DIY Denim Reverse Shibori

For some odd reason I don’t seem to tire of blue & white. No other colour seems to be as versatile, which makes sense if you think about how long we have had that love affair with ‘blue jeans’! Spring purging came across a denim duvet cover, and that resourceful voice in my head urged me to make something awesome of it!

This super easy project requires no dye, only easily found supplies.

Reverse Shibori Dyeing:

You will need:

  • Some cotton denim (jeans, fabric, or other denim)
  • Heavy Duty Bleach
  • Mixing container, brushes
  • safety gear: gloves, apron, table covering, safety glasses
  • elastic bands/string/ clamps as needed
  • place to rinse and wash
  • Oxyclean or other brand (Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate)

Beware when Using Bleach:

When using bleach do pay attention to safety. The fumes can become overwhelming; use in a well ventilated space. I try to minimize the amount that is open to the air, ie – use smaller amounts. Be careful about splashing, that is why I like the controlled use of brushes or small trays. I tend to work on small sections that have been folded or sewn (see below) so that there is minimal exposure to the air as well. That makes easier rinsing and washing. Protect any surfaces/floors. This is a great project for the laundry room.

I have utilized a concentrated bleach meant for cleaning. I tend to be quite impatient so working with a 50/50 dilution gave a quicker result and stronger contrasts. To create the quite white designs some undiluted beach was used at the end of the process. It isn’t quite an exact science as we all have our own preferences as to what we like.

You also need to consider what the fabric fibre is made of. There is a lot of denim nowadays that is quite stubborn to bleach since it has quite a bit of polyester in it. Don’t we all love those stretchy jeans?! The best results are from full cotton denim. I have had jean jackets that would not cooperate at all. If in doubt, test a tiny spot in a place that does not matter with a q-tip of bleach to see if it does change. Jeans used to be dyed with indigo derived from plants. Some dyes are now much stronger (fibre reactive) and much more difficult to displace.

After bleaching it is important to neutralize the chlorine so as to stop further deterioration of the fabric and not have the yellowing on the cotton. Hydrogen peroxide will do this as well as Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate; or as as you know it; Oxyclean. It is a quite safe product as even suggested on babies clothing.

Basic Shibori:

There are multiple ways to achieve patterns in the practice of shibori dyeing. It is all about how you fold, or tie, or sew the fabric. I have traditional methods here.

Method #1: the Stitched Method

To get a random type of wrinkling pattern use a very strong thread and sew at intervals across fabric. Once you have lines of stitching, pull the ends of the threads and it will create a type of gathering similar to smocking. Depending how the stitches were spaced will determine the pattern. Some people find folding tedious so this is a great alternate option.

I use the bleach in a 50/50 dilution with water. It will give a quick result with string colour removal. It will however also weaken the fabric so it should not be left for a long time. If you would like more subtle results you could use a weaker concentration.

The results of this pattern is somewhat like an animal print; random but overall ‘zebra stripey’.

Method #2: Square/long folded

Accordion fold the piece length wise. Then fold back and forth, secure with elastics. The edges of the folds will create the pattern so smaller folds will give more than larger folds.

‘Paint’ the bleach dilution on the outside of the folded shape. You will be able to see changes quite quickly.

Once you see the desired amount of change rinse quickly. Run under clear water for a while, wring out. Follow by a good soak in a bucket of water that has a scoop of Oxyclean in it.

Method #3: The traditional Shibori Triangular folding

Fold the piece lengthwise in accordion style. Then fold along into triangles back and forth (60 degree 0r 90 degree) as seen here

To achieve light blue and white areas you can use different ratios of bleach. I start with the 50/50 concentration.

The brightest whites can be helped along with some undiluted bleach, but be sparing.

To see of the pattern has bled through you can take a sneak peek. It is interesting to see how the colour has shifted and made the contrasts inside.

Once you see enough change quickly unwrap and rinse quite well.

This is the best stage; like opening a gift. You never know exactly what you will get!

Once well rinsed and wrung out submerge in a bucket of water to which a scoop of Oxyclean (Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate) has been added. Let it soak to properly neutralize the chlorine and prevent the yellowing.

How wonderful is that pattern?! The ‘uniqueness’ of these are great for many uses such as bags and purses.

Make some easy pouches or a purse. There are many easy-to-sew tutorials online that even include a lining. 

My favourite is to pair it with some brown leather or vinyl. Even up-cycled leather coats work well. That is the beauty of blue & white!

This design can double as a backpack!

Even just some bleach splashes look very ‘designer-ish’; as these are absolutely ‘one-of-a-kind’!

Have some blue & white fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I really appreciated the detailed ness of this post. Been reading a lot about bleach “dying” and seen a lot of ones that aren’t helpful. The only thing is that despite lengthy research i haven’t seen any confirmation whatsoever that oxiclean or Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate will neutralize bleach. The only substances I’ve been able to truly confirm with chemistry that will effectively neutralize bleach and prevent the slow degradation of fabric are bisulfite and metabisulfite, sodium thisosulfate and hydrogen peroxide. You’ll read some sources that suggest vinegar, but that is incorrect and will not work. All i am seeing while researching that mixing oxiclean with bleach is incredibly dangerous and won’t neutralize the solution. If you have an alternate resource that confirms this is effective please share for others like me who scour the internet for tutorials, including reading comments. Thank you!!

    1. No, do not mix the bleach with the oxyclean! Rinse the bleach out well first and then use the oxyclean. Oxyclean create peroxide as seen here: After the soak it does not have any residual bleach smell. I am not a chemist so thanks for any follow up info. I have not seen any damage after the oxyclean use, and it’s been a long time!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about Shibori Dyeing.
    I will definitely be trying this reverse method with some denim fabric I bought at a fabric outlet sale years ago. Maybe some cushion covers and a couple of tote bags would look good?
    I love your Simplified Shibori Dyeing post also, and agree, the Procion MX dyes are absolutely the best to use for all types of dyeing. I have done some cushions using wax resist and the colours are really vibrant and long lasting…unless you leave them outside in bright direct sun-light too often. LOL. Here in Australia that can be disastrous on a 40 degree C summer day.