Introduction: Tie Dyeing With Stencils

Use Tie Dye paint powder and stencils to create intensely detailed fabric art. A great summer fun project!

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.

For this project you will need:

· Colored powder that comes in tie dye kits in an assortment of rainbow colors

· A white tee shirt, bag, or any 100% cotton project base

· Water

· Paint brush

· Gloves (optional, if you are not messy)

· A vinyl sticker (the negative part)

· If you are making your own sticker, a paper cutting machine and vinyl

· A piece of scrap lumber or foam board

· Rubber bands

· Vinegar

Step 2: Make a Stencil.

I made my own stencil. I used a Cricut machine and an older cartridge called “Brooklyn Iron On”. This cartridge was intended to be used with iron-on vinyl products, so the designs were well suited for my tee shirt project. I chose a bicycle design, and scaled it to be three by five inches.

Copyright is always a concern for me. I was surprised to find that I can make small quantities of craft projects using Cricut cartridges, and sell my projects at craft fairs or flea markets. When downloading patterns from the internet, check the copyright permissions, if you intend to sell the finished project. There are plenty of options for those who sell crafts to operate legally.

There are many ways to get a stencil. You can use another cutting machine, such as Silhouette. You can download premade files from websites such as Creative Market. You can make your own designs, too. I love making my own designs, but it is difficult to draw precisely with my tiny three inch laptop mouse pad. You can also buy premade stencils. Make sure that you get a full precut stencil sheet, not just the punched out stencil without the surrounding material.

For this project, you will need the “negative”. You are not using the actual design, but instead using the parts of the vinyl that is left after you remove the design. The vinyl design itself is a nice unused sticker, which you can save to decorate a car, mirror, or notebook.

Your vinyl paper will be discarded later, so use any ugly scraps that are waiting to be discarded, or odd scraps left over from other projects. Clear contact paper works well. I have also successfully used sticky backed vinyl sheeting that is used to line shelves in kitchens. Choose the ugly color that is on sale.

Step 3: Prepare Your Shirt.

Wash and dry your fabric. I am using a very old tee shirt, since this is my first project with this technique, and I wanted to practice without endangering an expensive new shirt. Put a piece of wood or foam board inside the shirt or bag. Secure the fabric to the board using the rubber bands that came with your tie dye paint. Carefully stick the negative sticker to the fabric. After you are happy with the position, rub it to securely seal it to the fabric.

Step 4: Paint Your Design.

I took an unusual approach to paint my shirt. I started by throwing away the tie dye tee shirt kit directions. I cut a tiny corner of each plastic bag containing paint colors. I carefully sprinkled the dry paint powder in vertical stripes on my stencil design.

Using a clean brush, I added a little water to the bristles, and carefully moved the brush over the paint powder. I began on the left side (if you are left handed begin on the right side), and used vertical strokes. Use as little water as possible. If the paint does not adhere to the fabric, dip the brush into a little more water.

After experimenting a little, I realized that the brush needed to be thoroughly cleaned before starting a new color. For the next color, start with a clean, damp brush on the right side of the stripe, and paint toward the previous color, blending the new and previous colors together last. Wash your brush, and move on the next color, using as little water as possible.

After this first attempt, I now realize that my protected fabric area needs to be larger, since some of my paint has run off the vinyl sticker, onto the fabric at the edges of the sticker. I knew that mistakes might happen, which is why my first attempt was on an old tee shirt, instead of an expensive new one.

I chose to use powdered paint to give me more control over the results, and to intensify the colors. Watery paint will bleed underneath the stencil more, making a more blurred design.

I left the sticker attached, and moved the entire project outdoors. I placed it in the sun to dry for an hour or so (depends on the weather). Since the summer temperatures here are typically over one hundred degrees, it won’t take very long!

Step 5: The Revealing...

I was disappointed with the results. I had expected more crispness to the bicycle design. Notice that the red paint blurred more than the blue. The red paint used more water than the blue paint.

I poured vinegar on my shirt to set the color, and some of the pink dye blurred down the shirt. I washed the shirt under cold water from an outdoor faucet. The faucet was seldom used, and red mud poured out onto my project, adding a yellow ochre stain. I rinsed the shirt, and spread it on the grass, frustrated!

I thought about abandoning this project, until I remembered that this is tie dye! Blurring and blending of colors is the charming feature of tie dye. Why can’t the main design also be a little blurred, but still beautiful?

I took a break, sipped a summer drink, and returned for a fresh look. The bicycle really did have a good tie dye aurora, but the white background was screaming ugliness. Maybe... I just wasn’t finished with this project. The solution was more paint, and more color!

Step 6: Add More Color!

I mixed up several squirt bottles of liquid dye using the four ounce plastic bottles that were in the tie dye kit. Using vertical strokes that roughly matched the rainbow colors of the bicycle, I added more dye to the shirt. Deciding to use the discarded package instructions, I finished the shirt with several cold water rinses. The finished shirt looks great, and I am planning my next project already!

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