Tie Dye to Die for

tie-dye1.JPGOur local Earth Scouts had a family picnic on Sunday to celebrate the coming spring and to reward the li’l scouts for their participatory work thus far in learning about human rights.  Lucky for us, the weather was great for our main planned project — tie dye t-shirts.

We have learned a lot about the process.  There’s this site that has an awesome instruction guide.  We were given good how-to’s by a friend and by the sales guy where I bought the dyes (a local place called Sydney’s Emporium).  The dyes aren’t cheap ($4.95/ea), but good results are priceless.  We were recommended (and we verify the recommendation) to use the Procion MX dyes.

The instructions on the link above are great, and below is what we did and used.


  • 100% cotton shirts/tanks  (the package variety but stained/recycled ones are great, too)
  • bucket (recycled kitter litter container)
  • soda ash (we got it from Sydney’s, and here’s a great site for info about it)
  • water (I just found out that if you have hard water, distilled water for the dyes is recommended.  Good to know for next time.)
  • dyes (turquoise makes an awesome, bright blue; we were advised to use fuchsiaaverys_shirt.JPG as our red; lemon yellow; bright orange; navy; deep purple, though the turquoise and fuchsia make a deep purple)
  • plastic bottles with small tips (Make sure the lids are tight-fitting.  Even the $1 bottles from the craft store were leaky.  A friend recommended a restaurant supply store.)
  • rubber bands, the skinny ones
  • rubber gloves would prevent the week-long dyed cuticles that most of us have!
  • gallon zip-top baggies

Soak the shirts in soda ash water (1 c. ash to 1 gal. water — make sure ash is dissolved) for 30 min.  Ring out excess.  (This water dries out your hands!  Gloves would probably be good here.)

Lay shirt flat.  Decide how you want to dye your shirt.  Some used the bunch and tie method.  My favorite was the spiral; pinch where you want the center of the spiral to be and twist.  We didn’t tie off as much as the printed instructions  above, which is why we don’t have as much white. 

Applying dye is the fun (and messy) part.  If doing the spiral, you apply the dye in pieces of pie shapes or an asterisk.  Remember your art lessons.  Primary colors
(red, blue, yellow) together make brown.  For us, it was good on some shirts as seen above, but it might not be your intention.  This is such an experimental process, and you have to wait to see how it turns out!

After dyed, place the bundle in a large zip-top bag and let it sit . . . for 24 hours.  I know.  It’s a long time, so keep yourself preoccupied and know that the longer it sits, the better off the dye will be.

Then, rinse with cold water.  Cut the bands/strings.  Keep rinsing until the water istie-dye2.JPG
almost clear.  The instructions say to increase the water to hot, then wash on a hot/cold cycle.  We have rinsed with cold then hung to dry.  Today I’ll wash and hope for the best!

(The photos are from the shirts hanging to dry.  If they change dramatically after washing, I’ll post a follow-up.)

Have fun!

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I added photos to our St. Patrick’s Day craft.  The kiddos had fun finding their “treasure box.”

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