Tie dye has been around since the 60’s and it amazes me that it is still kind of a big deal. Well, maybe not as big of a deal as it was then, but it is definitely still fun to take part in. I recently had the blessing of throwing a tie dye party for some of my high school friends. I told them to bring something white and I would help take care of the rest. My favorite part about it is the surprise of what your finished product will end up looking like. I was pleasantly surprised this go around with the two items I dyed. I picked out a cheap white t-shirt from Walmart and used a piece of white fabric that I will one day turn into something special. I will show you the results at the end of this post, that way you can be surprised as well.
Here is what you will need:
- Anything white will work (t-shirt, hoodie, socks, bandana, tank top, pillow case…etc. these can usually be found at hobby lobby or Walmart)
- Tulip or RIT fabric dye in the desired colors (also found at WM or HL, you can have from 1 to 1 million colors, up to you)
- latex gloves
- Rubber bands-varied size package is great
- Ketchup/mustard condiment bottles or something similar for the dye
- Plastic to cover table (trash bags ripped at seams can work for this)
- Plastic grocery bag
- Washing Machine
There are kits available you can buy that could make this easier. They can be pricey but they usually include everything you need, even a t-shirt. The kits vary in sizes and quantity so be sure to check labels so materials are not forgotten.
Step 1: Prepare the dye. Honestly this step is the hardest. I strongly suggest you ask a parent to help out with this just because the measurements on the directions of the dye packet are not usually for tie dye purposes but for dye baths. Unless you buy a kit, you should not need to use the entire dye packet. You will end up with left overs and it will go to waste. I used the 1.75 ounce tulip fabric dye packets, here are the measurements I used:
1.5 Cups of HOT water
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons dye
That was used for only one color. So for each color you desire to use in this project, use these measurements or similar. If you want the dye to be deep in that color follow these measurements, if you want it lighter, I would go with 2 tablespoons of dye instead of 3. The instructions usually ask that you let the dye sit for about an hour, so keep that in mind if/when you are planning a little party like I did.
CAUTION: The dye you will be using will want to get on everything so be careful because once it gets on something, especially clothing, it will not go away, including some dishes.
Step 2: Prepare your fabric piece. You will want to get your white item damp, so put it under running water in your sink until wet through and wring out as much of the water as you can.
Step 3: Choose a style. I’m going to show you two simple waysto give your white item an interested dye look. There is the spiral look and then there is a ring look. Check out the pictures below, and a description under each set of pictures will tell you how to do the one you wish to choose.
- Lay the shirt out on a flat surface with the front of shirt facing up.
- Find a point on the front of the shirt you wish to be the center of the swirl (picture the eye of a hurricane).
- Put your finger tips and thumb down on that spot and begin rotating your hand clockwise. As you do this, you will notice the shirt beginning to gather where your fingers and thumb are. You may have to lift up your fingers and thumb, since we are not able to rotate our hands 360 degrees, and place them down again the same way you did when you first placed them. It could be compared to turning a knob on a giant safe.
- Continue doing this until the entire shirt/item has gathered in close. You should be able to see the swirl just from the folds and wrinkles you have created
- Tighten up the loose edges a bit and begin wrapping rubber bands around the circle of fabric. Criss cross the bands so they look like pie pieces when you are done. It does not have to be perfect and if your shirt is bunched up in places, that is totally normal. If you feel you messed it up, just try it again, no problem.
- Follow the first two steps of the swirl, except the point you are choosing on the front of the shirt will be the “bulls eye”
- Instead of rotating your fingers and thumbs around, you will simply grab the the point of the shirt you have chosen and pull up until the shirt/item is off of the work surface.
- As you hold the point chosen with one hand, use the other hand to gather the loose hanging fabric.
- To make this next step easier you can lay that fabric down and begin adding rubber bands along the length of the gathered item. It is best to begin at the original point of the item that you have chosen as your “Bulls Eye” and work your way down. You can have as many as 2 to 10 bands. The more bands you have the more rings you will end up with.
I apologize for the poor quality of the last couple photos but you can see we have made segments in both of the shirts using the rubber bands.
Step 4: Once you have chosen your pattern or style of tie dye and you have banded your white item, you are now ready for the fun messy part. Bring on the dye!
A great way to accomplish this is using the rubber bands as boundaries for your dye. I like to just squirt the dye on the different segments. Sometimes I make a repeating pattern with colors if there are more segments than there are colors or just use 2 colors and alternate each. The options are limitless and you get to choose.
CAUTION: Some colors can mix and make ugly colors like poopy brown or grodi green, so be aware of the colors you are placing next to each other. On the fabric piece I accidentally had some colors mix and make an ugly green but by the time I washed and dried the item it turned out to be just fine. So be careful but don’t sweat it either. Another caution would be to always squirt more dye than you think you will need because it has a ways to go to reach the middle of the white item. Remember it is bunched up quite a bit. Feel free to squirt directly into wrinkles. I sometimes pull them apart to check on how much white is still in there.
Step 5: When you have sufficiently dyed your item stick it in a plastic grocery bag, check that it does not have any holes, get as much air out as possible and tie it off.
Step 6: Stick it somewhere and let your project soak for 4-6 hours. Make sure to keep the plastic under it, in case of a leak you didn’t notice.
Step 7: After the right amount of time take your project out of the bag, take off rubber bands and see what you created, but only briefly because you need to get that sucker into the washing machine. Wash it in hot water using detergent that does NOT contain bleach. DO NOT wash it with any other clothes for the first couple times you wash it, unless they too are tie dye items, because the dye will ruin them. In fact you will want to run the washing machine (empty) at least one more time after washing the tie dye items the first time to get all the dye out of the machine. Your parents will really appreciate you paying attention to this step, I promise. You may then proceed to dry the items as you wish. The colors will probably fade a little bit but not enough to disappoint.
Have fun and remember to ask for help with that tricky dye, its a booger.