How to Age Fabrics

I almost didn’t take any of these cotton decorator samples my friend offered.  Typical of the 80s and early 90s, they were just too bright for my tastes. 

But good (heavy) cotton in big 18 inch squares is hard to come by.  I decided to try and take some of the color out. 

Enter chlorine bleach–a product I don’t relish using (but I don’t relish wasting good fabric either). 

I soaked  multiple samples (small batches) a strong solution of bleach and water (about 60/40 bleach to water) in my kitchen sink.

Do  protect your clothes, your hands, and prepare to lose some pieces.  A few samples gave up all their color. 

Do use the same bleach solution for all your batches–Chlorine is strong stuff.  No need to use more than you need. 

Do carefully remove the bleached samples to a bucket, then machine wash in hot water. 

Here are some of my results–Great don’t you think? 

The prints aren’t just faded, they’re simpler with a nice retro feel.  That’s because in  the 1940s, for example, prints had fewer dye colors–4 or 5 maybe.  By the 1980s, there might be 14-15 shades in a cotton floral. 

Once you know what to look for the difference is easy to see.  Here are two 80s prints before and after bleaching.

And here are two 80s prints against my vintage 1930s feed sack quilt. 

Any other good suggestions for aging fabrics?  Please share.


  1. You need a “before shot” to show how much your brilliant idea improved the fabric from it’s original state!

    • Yes, but I was having too much fun to stop and take pictures–Still, check out the third photo down–Fabric on the left is unbeached. On the right is a similar print after the bleach bath. The difference is dramatic. Thanks for reading. C

      • Oh yea–thanks for the fabric, too. We were on the fence about it, weren’t we? Now I’m in love with the new aged versions. When I finsih turning some into color blocked aprons, I’ll post photos. Lots of fun.

  2. I am pleased with the way they turned out and I’ve been having a lot of fun turning the aged cottons into full color-blocked aprons. They are just the right weight for an apron. Also would make nice floopy garden hats. I’ll post an apron picture soon. Thanks for the comment. C

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