't try this either. There are some tutorials for dyeing baby wraps online that describe home setups for gradation dyeing of longish pieces of cloth of similar dimensions, if you want to do some research I'd google 'grad dye tutorial' - I can't imagine it would work with bleach and this type of fabric though. The bleach, once it's in the fabric, would just keep reacting (=bleaching), no?
posted by The Toad at 5:27 PM on November 17, 2013

I think the answer is "probably not" for two reasons:

1. Bleach often turns dark colors yellow, tan or orange rather than back to snowy white.

2. Unlike dye, bleach chemically removes the color from fabric. Ombre dyeing involves hoisting fabric out of a dye bath at a controlled rate, so that the fabric is in contact with the dye for different amounts of time, and depends on the fact that dye is no longer being deposited on the fabric once it's clear of the bath. Bleach will remain chemically active even after the fabric is removed from the bath, and will continue bleaching, probably rendering all of the fabric it came in contact with roughly the same shade. You might be able to work out a situation where you apply a weak solution of bleach/discharge paste to the whole curtain and "reverse ombre" it by dipping it in a solution which neutralizes the bleach (i.e. sodium thiosulfate). But you're kind of in uncharted waters here, and you don't have samples of this fabric to experiment with (see #1).
posted by pullayup at 5:28 PM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

3. Many velvets are synthetic, and will be more or less colorfast in bleach. Definitely don't even think about it unless it's cotton velveteen.
posted by pullayup at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

3. Many velvets are synthetic, and will be more or less colorfast in bleach.

Plus the bleach may break down the fibers and the curtains may not even be able to maintain their structural integrity.

(But those curtains you linked to are gorgeous!)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, you should only try this if you aren't too attached to the curtains. If you are willing to accept not knowing how they will come out, there is no reason why you can't experiment with them.

First, only natural fibers will bleach. If you have polyester or acrylic, forget about bleaching them.

This is how I'd do it: Soak the curtains in plain water. Take them out and spread on a flat waterproof surface. It should be outdoors, preferably with the wind to your back so you aren't breathing in bleach fumes. Use a spray bottle to apply bleach mixed with water, starting at the lower end of the curtain and working upward. Wait and see how it looks, you can always put more bleach on. When you get to just a bit darker than shade you want, rinse with a hose and put into the washer right away. Wash them twice to get out as much bleach as possible.

You can test to see what color they will be bleached on a seam or hem that won't be visible, get the fabric wet then apply a q-tip dipped in bleach. They probably won't turn white, but they might.
posted by yohko at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2013

Yeah, I wouldn't do it, either. Even if you are able to control the reaction and not splash bleach where you don't want it, you aren't going to get a pretty white like in the picture.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:35 PM on November 17, 2013

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