Tie Dye is such a fun way to get creative with a plain white t-shirt, new or old. It also happens to be incredibly easy.
To tie dye a shirt you must get the shirt wet, use the tie dye technique of choice, saturate the shirt in the dye, wrap shirt in cling wrap, and place in a ziploc bag. Let the shirt sit in the dye for minimum of 6-8 hours then rinse all of the dye from the shirt. Machine wash and it’s ready to wear!
Of course, there is more to it than that. But, that’s a good summarization of the steps you’ll need to follow in order to complete a tie dye project. Now grab a shirt and let’s get our 60’s and 70’s vibe going in full swing.
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Other great summer crafts:
What Do You Need to Tie Dye Shirts?
- Covered Surface. Tie dye is fun and easy, but it is also really messy. We used a plastic tablecloth on our outdoor patio table that worked great. It was easy to wipe with a paper towel between shirts so no lingering color would get on the next project.
- Plastic Gloves. This will keep your hands from getting stained.
- Shirt or fabric you are dying. Natural fibers like cotton or linen work great. Stick with 100% cotton if at all possible as they will take the dye best. Also choose white or something in a light color. You can certainly use an older shirt if you have one. I had one with deodorant stains that was given another life with tie dye!
- Dye. Tie dye kits are perfect for at home tie dye projects.
- Cling Wrap
- Ziploc Bags
- Rubber Bands or string
- Stick or wooden spoon
- Paper Towels for spills as needed
What are the Steps To Tie Dye?
Overall the steps are pretty easy AND fun. The only challenging part is how messy everything is. As long as you have a covered workspace prepared that protects your home from accidental dye spills (especially if you do this indoors) you are good to go!
Prepare Supplies and Get Your Surface Covered.
It’s best to have everything completely ready to go before beginning this fun project. You will inevitably get dye all over your gloved hands during the dye process. Just make sure everything you need is handy and ready to go prior to diving in!
Keep some paper towels handy! You will need them to wipe up accidental spills.
IF you are dyeing brand new shirts, take the time to wash them first.
See the supplies list above to remind you of all of the things you will need before you fully jump into the tie dye project.
Completely Wet Your Shirt with Water Prior to Dyeing
Your shirt (or any other fabric you are working with) will take the dye SO much better if you completely wet the fabric with water first. Simply put the shirt under running water until it is saturated, wring it out just a little, and you are ready to get started.
If you are using a dye kit as described above in the supplies, you will need to add water to the powder and shake well.
Soda ash is already in the tie dye kits so you don’t have to mess with that. If you are wondering, soda ash is what makes the dye react to the fibers within the fabric.
Determine the Tie Dye Pattern or Technique
Below, I have listed a number of different tie dye patterns you can consider. If you are new to tie-dye, find something easy and just do it!
Wait until you have a few projects under your belt before you dive into a more intricate technique.
The easiest, most foolproof patterns are crumple and spiral, in my opinion. Later in the post I provide more specific details for how to do those! But here is a peek:
Use Rubber Bands or String to Create Specific Patterns
Depending on the technique you use, you will likely need use rubber bands or string to help create the pattern of choice or to simply hold the shirt in place to make the dye process easier.
Saturate Shirt with Dye
Make sure to really get the color everywhere you want it and fully saturate it! Getting lots of dye on your fabric will help ensure it is nice and vibrant in the end.
When you think you have enough, add just a little more;-)
My daughter and I did this project a day or so apart. She made sure to really get her shirts wet with the color and hers turned out so much better, in my opinion.
Wrap the Shirt in Cling Wrap and Place in Baggie
As soon as you have finished saturating your shirt with the colors you choose, wrap it in cling wrap and place it in a Ziploc baggie.
Placing it in the cling wrap and baggie will ensure your fabric stays wet and help it react to the dye.
Be sure to wipe the outside of the baggie with a paper towel as it might have some dye on it. I grabbed an old towel and put it in the floor of our spare shower to store the baggies until we were ready for the next step.
