Summer Trend: Tie Dye DIY

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tie dye t-shirtI remember my first tie dye. I was in 9th grade at a youth convention in St. Louis, MO. During the day they would open up themed booths at the convention center and the Hawaiian lūʻau tie dye stand was lit that day. A giant tarp was laid out on the ground scattered with complicated buckets, dye puddles, string, and a 1:20 scissor ratio. It took 45 minutes to dye the t-shirt, 43 of which were spent waiting for the scissors. And because life doesn’t come with guarantees, a counselor handed me “my” t-shirt that– you guessed it– wasn’t mine. My beloved first tie dye was on someone else’s body.

Needless to say, I gave up on tie dye.

Fast forward to 2020, the year of many firsts and “I’m going to try that again.” My tie dye curiosity was heightened after finding a blush silk skirt with marbled coral tie dye swirls earlier this year. Then I started noticing the trend show up on some of my favorite online sites.  Fashion has a funny way of repeating itself and it’s clear this trend was here to hang for the summer.

Then this thing called COVID-19 happened, and suddenly, I had plenty of time on my hands to give tie dye another go. I was ready and committed to the complicated buckets and string, but this time I had one up on the scissor ratio. I googled “tie dye” and found several everything is included kits by Tulip.

Kits. With fill-to-this-line squeeze bottles, prefilled with powdered dye. No buckets!

Kits that contained rubber bands, not string!

And the biggie: kits that took 45 minutes of creating and waiting, and condensed it down to three minutes. Which means, I could create fifteen tie dye pieces in the time it took me to make one. Bring me all the things!

I ventured out and grabbed some tie dye kits from the craft store and picked up a few 100% cotton clothing items from the store. A few meaning a lot.  Cotton items will absorb more more dye, therefore creating a more vibrant look. However, any type of natural fabric (undyed linen, cotton or silk) will work.

After trying a few methods a few times, I’ve broken them down into three categories: Tie Dye Kits, Natural Dye, and Fabric Dye.

Tie Dye Kits

Made with Tulip products

Materials:

  • Choice of natural fabric
  • Dye kit*
  • Bucket or bowl
  • Water
  • Plastic bag

*Follow the kits instructions. Most tie dye kits come with rubber bands and gloves. They also come with design options and a step by step guide in achieving your look.

Steps:

  1. After rubber banding your item, fill bottles to desired water line, replace cap, and shake well.
  2. Hold item over a bucket or large bowl while squeezing the dye from the bottles.  Once item is color blasted, seal in a plastic baggie for eight hours.  Pro Tip: If you’re worried about messes, tie dye in the grass or on a large tarp to prevent messes and spills.
  3. Remove item from baggie and wash in cold water. Do not add detergent. Hang to dry.

Pro Tip: Pre-wash your items to allow the dye to adhere to fabric and remember to wear your gloves!

Natural Dye

Made with turmeric powder

Materials:

  • Choice of natural fabric
  • Rubber bands
  • 1/4 cup ground turmeric*
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Wooden stick or spoon
  • One large pot

*Other natural dye items to consider: colorful spices, red cabbage and berries.  Use 1 tablespoon ground spice for every 2 cups water + 1/8 cup salt.

Steps:

  1. Prewash fabric in detergent and use 1/4 cup white vinegar during the final rinse.  This will help remove any sizing from the fabric so the dye will hold.  Rinse well.
  2. Fill pot with water.  Prep the turmeric.  Pro Tip: The more turmeric, the darker the fabric. Add salt and turmeric.  Bring mixture to a boil stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to simmer.
  3. Prepare the wear: use rubber bands or string to twist and tie your fabric.
  4. Submerge fabric into dye bath completely.  Let fabric sit in pot for at least 1 hour. Use the wooden stick to move fabric around for even coverage. The longer the fabric sits, the more saturated the color.
  5. Remove from dye bath and rinse thoroughly.  Add baking soda to the rinse and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  This fixes the dye permanently so it doesn’t wash out.  Hang to dry.  Because natural dye is being used in this process, the colors will fade slightly in sunlight.
  6. Once dry, run fabric through dryer to soften.

Fabric Dye

Made with Dylon fabric dye

Materials:

*Check out brands like Rit Dye and Dylon.

Steps:

  1. Prep squeeze bottles with fabric dye.  If you are using powder dye, measure out about 2-3 teaspoons of powder, add to squeeze bottle and fill with hot water.  If you are recycling Tulip tie dye kit bottles, fill to water line.  Shake well.  If you are using liquid dye, measure out 2-3 tablespoons and add to bottle.  Fill to line and shake well.
  2. Tie and bind fabric using rubber bands and string to create your pattern.
  3. Squeeze fabric dye onto item over a bowl or bucket to catch drips.
  4. Once complete, put item in a plastic baggie and let it sit for 8 hours.  Remove item and rinse in cold water.  Do not add soap.  Hang to dry.

Pro Tip: Fabric dye not only makes the colors keep longer, but it’s also awesomely cost effective.  Fabric dye packets and dye bottles can be easily preserved and stored for continued use, and there is little product waste.

A few of my personal favorite tie dye styles to try are ombre, kaleidoscope and shibori.  Tulip also offers a colorful guide packed with different designs and ideas.  It’s to dye for.

Tie dye is the snowflake of fashion. Each piece is unique and different, making this style a great representation of individuality. It’s also a project the whole family can get in on, especially when seeking fun and engaging activities to fill the summer days.  It’s safe, easy to do, and relatively clean (if you do it right).  The best part is no matter what you create or how you mix the colors, it will always turn out looking cool.

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