Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought a tie dye kit with the best of intentions and then left it sitting in your laundry room for three years because you just don’t think you have the emotional capacity to deal with the mess. We get it. Tie dyeing is so much fun and never seems to go out of style. But, just like when you tried to dye your hair purple at home, it can go wrong very quickly.
There’s more than one way to earn the “green thumb” nickname and tie dye is the very best example. Your kiddos are “dyeing” to do it, though. And, honestly, the mess might be worth the fun, especially if you’re stuck in quarantine and social distancing during COVID-19. They’re going to keep those shirts or pillowcases around for as long as possible and always remember the giggle fits you had while tackling this fun project. And don’t forget you can always use your coloring options as a chance to teach some science. (Unpopular opinion: It’s also a great time to teach your kids how to use the washing machine on their own. Life skills moment!) Here’s how to start:
Prepping For Tie Dye
Prepping for tie dye is easier than you’d think. Always wash your shirt (or any other material you’re dyeing) first and leave it slightly damp for the process. Other than that, the most important thing to keep in mind is something you probably already know: Dyeing is messy! Try to dye outside or plan on putting down a leak-proof drop cloth. If you’re not working from a kit, you’ll want to make sure you have rubber gloves, rubber bands (or string) and a plastic bag handy, as well.
Tie Dye Patterns To Try
1. Spiral Dye
Decide where you want the center of your spiral to be. Remember: There’s no rule that says the center of your spiral must be in the center of your shirt. Once you find it, pinch the center and then slowly twist your shirt. You’ll notice that as you twist/rotate, your shirt will gather and the wrinkles will look like a spiral. Keep twisting until your shirt is in a tight circle. Secure with several rubber bands that overlap in the center. With the rubber bands in place, your shirt will look like a sliced pizza. Use each “slice” as guidance for where to put dye. You can put a different color on each slice (do the front and the back), stick to a color “family” and pattern just 2 to 3 colors or even just use one color.
2. Bull’s Eye
Decide where on your shirt you want the center of your bull’s eye and pinch your shirt there, picking it up as you do. The rest of your shirt will drape below. Secure a rubber band about an inch below your pinch. Continue adding rubber bands further down your shirt, creating a long tail. Squirt your shirt in your desired dye colors — this is another time when just using one color might work best.
View this post on Instagram
Another tie dye post bc it be like that. Back in November, my husband and I started a tie dye shop. It was something for me to do on the side while I was still working. as I reached closer to the end of my pregnancy and for the first month after having my son, I lost all interest in it. I was way too tired to even think about them. But now that I’m getting a hang of being a mama (the best I can anyways), I have went straight back into my shirts. I have been putting in SOOOO much work into creating a business. For my son. For myself. I have a strong love for making these shirts. Since putting my all into this shop, I have made $200 in ONE WEEK. I have been making shirts over and over, figuring out new techniques, designs, and color combos. I’m trying so hard to start this. It makes me so happy when I see someone wearing a shirt that I have made. I have made adult shirts, toddlers, and even onesies. Eventually branching out to other items once our shop gets bigger. If you could, please check out our Instagram or go give a like to our FB page that’s under the same name (@DyeVenture) even just liking & sharing our posts help SO much. Here’s some of the recent shirts / orders that I have worked on. Thank you so much in advance for even reading this. 💙
3. Mini Bull’s Eyes
Instead of pinching once and creating a tail, with mini bull’s eyes, you’ll make several pinches on your shirt and secure them with a rubber band. You can make one-ring bull’s eyes using only one band for each pinch. You could also add a second band an inch before (or after) the first pinch/band to get that peak bull’s eye look.
4. Crumple Method
If patterns aren’t your thing, try the crumple method. Just gather up your shirt in a wrinkled, crumpled mess, then secure with rubber bands. Use one color or a couple colors that all blend well together.
5. Heart-Shaped Pattern
Start by cutting out a heart shape on a piece of paper. Fold your shirt in half. Trace your heart onto your shirt using a washable marker, making sure the seam of your heart is flush with the seam of your shirt. Next, pleat your shirt along the line and suspend with a band. Add more bands along the “tail” of your pleated shirt. Once you’ve secured your desired bands, use dye to properly soak each section in a preferred color.