Leave Dyed Shirt in Bag for Minimum of 6-8 Hours
Once you get your shirt in the Ziploc, all you have to do for a while is wait!
When I completed this project, I left mine overnight as I got busy with another project and didn’t have time to go back to them.
But, my daughter ended up leaving hers for approximately 8 hours and they turned out great, too! I think allowing plenty of time for the dye to fully react and color your shirt is key, but you also don’t have to wait for ever. For the dye kit we used, I think six hours and beyond is fine.
Rinse Shirt Thoroughly
After waiting the 6+ hours, it is time to rinse. Be sure to use a sink or area that will not be affected by the dye!
Stainless steel sinks are great for this as they won’t take on any of the color.
I like to rinse with the rubber bands are in place for a bit to avoid as much bleeding onto the white portions of the fabric that are covered by the rubber bands.
After rinsing for a moment, remove the rubber bands or cut with scissors, careful not to cut your fabric.
Rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. Do your best to rinse until the water is clear and no more dye is coming out of the shirt.
Machine wash the shirt
Wash the shirts individually or with other same colored shirts if at all possible. I just used the speed wash cycle and that seemed to do the trick. We plan on washing them by themselves, or at the very least with other tie dye shirts, for the first few washings to ensure dye doesn’t bleed onto any other clothing.
That is it! In some basic steps you will have a pretty tie dye shirt.
Tie Dye Techniques and Patterns
There are a number of tie dye techniques you can choose from when creating your shirt. If this is your first project, go simple until you figure out the look you love.
If you are looking for tie dye techniques with pictures, Tulip has some great examples of patterns you can consider.
Here are a few descriptions of options to get you started!
Crumple Tie Dye
This very well might be the easiest of all tie dye patterns. You simply crumple your shirt into a ball (tight or lose) and wrap the ball with rubber bands to hold it together before applying the dye.
No rhyme nor reason is needed with the rubber band technique.
This specific technique looks great with just one or two colors.
Spiral Tie Dye
For this method, you start by putting your shirt, flat on the surface. Grab the front center with your fingers or use a stick to start spinning (swirling) the shirt. Once you have it all wound put a rubber band around the edges to hold it into place.
Then use several rubber bands to divide the bundle into sections. It will look like pizza slices.
The next step is to dye the sections. You can use as many or as few colors as you’d like. If you use several colors, avoid putting the colors directly over one another or it might look brown!
On my multicolored shirt above, I did not saturate the sections with dye and there are large white portions. If you want more color just be sure you USE more color and really saturate your fabric.
This is just what is sounds like. Start at the top and put rubber bands all the way down the shirt, leaving it in the shape of a tube. Use two colors or more and apply dye to each section between rubber bands for a fun striped look.
Frequently Asked Questions:
These are questions I either found myself researching or I saw others were consistently asking online when looking into a tie dye project.
Can You Tie Dye a Shirt 2 Different Colors?
You can absolutely use two or more colors when tie dyeing a shirt or other fabric item. I’ve found it is best to ensure your colors do not overlap, however or you might end up with colors that combine to be brown or just muddy looking in general.
If you are overly concerned with this, pick colors that combine nicely such as yellow and blue (they’ll make green) for example.
Should You Tie Dye a Shirt Wet or Dry?
In most instances, you will want your fabric to be slightly wet prior to applying the dye. This will make it easier to saturate with the dye color.
However, you can certainly apply dye to dry fabric. This will result in a more crisp look with less bleeding of the dye.
How Long Should Tie Dye Sit Before Rinsing?
There will be some variance of how long tie dyed items must sit prior to rinsing. The best advice is to read the instructions of the specific dye you are using.
A good rule of thumb is some time between six hours and overnight is a good bet.
What are other items besides t-shirts that can be tie dyed?
Tie dye can be so fun on a number of fabric items. Here is a list of items that would look great tie dyed:
- Pillow case
- Small blankets
- White cloth tennis shoes
I think you get the idea that there are limitless items you could potentially tie dye! I hope you have gotten inspired to start your next tie dye project.
Tie dye is great for kids, teenagers, and for adults!
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