Summertime Gladness Day Six: How to Tie Dye in seven easy steps

I’ve always loved a spot of craft. But for some unknown reason, I’d never tried my hand at tie dye. Until a few weeks ago that is. And now I absolutely love it.

My boyfriend was hosting an end of term Summer party for his Youth Club with a Hawaiian theme. The surf and turf, laid back nature of tie dye, tied in perfectly (pun intended) with the theme. So the week before, all the youth gathered round a large table (outside, to avoid tie dying the parquet floor) and went crazy with multi-coloured dies.

I never knew there were so many tie dying techniques, there really is quite an array. But I opted for the spiral design, dubious of how it would actually turn out but eager to give it a go nonetheless. Let me share with you how I went about making it.

What you will need:

  • A t-shirt (goes without saying really)
  • Water in a spray bottle
  • Elastic bands
  • Plastic or rubber gloves (anything to prevent you from obtaining rainbow palms)
  • Dye – I used TULIP One Step Tie-Dye Kit which you can buy online. It comes with a great range of different colour dyes in powder form which you add water to.
  • A suitable area in which to do Tie-Dye, ideally outside or on a table covered in an old, and potentially waterproof sheet. The dye is permanent and will stain clothes, skin, tablecloths and carpets (trust me, I know!)

Step 1: Firstly, spend some time getting your dye ready. You’ll need to add water to the powder and give the bottles a jolly good shake to make sure they are all mixed.

Step 2: Grab your t-shirt. Ideally wash it before tie-dying, as it provides a nice clean, blank canvas to work on. No one wants to tie dye over a dried on baked bean spillage. Spray the water from your bottle (alternatively use a shower head, that’s what I did) over the t-shirt until it is covered in a light mist of water, leaving it quite damp.

Step Three: Lay your damp t-shirt out on a flat, clean surface and locate the middle of the garment. Then with you thumb and forefinger pinch the fabric in the middle of the t-shirt (this is where your spiral shape will start, you’re currently forming the centre of it) and start to twist in a clockwise direction. As you twist the t-shirt will gather round, keep twisting until you run out of t-shirt. Warning: the outside of the spiral will look really messy and misshapen, because of the sleeves, just shape them round your spiral as well as you can.


Step Four: When you’re t-shirt resembles a pain au raisin, pop an elastic band around the outside to hold it together. Then, to create the wedges in the spiral, you’ll need some more elastic bands. You can have as many wedges as you like, I opted for eight in the end. To create eight wedges, I slid four elastic bands on the t-shirt, at different angles. I think 6-8 sections will have the best results. You basically want to simulate the wedges in Trivial Pursuit.

Step Five: Once you’re elastic bands are in place, the fun can start. Warning: Make sure you have gloves on, this dye will stain your hands. Also ensure that the area you are tie dying in, is suitably protected. I may have accidentally tie dyed a bit of my boyfriends tablecloth and some of the carpet. So be careful! Ideally choose as many different colours as you have sections, and plonk on the dye. You need enough on each section that it will soak through the t-shirt. Once you’ve done one side, turn your t-shirt over and do the other one. I also put some dye on the edges too. Tie dye experts warn about ‘muddying’ your colours, and advice that you leave a little gap of white between elastic bands, but I just went for it and was quite pleased with how the blending of colours went.

Step Six: When you’ve finished dying (not literally, good grief!) it’s time to wrap up your now colourful t-shirt in some cling film. The cling film helps the dye to fully soak in which leaves you with a more exciting and bold t-shirt. Leave for 6 hours somewhere appropriate. We actually left our t-shirts for at least 24 hours, I think the longer the better really, but obviously you might want to wear it at some point.

Step Seven: Removing your t-shirt from the cling film, rinse under cold water (with the elastic bands still on), this gets rid of any excess dye. Then rinse in warmer water whilst you undo the elastics and unfold the t-shirt. Keep rinsing until all the excess dye has gone and the water runs clear. Then pop in the washing machine on a normal cycle and hang to dry.

And that’s it my friends. Tie dye is really easy and really fun and really quite satisfying when you sit back and look at the end results. Or more aptly, when you wear the results. There are so many different techniques out there to try, and they are all surprisingly easy. So go on, give it a tie! Hehe see what I did there?

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