Charles Mackintosh Shirt




About: Former technics and arts and crafts teacher at a school for mentally disabled young adults.

I bought a purple flannel shirt in a sale for almost nothing ( 3 euro). When the bright cellophane came off the color was not so purple as I had thought. A drab misty purple-grey. Boring! Now more than a year later I only put it on once, and my colleagues wondered what had been gone wrong in the laundry. "Nothing I said, its purple". They looked at me with eyes that spoke:"Yeah, and the moon is purple too!".
So the shirt had to go, or with some arts and craft brought back to life.

Here is what i did to revive a not so old but unloved shirt.

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Step 1: What I Used

  1. A boring shirt
  2. A sewing machine
  3. Yellow cotton ( crochet) thread
  4. Yellow sewing tread
  5. A seam ripper
  6. A hand needle with a big hole
  7. Bleach
  8. A small plastic bottle with pointy nozzle
  9. A white pencil or tailors chalk ( not on the picture)

I didn't buy any of these. All were in the house. The small plastic bottle I once bought in a artist's shop, to make lines on canvas with very fluent paint.

Step 2: Prepare

I took off the pocket with a seam ripper. It was a bit fiddly and I had to practice my ZEN skills, but without any damage it came off in 15 minutes. With a white pencil (tailors chalk would have been more professional) I drew a circle and made some lines to mimic a Charles Rennie Mackintosh flower design.

On the shirt, over the place for the pocket I drew 5 parallel lines ( as in the Mackintosh example).

Later I made 5 horizontal lines on the back, to cover up a bleach mistake I made, but all for the better.

Step 3: Stitching Lines

Over all lines I stitched a yellow crochet thread with a zigzag stitch on the machine. The red yarn in the pictures is only to show more clearly. I used yellow yarn on the shirt. This sound more complicated than it is. It seems like the tread wants to stay in the middle on its own, and the zigzag runs smoothly over it.

When beginning with a new thread stitch a little backward, and then follow the lines forward. Do the same at the end of a tread. Leave some yellow thread hanging over. With a hand held needle I pulled each end to the inside of the shirt

Step 4: Bleaching

I filled the little bottle with some bleach. It would have been wise to wear rubber gloves. I survived without. I cannot be held responsible if you do the same! Put the shirt flat on a table on a newspaper. Pour bleach lines on either side of all the yellow threads. Wait for some minutes, for the bleach to take effect. Prepare some water with detergent to wash the garment. Very, VERY! careful pick up the garment. If any of the bleach touches a wrong part of the shirt there will be a stain.

I made a stain on the back, so I made the horizontal lines on the back to cover up. And I'm glad I did!

With bleach the result will always be a surprise ( unless you test on a secret corner) . The reddish brick color appeared because there was a purple tone to the otherwise "grey" shirt. I think its a good combination with the bright yellow lines!

Step 5: The Result

After a hand wash I put it in the washing machine on a short program to remove all bleach. Don't ask me why the yellow thread did not change color, in contact with the bleach. Its cotton with a very strong dye I presume.

I'm very satisfied with the result. Sometimes the lines seem like a strip of neon light. There is no way anyone now will say its a boring shirt!

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    23 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 5

    The neon effect is striking... and what a way to make a boring shirt interesting.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Love it! I'm wondering a couple of things about this project. First of all, I wonder if a bleach pen would work for bleaching the lines. Also, it seems like the bleach could change the color of the yarn, and therefore I wonder if the bleaching could be done first.

    2 replies

    I am not familiar with a bleach pen, Please try it and let me know!
    The yarn acts as a guide, and therefor its easier to stitch on the yarn first. The other way around is possible I think and prevents the yellow yarn from discoloring. You could also test the yarn first.

    Bleach pen

    I will definitely give this a try at some point! Your result is just stunning. Bleach is a migraine trigger for me, which is going to make me resistant, but the end result looks like it will be worth it!


    I have a couple shirts 'pre-bleached' that I need to now ad spots of bright yarn and a continuation of the design. The 'pre-bleaching' process happened without my approval. This post treatment is very approved. Great Idea. Thanks for sharing it. Great job documenting it. Nice photos.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Step 5

    very nice idea, i like it cuz you can make the old new again. would work great on t shirts. well done!!!!!!!!!!!!! dave


    5 years ago

    Wow. That looks amazing. I thought it was LED wires when I saw the first pic. Need to go experiment with some bleach on my less than great shirts.

    2 replies

    that's what i thought and it would have been a pretty awesome many people have LED clothes?!? i assume the pic was taken in blacklight maybe?

    The picture was taken with normal daylight, no spot and certainly no blacklight. It is just luck that the bleach gave this reddish color witch looks like light emitting from the yellow line. No light trick involved!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice idea and it looks good. Like you said, it looks like it has a neon glow, especially in pictures.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I thought it was LED too. Did you know it would look like that when you started? You have a great imagination. And apparently the gift of foresight. It's awesome and I can't wait to try it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I think it a great idea. But I think you might have to credit Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Wife. Margaret for the design. No the man himself.

    3 replies

    macintosh did more of the geometric designs, more masculine. Margaret did the flowing designs, more feminine. But its good to see the 'MacIntosh' used for a shirt and fashion.


    5 years ago

    That looks very nice. Ideas are flowing! :)