Tie dying isn’t just for the ’70s anymore! Tie dying is fun, easy and can give old garments new life. You can even get some really fashionable designs without much work.
I’ve tie-dyed more than a few garments in my day. Sometimes clothes get old and faded, or you just get sick of owning too many white t-shirts. Tie-dying isn’t just for hippies, it’s actually finding its way back into fashion, and it’s not that hard to do at home, right in your own kitchen sink.
Tie-dying doesn’t require a lot of materials. You need your item of clothing, a bunch of rubber bands, a clean sink and some paint. You can buy fabric paints (there are even some made just for tie dying), or you can get acrylic craft paints. I’ve found that acrylic craft paints are less expensive and work just as well.
The first thing you’ll want to do is get your colors ready. You’ll need some squeeze bottles to put your paint in. Cleaned out ketchup or mustard bottles work well. Put some paint into the bottle and enough water to thin it out without diluting the color too much. If your paint is too thick it won’t bleed well, if it’s too thin it will bleed too much and be too bright.
Once you have your paint ready, it’s time to prepare the garment. I’ll tell you how to do a t-shirt, but the same steps apply on most garments. Lay the shirt flat, and grab the center front of it. Twist it, and then put a rubber band on about an inch or two down. Twist more, then add another band. The distance between bands will determine the width of the dye rings. Keep going until the front is complete. You can stop here, or do the back and sleeves the same way.
Now that you have your bands in place it’s time to start adding color. Hold the shirt up and start at the center front of the shirt, at the tip of the twist. Squirt this section with the first color. Don’t over-saturate the fabric, but use enough to get all the cloth in that section. (If you want, you can purposefully not soak the section completely. This will leave interesting light veins in that section.) Continue coloring each section until the shirt is complete. Use clothespins to hang the shirt from a hanger to dry. It’s a good idea to have newspaper underneath in case you used too much paint and it drips.
When the shirt is dry, remove the rubber bands and straighten the shirt. Your garment should now be complete! It’s a wise idea to hand wash the garment one time before wearing or putting it in the washer. I also suggest trying your skills on an old shirt you don’t care about, or some scrap fabric before moving on to a garment you want to keep. It takes a little skill to get the thickness of the paint and the amount of saturation right.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can do all sorts of clothing or anything fabric. Denim is a bit harder to work with, but you can start at the ankle and work your way up for a really neat effect. Play around with different starting points on your fabric, different distances between bands and different color combinations. You don’t need to use a rainbow of colors of you don’t want to.
I did a great skirt once where I started with plain blue at the bottom hem, and added a drop of black for each ring, so it went from black at the waist to blue at the bottom. I’ve also done fade-dying, which is when you use bleach on a dark garment. Start with highly diluted bleach where you want the most color kept, and slowly make it stronger to make the item lighter and lighter. Play around with swatches of fabric or old clothes you were about to toss out. You can make some amazing looking designs as you become better at tie-dying.