Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Making Tie-dyed Shapes: Tutorial

In my former life, I taught arts and crafts to kiddos, at summer day camps and sleep-away camps. I taught tie-dying, basket weaving, sewing, and other fun crafty stuff. Now I get to use my skills for fun projects with my own kiddos. 

Fun, bright, tie-dyed shirts, with shapes in the center (or anywhere!), were always a big hit with everyone. They seem hard to make, like they take some sort of super-human tie-dying skillz, but really, they don't. Here's my little (haha) tutorial (warning, it's VERY picture heavy), to guide you through making some fun shirts for your kids, you, or anyone you like enough to
make a super cool shirt for.

First, decide on a shape or design to trace on the shirt. The simpler, the better. My kids wanted Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter's scar. (sorry, I don't have a link for the scar, but you can draw one, or Google it.) Cut it out, and get the rest of your stuff ready:
needle, thread, pencil, rubber bands, soda ash, big bowl of water

Next, trace your shape, with a pencil onto your shirt.

Thread your needle, and tie a nice strong knot at the end. I double up my thread, to keep it from slipping off the needle, and it's a bit stronger. Start sewing along your traced line with a running stitch. Sew all around your shape.

When you get to where you started, start to slowly pull your thread to gather it all together, nice and tight.

Tie off the end with a really strong knot. This is how the gathering should look.

Once you get all the shirts sewn, that you're going to tie dye, they need to soak in a mixture of soda ash and water (1c soda ash to 1gal water). Please don't skip this step. It makes the dye react to the fibers of the fabric to make the dye more permanent. Pool supply stores often have it, if you don't want to order a bunch online. If you have a pool, you might have some sitting on a shelf.

Let it soak for an hour or so. Wring out the excess and get ready to do some dying!!

Okay, here comes the fun part! Dying!!
Here's what you'll need:
powdered dye, urea, bottles, rubber bands, gloves, old rags, prepped shirts (they should be wet)
I buy all of my dying supplies from Dharma Trading Co, online.
They have a great starter kits, too.

Prep all of your dyes, in the bottles, according to the manufacturer's instructions. The urea is used when mixing the powdered dye and water in the bottle. It helps keep the colors nice and bright. We don't want all of our hard work to fade away with a couple of washes.

Wrap a rubber band right along/just below the gathered stitching line. Wrap it nice and tight. Continue wrapping rubber bands along the length of the shirt. Space them out, how you'd like.

If you've got a cute little helper sitting around, ask him to join in. Zip-lock sandwich bags worked great as gloves for him.

Pull out a length of plastic wrap, then lay an old rag and your prepped shirt on top of it.

Pick your first color. Little Miss chose fuschia for Mickey's head. Gently sqeeze the dye to saturate the area. Poke the tip of the bottle in between the folds to make sure you get it in all
of the cracks and crevices.

Continue dying the rest of the sectioned areas with the colors of your choice. Remember to poke the tip of the bottle into the folds of the shirt, and squeeze some dye in there. Otherwise, you'll end up with big areas with no dye.
After it's been saturated with dye, remove the rag, and place the shirt on top of the saran wrap.

Wrap it up like a little tye-dyed burrito.

Place your colorful little burrito in a ziplock bag and leave it alone for 24 hours. This time is very important. The dye needs time to set. If you skip this step, your shirt will fade. We don't want that. The brighter, the better!

Remember to wear your own gloves, or your hands may suffer the same fate as mine.

24 hours later...
Go ahead and take your shirt out of it's burrito, and put it under warm running water. Rinse it under the water, letting the water soak in, then squishing it out, rinse, repeat. Do this, with the rubber bands on, until the water runs mostly clear. Turn the water to cold, and continue to rinse until the water runs completely clear.

Go ahead and remove the rubber bands.

And now for the best part! Very very carefully snip one of the knots at the end of the thread. Gently pull the thread out. And... TADA!!!!! 

After you have all of your shirts rinsed, and the threads removed, it's time to do a final wash.
In your regular washer (top or front loader, it doesn't matter), wash your shirts on warm with the detergent of your choice. I do an extra cold rinse. It just makes me feel better. If you see any color in the water or suds, give it another go in the washer. Dry on medium to high heat.

If your kids didn't already think you were the coolest, they will now!
Enjoy your new shirts! My kiddos love their's and wear them as often as possible!
I think the Mickeys need some extra bling, though.
Maybe some heat-fix crystals? I think, yes!

Hindsight is 20/20, right?
When I do this next time, I'l make sure to get extra dye in the folds of the shirts that the boy worked on. He did all the dying for his sister's shirts, and, as you can see, a few areas are lacking some color.


  1. Hi Cristy! Love this tutorial. Your kids are too cute, too! I'll be back for more! All the best!

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  6. How do you keep the thread from breaking when you pull it tight at the end? Is it a special thread?

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