View this post on Instagram
Are you feeling the 💖❤️🧡💛💚 #loveonhaight #love #loveistheanswer #heart #tiedyeheart #tiedye #tiedyed #tiedyeshirt #sffashion #haightashbury #haightashburylife #haightstreet #artistcollective #artistsupportartists #rainbow #rainbowfamily #unity #rainbowsforall #rainbowsmakepeoplehappy #baby #tiedyebaby #toocute
6. Shibori Tie Dye
Shibori is a super cool Japanese style of tie dye. The key? Getting your shirt bound as tightly as possible and (typically) only using one color. Start by twisting your shirt lengthwise, as tightly as possible. Think about it like you’re about to snap a towel at someone at the pool. The tighter the better (read: more painful). Next, roll your shirt into a spiral, also rolling as tightly as possible, like when you roll a poster to put into a mailing tube. Finally, secure with string, instead of rubber bands. Why string? Because it has less give and you’re able to make it as tight as humanly possible, without snapping it. Soak your shirt in the desired dye of your choice, though navy is the typical option.
7. Triangle Pattern
First, fold your shirt into a long strip. You’ll probably need to fold in your sleeves, then fold your shirt in half at the collar so the sleeves meet. Then, fold in half or thirds. If you can, fold it again. Next, start at one end and accordion fold your shirt into a triangle. (Remember when you learned to fold the flag in safety patrol?) Finally, cut pieces of cardboard into triangles to cap each side and secure tightly with bands or string.
8. Square Dye Pattern
You’ll follow the same instructions as you would for the triangle pattern, except you’ll accordion fold your shirt into squares and put cardboard squares at the ends. Both of these patterns work best if you use the squirt bottle dye and submerge your shirt in dye. Your shirt is very densely packed and dye will have an especially hard time reaching the center.
9. Firecracker Method
While the firecracker tie dye pattern is usually made with red, white and blue for a patriotic feel, you can really do it with any two colors on a white shirt. Pleat or scrunch up your shirt lengthwise so the sleeves come closer together. Next, eyeball your shirt and decide where to separate your shirt into thirds, putting rubber bands in place to separate the thirds. If you’re going with the typical color-scheme, soak the top third of your shirt in red dye and the bottom third in a blue dye. Leave the middle white.
View this post on Instagram
Firecracker tie-dyed skirt 🧨 This is a perfect play skirt for the Fourth of July. The little ruffles at the top make it a bit more fun! • • • • • #etsyshop #fourthofjulyoutfit #independenceday #4thofjuly #tiedyed #tiedyedskirt #firecracker #firecrackertiedye #playskirt #toddlerskirt
10. Rainbow Pattern
Want to create a tie dye rainbow on your shirt? Decide the placement and use washable markers to draw the top and bottom arches of your rainbow. Next, pleat or accordion fold your shirt along each of the lines. Your marker line should be visible and straight. Secure a rubber band over both marker lines. Next, consider how many colors you want for your rainbow and secure more bands between the two arches. Finally, you’ll add dye to each bulge.
View this post on Instagram
Quand je catch mon Slurpee qui tombe du ciel ☁️💥😜 Nouvelle vidéo en ligne. On fait un Tie Dye Challenge avec @carlarsenault Premier look : T-Shirt Moi j’ai fait un arc-en-ciel 🌈, carl un coeur❤️ Qui a gagné ? Laisse-nous savoir dans les commentaires 😘🖖🏻 #tiedye #tiedyeshirt #tiedyefashion #tiedyed #tiedyelove #youtube #huby #youtuber #challenge #rainbow #tiedyerainbow #rainbowtiedye #arcenciel #tiedyeart #tiedyeclothing #colors #🌈
11. Star-Shaped Tie Dye Pattern
Making a star-shaped pattern is very similar to doing the heart-shaped pattern. You’ll start with your shirt folded in half and trace half of a star shape onto your shirt with a washable marker. Afterwards, you’ll pinch/gather/pleat your shirt along the line, making sure to keep the visible marks as straight as possible. Once you’re done, you’ll secure with a rubber band. From there, you can add more bands inside or outside of the star, or just leave it alone for one giant star. Dye accordingly.
Dye Color Tips
Once you’re ready to add dye, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. There’s no rule that says tie dye must include every color of the rainbow. Your patterns will look just as bold with a single color or two shades of one color.
2. When working with multiple colors, consider the rainbow or the color wheel. While it might be fun to do the green and orange colors of the Irish flag, your first attempt might lead you with a lot of brown spots. To avoid bleeding two colors and creating an “ugly” color, consider where you place each option. You can still do green and orange, but leave a white spot between them… or add yellow, so they blend better.
3. Try “reverse dyeing” all of these patterns will work for reverse tie dye, too. Just use a dark or bold colored shirt. Instead of adding color, take color away by using bleach. (In a well-vented area!)
After You Dye
Once you’ve dyed your shirts, you’ll want to give them time to absorb the color. There are tons of different options for this, but it seems like the absolute best comes from Tulip, one of the leading makers of tie dye kits. Simply toss your project in a bag so it stays damp. Then use patience for at least six hours. Afterwards, wash your t-shirt separately and in cold water. (Pro-Tip: Wash it separately for the first couple washes, just to be safe.)