Tie-Dye Shirts

Like probably most toddlers and preschoolers, our boys have got a big schedule full of group activities this summer. They are having *so* much fun (and I am getting the *best* art coming home, too!).

For one of the activities they’re doing, they are to wear tie-dye shirts (everyone is). For some reason, Shug’s shirt – along with three other kids in this class – didn’t get done in time. Well, I felt so badly about these four kids being the only ones that weren’t going to have tie-dyes to wear last week that I just made them on my own.
I haven’t made anything tie-dye since college but gosh it was so easy and fun! I’ve even had a great idea about something a little non-traditional to tie-dye in the next few days that I think will be really neat.
If you ever want to tie-dye, it’s so simple…and then there’s that wonderful feeling of taking off the rubber bands and seeing how everything turned out.
Tie-Dye fabric dye (I used Tulip brand in green, light blue, and dark blue with the squeeze bottles)
Garbage bags – approx. 1 per shirt
Paper towels
Saran Wrap
Rubber bands
Plastic gloves
If the shirts are new, prewash them.
Make your setup. The fabric dye will easily run through and make a mess, so lay out the garbage bags first, then cover the garbage bags with paper towels.
Prepare the dye to manufacturer’s directions.
Take the shirt and make it wet (wring it out, but make sure it’s damp).
Wear your gloves when you’re coloring the shirts, when you’re removing the rubber bands, and when you’re rinsing them in the sink.
To make the bullseye design, pinch the shirt (both layers – front and back together) either in the middle or top-middle as in pic 2 below. While holding the shirt up, still pinched, you’ll see how it naturally makes folds as in pic 3 – that’s great. Keep this shape, and add rubber bands down the length of the shirt so as to secure it with all the natural folds as in pic 4:

With the dye in the squirt bottle (shaken well), apply colors to your liking all down the fabric. If you leave just a little space without any dye between the colors, it makes it look even more interesting. You’ll also get a little bit of a line where all the rubber bands are, too. Make sure you go all around the fabric to get all the sides well covered:

As with all the t-shirts in this post, you want to let them dry to the fabric dye maker’s instructions. In this case, they were to dry covered with Saran wrap for 6-8 hours. I was not looking for the t-shirts to come out super-vibrant, so I washed them after 4 hours. This is how the shirt looked after 4 hours when I took off all the rubber bands:

Next, I did a shirt with the swirl design. As in pic 1, take both front & back layers of the shirt, pinch slightly, and turn clockwise while the shirt is laying flat. Keep going – keep turning clockwise until the entire shirt looks like pic 2 – hurricane shape. Now put two or three (or more) rubber bands around the shirt to keep it flat while keeping the shape:

Color it however you like:

…after four hours, it opened up to show this design:

The next shirt I did with an accordion pleat. Start at the bottom of the shirt and make small, tight accordion pleats all the way up:

Next, secure with rubber bands all across the shirt. The accordion pleated shirt is the one in the middle in this pic:


Four hours later:

The last shirt I did freehand – no bunching, swirling, folding, etc. I just laid it flat and squirted it all over with the dye:

Wear your gloves for this part:
Once the four hours was up (the longer you let the dye work, the more vibrant the colors will be, so you may want to let them sit up to eight hours), I took each shirt inside and rinsed it thoroughly in the sink until the water ran completely clear when I squeezed the shirt. Once all the shirts were done in the sink, I washed them in cold water in the washing machine on a regular cycle, and dried them.

Here’s how they turned out, clockwise from top left: accordion pleat, freehand, swirl, bullseye:

Of course, you could always make a tie-dye cake too!

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