Tips for Making a Tie Dye Shirt

By Vincent James Arcuri , last updated April 19, 2011

Tie-dye, a colorful way of creating patterns through the folding or tying of fabric, first became fashionable back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Back then, tie-dye was synonymous with the free-spirited, flower-power hippie generation. Today, tie-dye remains an eye catching and creative fashion trend. Although there are multiple ways to create tie-dye fashions, here are a few basic steps and tips to help you create your own tie-dye shirt.

Getting Started:

Before you begin, you’ll need a t-shirt to dye. This is the most common item, but you can also tie-dye just about anything and everything from socks and slacks to sheets and shawls. Other than the shirt and dye itself, you’ll also need a few addition supplies such as gloves, protective mask, rubber bands or heavy duty string, a bucket or plastic bag, and a clean protected surface to work on.

Basic Steps - Single Color Dying:

· Choose natural fibers. A 100% cotton t-shirt is your best option, but you can also dye linen, hemp or rayon. Please keep in mind a cotton/polyester blend will not take to the dye well.

· Wash your shirt or other article of clothing prior to beginning the dying process.

· Lay the wet shirt flat on a protected work surface such as a table. You’ll want to cover the table in plastic or newspaper first.

· Fold and/or twist the shirt and then tie the fabric together using rubber bands or heavy duty thread or string.

· While wearing gloves and a protective mask, mix ½ cup of liquid dye (one package of powdered dye) in 1 quart of hot water, adding 5 tablespoons of common table salt as well. Cool mixture to room temperature. For best results, use RIT brand dye, which is readily available and inexpensive.

· Now, place your entire folded and/or tied shirt into the dye solution for at least 20 minutes.

· Rinse the shirt in cold water until the water runs clear.

· Undo all ties and knots, and then rinse the shirt once again or run it through a full cycle in your washing machine using cold water.

If you’re looking for a tie-dye pattern that incorporates multiple colors, follow the first five steps above and then:

· Apply dye using a squeeze bottle, paint brush or sponge to the desired area of the shirt or other item you are dying.

· Place the folded and/or tied shirt in a plastic bag for at least 4 hours ensuring the dye settles into the fabric. (Some dyes may require additional time)

· Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear.

· Remove all knots and ties and rinse the shirt or other item once again or run it through a full cycle in your machine using cold water.

A Few Other Helpful Hints:

· There are several different types of dyes you can use, so depending on the brand you purchase, use as directed by the manufacturer. Some dyes require you to soak the item in soda ash, while others, like RIT, are simply mixed with hot water.

· When dying with multiple colors, it’s usually best to start with the lighter colors first.

· When rinsing your shirt or other items, be careful to follow the directions provided by the dye manufacturer. Depending on what brand you use, some may require you to rinse immediately, while other may require you to wait at least 24 hours.

· When washing tie-dye items, be advised the color may continue to bleed, so make sure you wash separately or with like colors during the first few washes.

Picking a Pattern:

The pattern or design of your tie-dye shirt depends on how you fold and tie the material. For a spiral design, lay your shirt flat and then start twisting from the center. When you are finished, the shirt should resemble a pancake. Secure rubber bands around the entire shirt. For a circular pattern, grab the shirt from the center, gathering it irregularly and then start tying in different intervals. Many more design patterns and folding and tying options can be found on-line.

Two More Things To Remember:

No matter what brand of dye you decide on, keep in mind every tie-dyed item will turn out differently depending on the colors you select and the technique. And no matter how hard you try, no two shirts or items will every turn out identical, so don’t even try. Just be creative with your designs and have a groovy time.

Resources and References
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