How To Tie Dye T-Shirts (It’s Not As Scary As You Think)

how to tie dye t-shirts

I hate to admit it but I have never tie dyed anything in my life.  Besides the fact that I didn’t know how to do it, I really didn’t want the horrible mess that comes with it.  All that dye, where would I do it and how would I not stain everything in my entire house?  I figured it was easier to tell the kids no than to try to figure it out.

That was then and this is now.  The other day my sister, her daughter, my daughters and I (the gang) went to A. C. Moore  and they had white t-shirts on sale 5 for $10.  For some reason I decided we should try tie dying some.  Can you believe their shock when I suggested it?

I had seen different tie dye sets offered before but I never actually checked them out because I knew I’d never buy any so I wasn’t sure what to get.  Since I was already buying a ton of other stuff I figured I’d go cheap and buy the set of five colors for $6.99.  It ended up being on sale for $5 (woohoo).  We chose the bright neon colors but they also had two other kits with different colors and a couple of larger kits with lots of colors.  Our kit claimed to be able to dye 25 projects and at first I was skeptical but after dying our 5 shirts the kids scrambled to find other things to try to use up all the dye.

how to tie dye t-shirts

How to tie dye a t-shirt

  1. Choose a spot to lay out a large disposable table-cloth or an area lined with garbage bags.  This is where you’ll do your dying.
  2. Decide on the kind of pattern you want for your shirt.  You can search on google or Pinterest for examples.
  3. Run the shirt under water to completely soak it.  The entire shirt should be wet.
  4. Wring out the shirt the best you can to get all of the excess water out.  You want the shirt to be damp but not soaking wet.  We wrung them out and then wrapped a towel around them and wrung them again.
  5. When you have all the excess water wrung out fold your shirt according to the directions your example may have shown.  We made a couple of patterns.  The spiral pattern is shown below and the pics show how we folded our shirts to get that design.

Steps 1 – 5 below

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

When you have your shirt folded, place rubber bands around it according to your directions.  We followed the examples from patterns we liked online.  We dyed ours according to those examples, too.  The directions on our kit said to use the dye within 45 minutes so we added the water after everyone had their shirts folded and secured with rubber bands.

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

how to tie dye t-shirts

When you’re finished dying your shirt wrap it in plastic or put it in a bag and let it sit for 4-8 hours so that the dye has a chance to absorb into the fabric and set.  Tip: My daughter checked a pair of socks she dyed after about 4 or 5 hours and the colors were very light.  We decided to let our shirts set overnight to ensure brighter results.

how to tie dye t-shirts

The following morning we unwrapped the shirts and rinsed them.  This is probably the most tedious and time-consuming part of the entire process.  Rinse the shirt until you don’t see any more color coming out of it.  Make sure to rinse the entire shirt especially the neck ring if you dyed it, squeezing and wringing it.  And when you think you’re finished, rinse it some more.

After you’ve rinsed, squeezed and wrung out your shirt hang it somewhere to dry.  Warning: Even after doing all of the above a couple of our shirts dripped colored water when hanging to dry.  I ended up rinsing the bottom of one and was surprised that it was taking color out again!  Do not hang them over anything that can’t get wet or stained because they may drip like ours!

how to tie dye t-shirts

When the shirts dry follow the washing instructions on your tie dye kit.

A few things to note…

  • Most kits come with gloves but we’re rebels and didn’t use them.  Actually we didn’t realize there were two pairs which still would not have been enough so we went without.  Our hands did get stained but the dye washed off in a day or so.
  • Make sure you have rubber bands on hand.  Our kit came with some but the display where we picked up our kit also had bags of rubber bands which was convenient so we grabbed one and did end up using them.
  • We chose to use gallon size baggies to store each shirt while setting.  Place shirts in separate bags so that they do not bleed on each other!  When we were finished with the project I rinsed the bags and dried them so that we can use them again for other craft projects.

After all was said and done, there was nothing scary about the process.  Honestly, the biggest issue we had was deciding which pattern we all wanted to try!  I would definitely do it again and that’s something I never thought I’d say.

Have you ever tried tie dying?  Let me know how it went and if you’d do it again.

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