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Patriotic Shorts

By Dr. Laundry May 16, 2016

There’s a lot of patriotic clothing and accessories filling store shelves as summer begins, just in time for the 4th of July! Of course there’s no need to buy something new if you can re-purpose what you already have (and what you already know fits!). So why not turn a worn out pair of blue jeans like this…

patriotic shorts1

Into patriotic denim shorts like this!

patriotic shorts 2

The secret to this super fun DIY project is to work on the shorts in sections, a little at a time over several days.Stencils cut from paper plates using a star-shaped hole punch also help make it super easy to make lots of stars on the denim quickly. And of course you couldn’t do this without Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel, my go-to product for unique and creative DIY projects. How many pens you’ll need depends on what length you cut the blue jean shorts to — you’ll need to make more stars on a long pair of shorts than a short pair. If you aren’t sure, cut them a little long and then adjust the length when you are ready to hem them. Here’s how to do it:


  • • 1 pair old blue jeans. Note: “boyfriend” or any other cut with loose fitting legs work best for easy contrast hemming.
  • • Paper plates (at least 25 — get a large package!)
  • • Star-shaped hole punch (1-inch diameter)
  • • Scissors
  • • 3–4 Clorox® Bleach Gel Pens
  • • 3–4 quarts 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • • Cotton swabs
  • • Plastic dishpan
  • • Clean white towels


  1. 1. Prepare the stencils: Cut 4–5 stars out of a paper plate, then use the scissors to cut the plate up into individual stencils. Make at least 40 individual star templates, and more if necessary.
  2. 2. Cut off the jeans, adding 2 extra inches for the hem.
  3. 3. Lay the shorts face up on a clean, flat, bleach-friendly work surface near a sink (the kitchen counter is ideal).
  4. 4. Make your first star: Place a stencil on the denim and hold it down flat with one hand, and use your other hand to apply a little gel from the scrubber tip onto the stencil in an up and down dabbing motion. Make sure you get all 5 corners! Set the gel pen down, wipe your hands if necessary, and then carefully lift the stencil straight up to reveal a star — discard the stencil (it will have bleach gel around the edges and can only be used once — do not try to reuse them!)
  5. 5. Make your next star: Place a second stencil near the first one and repeat step 4.
  6. 6. Make as many stars as you can without repositioning the shorts (they need to lay flat while you are working on them) and then let the shorts sit for 30 minutes while the bleach discharges the dye from the denim.
  7. patriotic shorts3
  8. 7. Using a plastic spoon, carefully scrape away the gel from each star and discard. (I like to wipe the gel off the spoon onto a paper towel so it goes fast.)
  9. patriotic shorts4
  10. 8. Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide onto each star to stop any remaining bleach from reacting, then transfer the shorts to a dishpan and rinse them very thoroughly, making sure all the gel is removed from the fabric.
  11. patriotic shorts5
  12. 9. Roll the shorts in a clean, dry towel, squeezing it to remove excess moisture, then let the shorts air dry completely before working on the next section.
  13. 10. Work on one side next: Reposition the shorts so they are flat but you can still see some of the first stars. This will help you match the spacing of the first stars. Repeat steps 4–9, making more stencils when needed.
  14. 11. Finish the second side next, repeating steps 4–9.
  15. 12. Work on the back side last, splitting it into two work sessions if necessary so the pants lay flat.

Be careful as you work to not get any gel where you don’t want a star. If you do, just dip a cotton swab in a little hydrogen peroxide and then dab the affected area. This will stop any discoloration from the gel where you don’t want it! To finish the shorts, you can leave them as cut-offs (easiest), give them a simple hem (also pretty easy if you have a sewing machine) or attach a contrasting cuff in stripes (for experienced sewers only). Take your patriotic spirit up a notch by sewing a striped belt to match!

Maybe you have another denim item you’d like to add stars to — you are only as limited as your imagination when it comes to DIY projects with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel!