Tie-dying

Tie-dying is such a fun project and while you have some idea of the pattern you are trying to create, the end result is always fascinating when you see how the dyes blend with each other. I am going to talk about two different patterns..the spiral and the star burst patterns. There are many more options in tie-dying but I feel these are two of the easiest for children to master when tie-dying for the first time. Before beginning, it is important to follow these necessary steps to assure that your shirt will retain its color wash after wash...

1. Fill a bucket with water and add 1 cup of soda ash to the water. Soda ash can be purchased at professional art stores or ordered online at places such as Dharma Trading Co. or Dick Blick. You will need to soak your shirt before adding the colors.

2. Fill your squirt bottles with 1 tsp of urea crystals and 1 TB of your choice of color. Use fiber reactive procion dyes for the most vivid colors and longest lasting. These dyes can be purchased (as well as the urea) at the above websites. Add water to the squirt bottles and shake well to dissolve the urea. Urea helps the color set better. It slows down the process of absorption a bit so the color grabs on to the shirt better.

The first two photos (I found on google web image search) are spirals. Place your white shirt flat on a table in front of you. Take a ruler and hold it vertically, placing it in the middle of the shirt. Turn clockwise, keeping the ruler planted firmly in the center and don't lift it up while you are turning the material. Begin folding the material clockwise around the ruler until it is in a circle shape. Hold it together and have someone put rubber bands around the material so that it hold the shape you just formed. Soak the banded shirt in the soda ash water for 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out excess water. Place your shirt, still banded on the grass and squirt the colors you would like to use on the shirt. Flip the shirt over and do the same, trying to keep with the same color scheme on the back. Place the banded shirt in a gallon size baggie and seal. Put in a warm place, preferably in the sun and let it set for 24 hours. Rinse the banded shirt under cold water until most color stops coming out. Remove bands and continue rinsing until no color is present. You can then see your gorgeous pattern! Wash in warm water and dry as normal. You now have a beautiful tie-dye shirt!


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I love making spirals! I mentioned above that you can create the same color pattern by flipping the shirt and repeating the color sequencing, however if you want different color patterns on the front and the back, use different colors. No matter what color choices you make, the shirt will look awesome!

I've used cool colors on the front and warm colors on the back and created a very unique shirt. Just remember, to really soak the shirt with color. The fact that it is tied up in a spiral, there will be plenty of "white space" when you unwrap your shirt.

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Another pattern you can make on a shirt is a sun burst pattern. Put your shirt flat in front of you. Grab the center of the shirt and hold it in your hand, letting the rest of the shirt fall below your hand (see picture below). Form shirt into a long pipe like form, putting bands around the "pipe" all the way to the bottom. Soak shirt in soda ash water, follow the steps above and you will have sun bursts shooting out of your shirt.

Once again, use various colors for a very colorful shirt or stick to a couple for a keyed-down but stunning shirt. With tie-dye, you CANNOT go wrong!

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Using rubbing alcohol to "tie-dye"

This method is more time consuming and needs to be done outdoors in lots of fresh air. Rubbing alcohol is very toxic in a closed in area.

With this method, you won't need to band up your shirt. You simply take permanent markers of various colors and make little dot patterns close together. For example, on the top shoulder of the shirt, create a spiral with little dots of varying colors of the markers. Or, simply make a small circle of little dots using the markers. Take an eyedropper or syringe, filling it with rubbing alcohol and slowly drip the liquid on the dots. You will see the alcohol break up the pigments that created the marker color and spread those pigments out across a small area on the shirt. Keep dripping the alcohol onto the dots until the colors stop spreading.

The results are beautiful.

No matter which method you choose, your tie-dye shirt will be a cherished project. Be creative and band your shirt other than mentioned above and create incredible designs as well. There is no right or wrong way to tie-dye. Have fun!

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Comments 45 comments

Dame Scribe profile image

Dame Scribe 7 years ago from Canada

I remember doing this project when I was a kid. My sons recently discovered bleach and love these effects, lol. Good Hub! :)


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 7 years ago from Michigan Author

What do they do with the bleach? Sounds interesting!


blueapplegallery profile image

blueapplegallery 7 years ago from Greenville, NC

Great Hub! I love tie-dyeing. I have always used a prepackeged kit. I like the fact that you teach it without the need for purchasing a kit. I have also used bleach to "reverse" tie-dye. I took a red shirt, tied it up and soaked it in a 1/2 bleach and 1/2 water solution. All the areas that became wet turned white or yellowish. My friend used a black shirt and it became brownish around the edges and white in the center where the bleach hit.


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 7 years ago from Michigan Author

Blue apple, what a great idea with the bleach! Never thought of that but will definitely have to try it next time! Thanks for the tip.


katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Reminds me of my computer art, well done.


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 7 years ago from Michigan Author

thanks katy; what comuter art do you do? If your pic is one, it's awesome!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 6 years ago from Michigan Author

someone is commenting on my hub using my name...it is under investigation but please know everyone that I would never state anything negative about anyone in my hubs.


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

We are doing a demonstration at school on tie dying and we need some help. There are 20 students. Should we use a tie dye kit or separate dyes??


Amber 4 years ago

Hey tie dye gurlzzz I have no clue how to tie dye and I need help too so help me also if u find anything out


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

@Amber don't worry I will let you know if I find out and I have heard that the spiral tie dying is easiest?! I have watched many...I mean MANY videos on tie dying and the people make it look so easy!


Amber 4 years ago

Ok thanks let me know for sure if u find anything else and I watched many videos too


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Tie dye and Amber.... I have tie dyed many times with students. The powdered RIT dye doesn't stay very well on the shirts unless you have tons of dye with little liquid. That will end up costing just as much as buying the professional grade powder that you find in the kits and mix with water. Those colors are awesome and stay for years on the clothing. As I said before, the fiber reactive procion dye will work the best and can be found at art stores. It will dye quite a few shirts too. Sunburst patterns are easy to do as I show in my hub but other types are fun too. Remember making fans in school? How you folded one way then the other? Well, if you do that to your entire shirt either horizontally or vertically, and band across the shirt once folded, you get astounding results. Also, if you put the shirt flat, put an eraser end of a pencil in the middle, keep spinning the shirt clockwise until the shirt is going in a circular pattern and band in an X, you will get a spirl effect but kids find this harder to do with coordination. Kids don't have to saturate their shirts either. It's important to leave the shirt soaking with die for 1 day before rinsing. I had kids put theirs in a large baggie and we put in a warmer place over night. Be sure to rinse in cold water thoroughly before you take bands off until no color comes off. Then, unband and rinse more. Make sure to wash shirt in cold water and detergent before wearing or you'll be colorful! Have fun


Amber 4 years ago

Thank you so much!!!!!!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

glad to help Amber; let me know if you need more information


Amber 4 years ago

I will have fun now that I got some tips thanks so much!!!


Amber 4 years ago

I will let u know if I have any more questions thanks


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Thank you soooooo much ljrc. You are very helpful! I am glad I asked you for help!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

What is the easiest way to tie dye socks. That would be great if you could help me out and reply soon. Our demo is coming up! Thanks!!! :)


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Socks can be done the same as shirts; you can't do easy spirals but you can "fan" fold them or tie them off with rubber bands like the sunburst pattern. Knee socks will show your effects best. You can also do bandanas. Just make sure you soak your items in the soda ash first as it helps to bond the colors. Have fun!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Thank you sooooo much! And I bet we will have fun! I will ask you if I have any more questions. Thanks again!!! :)


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

sounds good!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Do I have to use soda ash fixer because I do not think that we are going to!? Will it look that much different if I don't or what?

Thanks


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

if you want the color to be vibrant and to stay longer on the clothes, I recommend that you do


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Ok where can I find the soda ash?


Amber 4 years ago

Do u have to use soda ash for shirts socks and bandanas and how do u do bandanas


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

soda ash is sold at art stores and stores like JoAnns and Michaels; you can also get it online at any art store. Amber, I suggest using the soda ash for anything you tie dye. I have done it without and the color seems to fade right away. Do bandanas the same way; they can be done with sunburst, fan folding and spirals because they are a flat surface. Just use smaller rubber bands. I have ordered from Dick Blick online and also from tie dye shops online too for the ink and soda ash. Good luck ladies!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Thank you so much for all of your help!!!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

glad to help!


Kayla 4 years ago

Hi I was just wondering if u have any advice for tie dying?! I would love to learn!

Thanks!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Ljrc, do u have any more useful tips that we should use for tie dying to make it just right???


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Kayla, just read the conversations and the hub above to learn more. TDgurlzzz, make sure you put your rubber bands on tight for the best sun bursts and spirals. Also, if you are doing multi-colors in the shirt, expect colors to run into each other; so if you don't want certain colors, make sure you know how colors mix. Ex: red and blue make purple and shades of pink; keep them away from each other if you don't want those. Red and green will make a rusty/brownish color. I personally thing that the blends are awesome but some kids (like the boys) don't want things like that. Red and yellow make orange. Yellow and blue make green, etc. I soak the shirt for 10 min. in the soda ash and make sure to add the urea crystals to the powder die for better grip and brighter colors too. Have fun! Oh, I also wear rubber gloves and have the kids do so too; the cheap kind.


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Thank you so much and I will have to try that!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Hey I was wondering if you can reuse the dye!?


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

well, the dye will run together and cannot be saved; however, any leftover dye, if you use the good stuff will last in tightly sealed bottles for up to two years!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Ok thanks. The brand we got is Tulip in a kit!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

let me know how it all turns out


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Ok I will make sure I let you know how our demo goes! It is on wednesday February 22nd!!!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Oh my gosh! So yesterday my friend and I practiced our tie dying on shirts and socks! They turned out great!!! Our demo is tomorrow and we are very excited!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Hey ljrc1961, we had our demo and I believe it went great!!!!! :)

Our shirt is all the colors of the rainbow and the class did these headbands and socks!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Thanks again for all of your help!!! :) it was so useful!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

so glad I could help; wish you could post a picture...what designs with the bands did you use?


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

We did the spiral! Our socks turned out really well too and mine has a heart on one of them!!!


ljrc1961 profile image

ljrc1961 4 years ago from Michigan Author

how cool!


Tie dye gurlzzz 4 years ago

Yes I know!!! Thanks again for all your help! We got to see some of the headbands the people did today and one was purple blue and pink and it looks very cool! :)


Kiyomi 21 months ago

The best thing for you to do would be to go to a crafts store or a faribc store and buy a good tie-dye kit. Don't use Rit dye for tie-dyeing cotton, because the colors will be dull, will fade quickly, and will bleed in the laundry forever. Good brands of tie-dyeing kits include Jacquard, Tulip, Rainbow Rock, Dylon, and Dritz. Look for any of those. Mix turquoise dye with yellow dye to get a bright green. Or, you can buy Dylon Permanent dye in green and yellow, and follow the package instructions for mixing the dye.You cannot make your own dye that will last well on cotton. You need to buy a good quality dye that is made for the faribc in the shirt you are dyeing. Food coloring will wash right out of cotton, leaving at most an ugly stain (though it works well on wool).Paula B

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