How to Tie Dye shirts

Tie Dye Instructions | Fun Outdoor Activity for Kids

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Kids love to learn how to tie dye! Tie Dying has been around for a long time but grew really popular in the 1960s. This hippy-style apparel is still around and it makes for a fun outdoor activity to do with your kids. Our tie dye instructions will tell you how to make lots of unique variations in your tie dye fun!

How to Tie Dye shirts

Tie dye can be really messy so we recommend you do this activity outside. You may also want to wear gloves to keep your hands from turning into rainbows.

Kids of all ages will enjoy making tie dye and it’s the perfect way to give new life to old, dingy t-shirts. You can also dye socks, leggings, bags, tea towels and just about anything made from cotton fabric. White fabric is the best choice but you can experiment with other colors as well. Are you ready to learn how to tie dye?

Supplies needed for tie-dying

Make sure you have a space where things can get messy. Outside is your best option but a basement or workshop would work as well. Once you’ve got your space picked out, gather these supplies:

  • Fabric Items to Dye – You can purchase new items or repurpose old ones. White, 100% cotton or all-natural fiber fabrics (like silk) will work best. Try plain white t-shirts or white tea towels.
  • Fabric Dye – You can purchase individual colors of dye like the Rit Brand dyes or you can purchase a Tie Dye Kit.
  • Rubber Gloves – If you don’t want rainbow hands I recommend rubber gloves.
  • Buckets – You will need a separate bucket or bowl for each color of dye that you plan to use. Alternately, squirt bottles work really well, especially if you are only dying a few small pieces.
  • Water – A hose is perfect for rinsing your items after the dye has set. I don’t recommend using your sink unless you have a metal one as the dye can stain.
  • Rubber Bands – Different sized rubber bands will create different patterns. This pack has a great assortment.
  • Popsicle Sticks – If you have popsicle sticks or even fallen sticks from trees, these can also be banded or tied to fabric to create interesting designs.
  • Marbles – Tie marbles into the fabric for interesting patterns.

How to Tie Dye | tie Dye Instructions

Purchase and prepare all of your materials. Once you have selected the items you want to dye you will need to wash them. New fabrics often have starch or sizing added to them so they don’t get wrinkly in transit or while being displayed in the store. This can make it difficult for those fabrics to absorb the dye so be sure to wash all new fabrics before beginning.

Begin by preparing your workspace. As I mentioned, this project is loads of fun but it can get pretty messy. My advice is to just put on some old clothes and head out to the backyard. Enjoy some sunshine and fresh air while you do a fun project as a family.

Prepare your dye baths. If you are using Rit Dye you will want to mix the dye according to the package directions. I like to use a separate bucket for each dye color. Tie Dye kits usually come with individual squirt bottles but they may need to be mixed with water.

Fold and tie the fabric. Creating folds in fabric or tying it with string or rubber bands will create areas where the dye will have difficulty penetrating the fabric. This is what will create the interesting and unique designs for each piece. You can also tie in sticks and even marbles for different effects.

Dunk or squirt with dye. Once the fabric is tied, you will need to dunk it into the dye bath or squirt the dye on using squirt bottles. The squirt bottles give you more control over where the dye goes so you can add many different colors.

Rinse the fabric. Let the dye sit on the fabric for the amount of time indicated on the package instructions. Typically, the longer it sets, the more intense the final color. You will then want rinse the fabrics with a hose and cold water. Don’t untie anything yet, you are just rising the excess dye out.

Wrap with plastic and let sit. Once you have rinsed each piece, wrap each piece in plastic and let it set for several hours to overnight. This helps you get bright, intense colors that won’t fade with washing.

Untie, wash and dry. Carefully unwrap each piece of fabric and remove all of the ties and rubberbands. I like to lay out each piece and let it dry completely before I wash it. Once they have dried overnight, wash the fabrics according to the package instructions. Dry each piece and then show off your new creation!

Tips for Tying Fabric

There are many online resources (like this one) to help you select patterns for tying your fabrics. The key is to remember that each piece will be unique. That is the beauty of tie-dye! Here are some suggestions for tying:

tie dye with twist technique

Scrunch – Scrunch the fabric up and wrap tightly with string or rubber bands. The purple shirt here (on the left) had multiple scrunched/twisted sections, while the dark blue shirt (on the right) was twisted into one large twist and then tied up and dyed.

tie dye with drip and half and half technique

Drip Dye (left side) – Tie up fabric and use a spoon (or a squirt bottle) to drip different color dye onto different areas.

Section (right side)- Roll the fabric and tie off several sections. Dye each section a different color.

tie dye with fan folding technique

Fan-fold – Fold the fabric like a fan or accordion and the tie with rubber bands.

Marbles – Tie marbles into the fabric.

tie dye with popsicle sticks

Sticks – Twist the fabric around a stick and then tie it in place before dying. This shirt was folded with multiple popsicle sticks inside.

Pin these How to Tie Dye instructions to Pinterest to save it for later.

6 Tie Dye Ideas for Fun Clothes

Did you have fun making tie dye? I’d love for you to share your projects with me. Send me an email or tag me on social!

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