Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bleach Gel Tea Collection Knock-Off!

I love the look of this dress from Tea Collection:

As a matter of fact, I love pretty much everything from Tea Collection, but unfortunately I can rarely afford it unless I find one at a consignment store.  But the one pictured above got my attention, because the design reminds me of this idea I saw on Pinterest, to use a bleach pen to create designs on a t-shirt.

I had a perfect t-shirt to upcycle, as it had some grease spots near the hem, so I started by trying out the bleach.

I bought a bleach pen for this very reason a while back.  I tried it on an old shirt of mine, and the results were okay--but that shirt has been relegated to the pajama pile.  This time, I followed the advice of the blogger I linked to above, and ironed some freezer paper on to the wrong side of the t-shirt.  HUGE difference.  The thin knit fabric wasn't pulling in all directions while I tried to draw with the gel pen, and I was happy with the results.

I thought I might try to trace a design onto the shirt, so I freehanded a simplified version of the Tea Collection design onto a piece of paper, but the one downside of the freezer paper was that once I had ironed it onto the shirt, I couldn't really see my design to trace it anymore.  So I went for it and freehanded with the gel pen, and I'm happy with the result!

Something just occurred to me--you could probably draw your pattern right on the shiny side of the freezer paper before ironing it on, so it's visible through the knit (if it's thin enough, like the one I used.)  Might try that next time.

OK, so because I didn't want to cut up the shirt but I did want the design to go all the way around, I had to do this in two parts.  I don't know why I was hesitating to cut it up--since I ended up cutting it to make the dress anyway, it would have been SO much easier to bleach it in flat pieces.  Anyhoo, the photo I just showed you of my bleach job was on the front of the shirt.  After it set, I rinsed it out and threw it in the dryer with an old towel, and once it was dry I repeated the process for the back.  With one small hitch--my bleach pen ran out.

Uh oh.

In my neighborhood, bleach pens cost about $3 each.  Since I had only done one other shirt, this project suddenly got more expensive--$3 for 1.5 projects isn't going to do it for me.  I did buy a new bleach pen to finish this project in the interest of continuity, but for the future I am going to try this lovely post from Me and My DIY on how to make your own bleach gel.  It seems like maybe the glue bottle would be a little harder to to control than the store-bought pen, but definitely worth the savings.  In any case, here's a close-up of how the finished design came out:

Once the bleach design was done,  I just made mine into a simple dress, but if my original t-shirt had been bigger, I totally would have gone all the way with my knock-off and used this CINO tutorial for a very similar Tea Collection style.

A couple things about my dress--I decided to do short sleeves instead of the cap/ruffle so I could avoid binding the raw edges of the armhole.  Also I added some bleach design to the sleeves, just because I liked how it looked.  I used the full width of the t-shirt (a Gap women's medium) for the skirt, and cut the bodice pieces from the top of the front and back so I could use most of the original finished neckline.

Here are some more shots of the finished dress:

The back--I think I left the bleach on a little longer here, oops!
Side view, or just an excuse for another cute picture of my kid?
We'll call this one a close-up on the sleeve detail.

I actually had to redo the sleeves, because I made them too small on the original attempt (shown below).

I had to cut these sleeves out and try again.

And you can see that my seam at the front bodice is a little wonky--I was kind of off my  game putting this dress together.  I just got so excited about the bleaching that I forgot about the sewing.  One thing at a time for me, I guess.

Alas!  My bodice seam is wonky!


  1. This is such a precious dress! I absolutely love it, and if my kids were still little, I would be making it right away. As it is, I'm pinning it for future grand kids. ;) Thanks for linking to my bleach gel idea. Let me know if you give it a try. I just made some more the other day and left it on the stove "just for a minute" and when I came back, it was pretty thick, almost stiff. I thought if I stirred it enough with the bleach, it would be okay, but after I put it in the glue bottle, it wouldn't come out smoothly because little chunks kept getting stuck. So when I tried to use it, I would have skinny little lines, and then a big blob. Not exactly what you would want if you're making such a sweet dress. So my advice is to NOT leave the stove, and keep stirring to be sure it stays smooth. :) Have a great day!



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