Step 1: Bleach Your Jeans in a Bleach/Hot Water Mixture
What I can say about this project is that it's not necessarily hard, but it sure takes patience! I read a lot of tutorials online to try and figure out how long to bleach jeans until they're white and got a lot of conflicting information. From what I can determine, the amount of time needed to bleach the jeans white varies based on how dark the wash on your jeans is, on what material the denim is made of, etc. My jeans took about 6 hours to bleach to (almost) white.
The bleach to water ratio also varies from project to project. I originally tried to use 3 cups of bleach with the water half full in one of those big plastic tubs for soda that you get at Target or Walmart. This turned out not to be enough bleach, so I kept adding bit by bit until I started to achieve some results. Also make sure the water you're using is HOT. It really helps. :)
As your bleaching the jeans, make sure you stir periodically. The jeans will want to float a bit, so stirring them will make sure they're getting bleached evenly. Do not use a kitchen utensil--I used my tongs and it ruined them. Whoops!
One last note about the bleaching process--my jeans never got completely white before the bleach started eating away at the fabric. They were sort of splotchy and greenish white at this point, but rather than let the bleach eat away at the fabric I decided to remove them. I was worried this would make them dye unevenly, but it didn't cause any problems. So get your jeans as white as you can, but don't worry if they're not perfect.
Step 2: Wash Your Jeans
After your jeans are as white as you can get them, run them through a normal wash with soap in your washing machine to wash out the bleach.
Step 3: Dye Your Jeans
Did you know you're not limited to the colors on the shelf when you choose your dye? I used the RIT color dye guide to choose my color. It used just a tiny amount of dye--1/8 tsp. purple and 1/8 tsp royal blue--to get the super light lavender color I was dreaming of. It may not seem like the dye bath is dark enough if you're dying a pastel color, but resist the urge to add more dye to the bath! Remember how long it took to get your jeans white? It only takes 30 minutes to dye your jeans, so worst case you can dye them a shade darker once finished. :)
Once you've chosen your color, mix the dye with hot water and 1 cup salt. Put your jeans in and stir constantly for 30 minutes. I set a timer and watched an episode of Pawn Stars while dying my jeans. The time flew by before I knew it.
Step 4: Give Your Jeans a Final Wash
After your 30 minutes in the dye bath is up, rinse your jeans and put them in your washing machine on a normal cycle with soap. Dry them, and you're (finally) done! :)
I noticed after I got my jeans out that there were a few boo-boos. The seams didn't dye as well at the top, so I'll wear the jeans with a longer shirt. Also, where the bleach ate away at the jeans a little the fabric absorbed more color, but that kind of gives the jeans character.
My final words of wisdom about this project--it's not perfect. Expect your jeans to have a few flaws, but know that you're getting a trendy piece to add to your wardrobe for a fraction of what you would have paid in the store. (Since I already had these jeans on hand this project cost me about $3 for the dye.) Don't be intimidated because it really is easy--it just takes a bit of time! So if you've got some patience, give it a try! :)