Earlier this week we showed you how to distress, embellish, and expand a pair of denim cutoffs, perfect for summer. But that left us with a pant leg or two of denim. Armed with a spray bottle of bleach, a few stencils, and a sewing machine, here’s how we turned old jeans into chic cocktail napkins with a little reverse-dye action.


– denim

– bleach (in a spray bottle)

– hydrogen peroxide (in a spray bottle)

– painter’s tape

– sewing machine

To make patterns: lace trim, fishnet fabric, rubber stamps, foam stamps, stencils

First, you’ve gotta prep your denim. Measure out as many squares as you can, at about 6″x6″. We’ll cut them down to around 5″x5″ after we dye and sew.

For our first bleach-made pattern, we used a foam stamp. We created a makeshift “stamp pad” out of paper towel and bleach. Press the stamp down in the bleach and then press onto the denim. Lift the stamp off and let the bleach take effect for about 30 seconds. Then spray with hydrogen peroxide to set your design.

It almost looks a jeans pocket! So cute.

You can use the same method with a rubber stamp. Now, onto stencils!

To create a pattern using a stencil, tape the stencil down to the denim (preferably on a sheet of cardboard), and spray the bleach onto the stencil. Lift off and use hydrogen peroxide to set.

Repeat with all the pattern-making tools you’ve got! We used tape to create a chevron pattern, stencils leftover from our eyeshadow temporary tattoo post, fishnet fabric from our fishnet mason jars, and a bit of lace trim.

To finish off your cocktail napkins, head to the sewing machine. We used a rust-colored thread to mimic the type of thread traditionally used on jeans. Use a decorative stitch and sew around the border of your pattern. This will eliminate unsightly fraying.

Trim off the excess denim. Throw in the washing machine or handwash (to get rid of any remaining bleach or hydrogen peroxide), hang to dry, and that’s it!

You’ve got a whole set of super chic summery cocktail napkins that happen to match your brand new DIY cutoffs perfectly. ;)

If you don’t have jeans to spare, it’s time to hit the fabric store.

Here are a few examples of other denim colors treated with our reverse-dye technique.

Now, all you need to do is mix up a cocktail, sit back, and relax in the summer sun.

How do you upcycle old jeans and other tired garments? Have you tried your hand at reverse dying fabric using bleach? Leave us a note in the comments below or say hi on Twitter. And if you have any questions about this tutorial, feel free to shoot us an email.