How to Tie Dye

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Tie dye has been around for centuries, but it was most commonly known in the 60’s and 70’s.It is still a popular trend today. For my fellow flower children we will be making tie dye t-shirts! I love tie dye because of the cool patterns and vibrant colors. You can make groovy swirls, stripes, polka dots and so much more, the possibilities are endless. One of the main reasons why I decided to do this project is that there are no rules when it comes to tie dying. I have done this often so most of this is tricks I have learned over the years.

Step 1: Getting the Supplies Ready

To begin, we should round up all the supplies we need for this little project. Let's make sure we have 100% cotton t-shirt, or other objects that you want to be dyed. It is recommended to use cotton shirts because the dye absorbs better into it and stays better.

Secondly, we need our tie dye kit. There are so many to choose from, and so many places that carry the kits. You can find kits at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and JoAnns. You can buy single colors, three pack of colors and so much more options. I bought a Tulip brand party tub awhile ago, and that is what I am using. It cost me about $20. I included pictures of the kit I have.

Besides our kit and our shirts, we need gloves. Most kits come with gloves, they are usually thin and plastic. I like to use latex gloves, they work way better in my opinion. We also need lots of rubber bands, I would average between three to eight bands per shirt. Most tie dye kits come with the basics that are needed. It is usually listed on the box what is included in the kit. When we dye our shirts we need something to dye them on, a wire cooling rack works great if you have one. I do not so I use a big trash bag that I have cut open to make my work space bigger. You can also find a tablecloth from the dollar store and use that as well. Also, we have to have something to put the shirts in once we are done. I like to double up Walmart or Super Saver sacks just because sometimes they have smaller holes in them. When dying it can be messy, make sure you are not wearing your Sunday church clothes when doing this project. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting stained up just in case.

Step 2: Project Prep

Moving on, just like any new clothes you want to prewash your shirt and anything else that is going to be dyed. Do not dry them, leave them damp from the washing machine. Some kits have soda ash in them, this is used to make the colors hold better and more vibrant. Not all kits have this but it can be bought separately. If you want to use the soda ash you still might want to prewash your shirt. Mix the ash accordingly and ring out the shirt and and leave it damp as well.

Step 3: More Project Prep

The next step is to find a pattern that you like and to roll up the shirt. There are so many patterns that can be made. Every kit I have used has a little guide for different designs. I want to do two different shirts. My first pattern I want to do is a basic swirl. This is one of my favorite and always turns out nicely. The way I do this is I take my damp 100% cotton shirt and lay it out flat on my kitchen floor. I pick a spot where I want the middle of the swirl to go and take a ruler and twist the shirt just a little bit. I gather the folds of the shirt so they are all equal in size. Then I turn the ruler a little more grabbing the folds and adding to the other ones. I do this until it is completely folded up. The arm sleeves get a little tricky to gather, don't worry, it will all be rubber banded in a minute. If it bothers you, the sleeves can be tucked inside of the shirt to make it a little easier to wrap. Mine is a long sleeve, so once I got to the sleeve part they wrapped around my shirt nicely. I really recommend having someone help put the rubber bands on. Stretch the bands out a little before using them, the ones in the kits are really tight. It makes a harder to get them on. It can be challenging holding and rubber banding at the same time, for this design it is anyway. Although it is possible. Once it is all folded, place one hand on the shirt, gripping it so it doesn’t fall apart and come unwrapped. Take a rubber band and place it vertically around the shirt. ( Pictures) Use another one and place it horizontally around the shirt. (Pictures) Do this a few more times to make sure the folds are secure. When your done it should look similar to sections like a pie. I like to use the bands as guides to put my color but, that is just a technique I found that works for me.

For my second shirt I want to do vertical accordion stripes. Like the first shirt, put it flat on the floor. For this I like to tuck the sleeves into the shirt. In order to make vertical stripes we need to fold it horizontally. Take the bottom of the shirt and pinch it grabbing about an inch while gathering more of the shirt. (pictures) do this until the shirt is completely folded. Once it is folded correctly, take your rubber bands and add one to each end of the shirt and one in the middle. You can add as many bands as you want, like I said I like to use the bands as color dividers.

Step 4: Lets Have Some FUN!

Once your shirts and other objects are folded we can now get set up for the dying part. We need to make sure we have our table cloth, or trash bag put down. Let's grab all the colors we will be using and add water to them accordingly. I have some dye from a different kit that has a line indicating where to fill the water to. I also have my party kit that has no line. I just fill them to where I think it should be marked. Over filling can be a bit messy and could water down the dye. I have pictures to show what I am talking about. Make sure we shake them to make all the dye powder disintegrate. This could take a minute, but be sure the powder is all dissolved. Sometimes the powder likes to clump together or stick to the bottom.

When we are done getting the dye together we can begin to dye our shirts! There is not right or wrong way for this part, just have fun with it. I am going to take my shirt that will have the swirl pattern and I am going to use every color of the rainbow. I am going to add die to the triangles that the bands have made. Make sure the dye is getting into the folds. The backside is important, so don't forget that either! I like to have a paper towel or two handy just so I can wipe my gloves, or I can wipe my work space so I don’t get colors where I don’t want them. From my past experiences I have learned that darker colors are very overpowering, that is why I like to use lighter and brighter colors. Once your shirt is all dyed lets get our doubled up plastic sacks and put our shirts in there and wrap it up tightly. We can now take all the messy paper towels, gloves and any empty bottles and wrap them up in the trash bag or table cloth for a easy, quick, and mess free clean up. We will let this set for about 12 to 24 hours. I get so anxious to see what my patterns look like, the longer the color sits the more solid and bold it will be.

Step 5: The Finished Product

Lets open our shirts and see our wicked designs! I get so excited for this part. Here are some pictures of mine that I did. I am so happy with how my swirl turned out. It definitely helped using a ruler because I was able to make a tight swirl. Where as with my fingers it wouldn't be so tight.

Once it is time for the washing of the shirts, we want to do these one by one. I have washed my shirts in a sink then in a washing machine in previous tie dyes I have done, and it makes no difference from a washing machine. For this project we will just unwrap the shirts and put them in the washer by itself. Make sure it is a quick and cold cycle. Add a small drop of dawn dish soap and run the cycle. Once it is washed we can dry them as normal. These should be washed out enough and go to go next time with other clothes without losing its color.

Step 6: The End

Tie dying is a fun and easy craft. It can be done with a group, for a party, or just for fun. Hopefully this instructable brought out your inner hippie. I would love to see pictures of your shirts! My favorite part of this project, is wearing it and showing my skills, so strut your project proudly!

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    3 Discussions

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    DiegoF130

    6 months ago

    Nice technique, i'll definitely try it.

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    dgee5

    Tip 6 months ago

    FYI... Soda Ash actually removes the starch and "loosens" the fabric. As a substitute, you can use swimming pool chems used to increase PH levels.

    2 cents...
    -Cool idea is to alternate colors front to back.
    -Lastly, I've changed from rubberbands to string cause it holds tighter.

    Peace, Love, and Poptarts!