2Create in Color »

Masthead header

A Tie-Dye Tale

Everyone has tie-dyed before! Right? Unless you are from my family. I could never face the potential for dye disasters, so my kids did a lot of other arts, crafts, creative this-and-that, but not tie-dye. Maybe at someone else’s house, but not at mine! So this blog post is more about the story of our first venture.

Last week, my son Robert decided he needed a tie-dye T-shirt. He’s a very artistic and clever young man, and we have fun working together! But this idea of his posed more problems that you might guess at first.

With his being almost 20 years old, the risk for a disastrous mess was going to be… his problem to clean up! My fistful of coupons meant cost wasn’t a problem. Finding a dye-able white T-shirts that’s worth dyeing AND fits the kid, Big Problem. Actually, it’s a size Med-Tall problem – a size that’s hard to find.  Unbelievably, we found high quality Med-T  T-shirts at our first stop!

1. First T-shirt — last rubber band going on, for a pinwheel effect. 
2. Next, let’s get creative! Trying for a double pinwheel. How can we band this so it works?
3. A few tries at the double pinwheel later, we surrender. I had been in the process of tying my first piece of carefully pleated white muslin while I watched (and advised and laughed a bit) so I explained why I really like dyeing pleated fabric – I have used many a can of Simply Spray on dozens of T-shirts in demos, and pleating is my fave technique there. It’s pretty easy. 
4. Next try with second T:  even folds — pleats —  from the left shoulder.
5. It gets to be a lot of folds farther down the shirt! Don’t let them overlap, though. Turn them into more folds.
As soon as we got home, he’s ready to start. After reading the directions (a couple times at my prompting) he finally realized they need to be washed first, which I knew. I think it almost caused a Toddler Moment. Wash, leave damp, and Hurray! They’re still really long!
It’s now 7:30pm and we begin, outside because I was still nervous. I have to tell you, all the white T-shirt and dyeing pics have been heavily processed for the blue shadowy light we had. The white muslin I started to dye has not, because SOMEBODY used all the red before I had ANY, so I cropped it out.  It is still sitting on my counter in a baggie, all orange/naked, probably mildewing. Not that I’m bitter ;)

6. As you move down the shirt, you have to finesse in more folds
7. Pleat the sleeves, then tuck them up against the body.
8. Tulip brand dye powder that comes in ready-to-add-water squeeze bottles. Nice!
9.  As I mentioned, we were outside which is a really good place to be when shaking and opening squeeze bottles full of dye. Especially if you are 19 and 11/12ths years old. (why does HE have the gloves on?)
9.5 (pictures included below) The squirting of red and orange began, and oh those colors were gorgeous together – good choice, Robert! As I mentioned, he used a lot of red. All the red.
Ohhh, welllllll…. I’ll get over it soon. But I won’t let him forget it! LOL
10. We bagged them up as directed– they made a nice tiered cake on a platter; see the picture? Just waiting for the next day for untying and washing. 
About 20 hours later that we unwrapped the two T-shirts and put them through the washer and a hot dryer. Hurray, they’re still long and so very colorful! Very Watermelon & Tangerine.


The spiral wrap (pinwheel) was easier to tie, but you end up with a lot more blank areas on the body of the shirt. The pinwheel effect doesn’t show up as well with just 2 colors as it does with 3 or more. Isn’t it great?

Saturating the fabric with dye, even if it means using up all the red before anyone else gets a chance at it, is a good idea for rich, even color.

The pleated style below was more work to tie, but the dye is more even throughout the T-shirt, especially if you are careful to make fairly controlled folds.

Would I dye, or tie-dye again, with or without partners? Yes. Outside would be better than inside.  I’d probably use a more technical dye.  For myself, I’d have several fat-quarter sized pieces of white fabric to dye, and first dibs on the dye ;)


  • Daily alexa - You can do a few small sections of tie dye and allow the original shirt color to show through on the rest of the area.09.05.2017 – 8:28amReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *