Simple Method to Crush-Dye T-shirts





Introduction: Simple Method to Crush-Dye T-shirts

Zip Bag Dyeing: Jays Patented method for a double-crushed wardrobe OR How to Dye Twice and survive to do it again.
Its been too hot in my garage to screen print this week so I've revisited a craft I've posted on before, which is hand dyeing. Its a crazy art and its almost as old as human history but this modern life affords us some bennies. This is a tutorial on a NEW way of coloring small items like t-shirts and how to make altered garments for your enjoyment. This was mentioned anecdotally on a couple websites I saw and I thought about it and figured there was no way to really screw it up. And there isn't! This is a common sense technique and it doesn't even make a mess. If you have a sink in your garage you're home free.
I have to post this link because its THE source for info on hand dyeing and tackles techniques much more complex then this one but where you would go for the next level

By by reading this page I got the concepts I used to formulate this technique so you don't really have to!

Step 1: Materials , Sources and Costs

The very short list of what you need to make this happen:

A spoon

A 1-Gallon "Zip-Lock" style bag (the wal-mart brand actually leaked less then the name brand ?)

A 100% cotton shirt

A sink that makes hot water (doesn't have to be scalding)

A pack of DYLON brand Permanent Fabric Dye (its a one step warm water fiber reactive dye you will get much better results with this dye then with "RIT") This dye is usually in the CRAFT area of the store and not in the laundry area.

A spoonful of salt

A bucket in case it leaks a little in the bag

And an area to work in.

Step 2: Putting the Pieces Together in the Right Order

'Putting the pieces together in the right order is always the key to success. The devil is in the details. '

Here is the process:

1) Fill your bag up with about a cup of warm, leaning more towards hot tap water, balance the bag in the sink corner with the top un-zipped so you can prepare the other ingredients.

2) Open one of your color packets and scoop out a good sized tablespoon of the dye powder.

3) Then the same amount of salt.

4) Zip the top and swoosh it all together until it is mixed good.

5) Take your pre-washed t-shirt and dampen it in the sink clumping it up and wringing it out so its wet but not drippy.

6) Drop the shirt into your dye-mix bag and add just enough water to get the shirt covered in water if it isn't already. Then squeeze out the air at the top and seal the bag. Set it aside for a few hours depending on how dark or light your color you're dealing with is. But don't jack around with it, let it sit or it won't have the variation that you're looking for.

note: This is where the "crushed" part comes in, Crush is one look for what is generically referred to as "tie dye" but includes a lot of different ways to fold the fabric so that the dye is uneven. If you didn't get that part yet we are going for a distressed/grunge/psychedelic effect with this project. But you are unlimited in what you do.


Now you just have to let it sit. The time is a big part of your results, so here is some advice. For lighter colors like yellow or for the most intense look keep it in the bag overnight. But for the darker colors like the black which is actually a bad ass uber-dark blue it archived the desired result after an hour. Remember that as it sits the less contrast you will have between light and dark areas because the dye will seep into the folds.

When you're ready to take the shirt out, open the bag and as you take the shirt out slowly, squeeze the shirt of the dye liquid, so its not drippy and you have dye for the next shirt without having to add water. Its a good idea to do this part in the sink too.

With COLD water rinse out the shirt by running water over it and swishing it around. This is a good time to use a sprayer nozzle if you have one. Do this swishing in the cold water until the water runs clear, then switch to warm water and do the same thing. You're trying to get rid of the excess dye that has not attached to the fibers of the cloth. After this throw it in the dryer with some other things to get an idea of how this thing looks. Now, I have to mention this so you're not surprised, that what you see when its wet is going to be AT LEAST twice as dark and intense as it will look when its dry so don't get too excited until you see it come out of the dryer OK. You got it?

Step 3: Results and Recap

I think the best results are seen from double-dyeing the same piece in 2 different colors because you get the overlapping variation, thats just my tastes however you can do whatever you want. Think outside the box, and for those that would like just a few examples of folding FX they can use:

If you read the back of the dye packet you'll find it is filled with about 4 tablespoons of dye which is supposed to dye 1/2 lb of fabric. So I'm no math whiz but I figured it out and this worked perfect and seems to be able to effectively dye 2 shirts, compensating for loss of intensity by increasing length of time immersed.

The example here was crush dyed in blue and then in black. If you look closely at the shirt in the bag its folded zig-zag but I don't use any string or rubber bands when I do this because I don't like the sharp lines it would create, but maybe you do so go for it.

So if you haven't figured it out by now one of the BEST reasons to use my tech is because you can do unlimited colors all at the same time! this about it man! Its like you can have a rainbow of different colors and effects and it takes like 20 min to do it and all you have to do is wait for the results and wash it out and pop it in the dryer!

Further alter your new duds with one of the screen printing tutorials on instructables.



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    12 Discussions

    This is pretty awesome. I'm gonna have to give it a try... Lots of ideas brewing in my head!

    The Dylon is very cool stuff. You don't have as much color flexibility as with procion, but it's a one-step fiber reactive dye. Something else you might want to try for ha-has, very carefully sprinkle a little of the dye powder directly onto the shirt, try to keep that part in a scrunched-up area to minimize color mixing, and continue. You'll get these really intense burst of color in the middle. Use a respirator or do it outdoors. An old spice shaker is good for this. After the dye is set, while the shirt is still wet, you can also drop water in spots and the color will spread out in rings around the dots. . .or use pretzel salt (not table salt or big chunky salt) and it will draw the color in towards itself in little starbursts.

    1 reply

    Ali I did dry some direct application and it was a very cool result. I think that's how they must get the "dirt and grime" look on wardrobe for shows like the walking dead! I got a great "grunge effect" when I did it!

    I'm thinking of combining this technique with bleach stenciling on shirts. My thought is to take a darker shirt and bleach stencil it, then bag dye it to replace some of the color in the bleached out portions. Thoughts or recommendations on this?

    1 reply

    Did you give it a shot? It sounds like a fun project, I'd like to know how it worked for you.

    The links in your instructions recommend using soda ash to raise the pH to 10 or 11. Will salt do the trick? I am dying a shirt now and will hopefully remember to comment again in a couple weeks regarding how much dye comes out after multiple washes. Anyone else have experience with this?

    4 replies

    The brand of dye from these instructions has the soda ash built in, thats why I recommend it for ease of use. The colors remain fairly bright long term.

    word. i'm now using procion mx cold water fabric dye. i bought soda ash (powder) separately. i'm posting an instructable on it now-- not to steal your thunder, since this was a great instructable. sometimes i wish instructables were more like wiki's (collaborative) than recipes (strict single path). it's not clear how to make collaborative instructing work.. i guess that's more like experimentables or knowledgables.

    Thats cool. post a link in my instructable. when you're done. I view our community as a research tool because I've never exactly followed anyones technique. Its a blend of many -so I'm assuming everyone else is a human blender too. Only the instructables robot is a robot.

    I don't get it...are you putting all the dyes in the same bag all at the same time? Wouldn't the dyes mix all into one color?

    1 reply

    If you actualy read the instructions you'll understand. ...but I'll simplify it for ya. Step ONE: Dye it the first color Step TWO: Dye it the second color. Rinse and dry between dye baths. You still think it will mix?