How to Tie Dye a T-Shirt

Posted on April 28, 2020 by Lee Norris

The sun is beginning to shine, and while we still can't visit beaches or parks, there is another spring and summertime staple that you can do while still social distancing: tie dye! Tie dyeing is a super easy and fun way to be creative, plus it's been seeping back into the runways lately. So grab a white tee, tank, or hoodie and follow the directions below to stay effortlessly on trend!

Additional Materials Needed:

  • Optional: Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative
  • Plastic Squirt Bottles
  • Rubber Bands
  • Salt
  • Baking Rack
  • Measuring Cup
  • Optional: Microwave
  • Plastic Gloves
  • Plastic Tablecloth

Things to Know Before You Start:

Fabric dyeing is done best with natural fibers, such as cotton, silk, wool, or linen. Dyeing synthetic fabrics like polyester isn't the easiest, but some synthetic dyes are also available. For the sake of this tutorial though, we'll be working with a cotton tee.

How to Prepare Your Shirt for Tie Dyeing:

  1. First, it's recommended that you pre-wash your shirt in warm, soapy water. This will help remove any stains or finishes on your garment and will result in a cleaner, more consistent dye.
  2. Next, decide on a design for your tie dyeing. I went with two options: a classic spiral, as well as a more abstract bunching technique.

  • Spiral:

    • Lay shirt flat on the table, place a fork where you'd like the spiral to originally from, slowly rotate, secure with rubber bands

  • Bunching Technique:

    • Lay shirt flat on table, gather from bottom, secure with rubber bands

Before dying, soak each shirt for a few seconds and then wring out excess water.

How to Mix Dye:

  1. Each bottle should hold one color each. Shake your dye well before adding 2 tbsp to each bottle. (Note: if using powdered dye, use 1/2 tsp.)
  2. Mix in two cups of hot water to each bottle.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, add the cap and shake well.

How to Apply Dye to Garment:

  1. Slowly squirt dye onto your shirts where desired. It's strongly recommended that you dye over a bowl or baking rack to ensure that dye doesn't pool beneath your shirt and stain.
    1. If doing a spiral design, apply your colors in chunks around your shirt similar to pie slices
    2. For less white space, be sure to get dye into the folds as well. The tighter the folds, the more white space you'll have.

How to Set the Dye:

  1. If you're dyeing a simple tee with no metal parts, you can wrap your garment in plastic wrap and microwave it for two minutes.
    1. Alternatively, you can leave your garment in the sun for at least an hour.
  2. Once your shirt is cool, rinse thoroughly in cool water until water runs clear.
  3. Remove rubber bands to reveal your creation!

For future care, wash in warm water with mild detergent.

Have you given tie dye a try? Let me know what kind of designs worked for yours!

How to Tie Dye a T-Shirt - Mood Sewciety
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