Today we begin a whole month of fabric dye/printing projects!
I love the bright colors and elements of surprise in tie-dying. This project will get you started on two basic tie-dye folds that are easy to do and have many variations that can keep you busy through lots of T-shirts. I have a casual approach to tie-dying - I like to be surprised by what the design turns out looking like. Others will practice a fold over and over until it turns out the same every time. You'll probably decide quickly which your preference is.
*several tubs - I get mine at the dollar store
*a wire rack
*lots of paper towels or several old towels you don't mind having stained
*heavy plastic gloves
*a dust mask (hardware stores)
*measuring cups and spoons and a funnel that you will ONLY be using for dye projects (no cooking!)
*something to stir with - I use bamboo skewers and wood chopsticks
*gallon size plastic bags that can be zip closed
*soda ash - this fixes your dye to the fabric. It is not the same as baking soda but is the same as the additive for pools that raises pH. Some people use unscented laundry soda, but I've never tried this.
*fiber reactive dye - I use Procion powders
*100% cotton T-shirts - I buy Hanes T-shirts by the 5 pack at Target. I get the regular ones for summer wear (it's hot here in Phoenix) and the heavier ones for winter wear
*plastic squeeze bottles
*optional - artificial sinew (goes by names like waxed linen or waxed string, sometimes)
Where to buy supplies:
There are several on-line sites to buy dye supplies from and if you are lucky enough to live in a university town with a fibers program, the local art stores will probably carry a basic line of materials. I order mine from Dharma Trading Company. I've been a happy customer for about 20 years. They're friendly, knowledgeable, and always willing to answer questions.
Steps to tie-dye:
1. Wash your t-shirts. No need to dry them - just take them out as you're ready to fold them.
2. In one of your tubs, mix your soda water. Wear your mask when measuring the soda ash. Use 1/2 cup soda ash to each gallon of warm water (soda ash dissolves better in warm water). We dyed six shirts and 1 gallon was plenty for us. Many more than this and you'll probably need 2 gallons. Stir until all the soda ash is dissolved.
3. Set up your dye tub by laying a rack over another one of the tubs. You can do this outside or in a sink. If you use the kitchen sink, remove everything from around the sink and do not use the sink for food preparation until you have thoroughly scrubbed it.
4. Fold your shirts. Today, we're using two basic folds - accordion folds and spiral folds. The accordion fold can be dyed as is after you rubber band it or you can do more to it - roll it up in a spiral, roll from each end until they meet, accordion fold it again, ... just experiment!
Spiral folds will turn out differently depending on how tightly you secure them with the rubber bands or artificial sinew. You can vary this fold by making one spiral in the middle or differing numbers of spirals in different places on the shirt. Again, experiment!
5. After you have a shirt folded and secured with rubber bands/artificial sinew, place it in the soda water for 10 - 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can soak your shirts in the soda water before dyeing - just squeeze well to remove excess water before tieing.
6. While your shirts are soaking, mix up the dye bottles. For the a basic rainbow colored shirt, I use turquoise, fuschia red, and lemon yellow. As these colors flow into each other, they'll make different violets, greens, and oranges. However, you can use any colors you want. I tried one today with black, brown, and orange.
I use 2 - 8 tsp. of dye per 8 oz. water. The dyes without a * by them in the catalog use 2 tsp. The dyes with a * by them use 4 tsp., and the dyes with ** next to them use 8 tsp. I use a Sharpie and write this on top of the dye containers when I get them so I don't have to keep looking up which ones have how many *'s.
Wear your mask when measuring the dyes. Add the powdered dye to the squeeze bottle, add a little water, shake well until the dye is dissolved, and add the rest of the water. Some dyes don't dissolve very well and will require you to keep shaking them.
7. Remove a shirt from the soda water and squeeze the excess water out. Set it on the rack and apply the dye.
There are many different strategies you can use to apply the dye. I've drawn some diagrams below showing a few I often use. You can also just squirt it on randomly.
There's no right or wrong way, though - experiment!
8. When you have dyed your shirt, put it into a gallon size zipper type plastic bag, push the air out, and seal it up. Leave this bag sitting for about 24 hours. Actually, I've gotten too anxious to see my results before and have cut it to 18 hours!
9. The next day, you're ready to rinse your shirts. And get ready to rinse!! Getting the extra dye out is key to having a nice looking shirt - there aren't any short cuts!
Rinse your tied up shirt until the dye coming off begins to lessen. This can take a few minutes - be patient!
Undo the rubber bands and sinew ties and open your shirt up. This part is like Christmas! What did I get?!
Don't worry if your shirt looks darker than you were hoping for. You still have a lot of rinsing to go.
Now the real rinsing begins! What I do is rinse and squeeze over and over again. Big C likes to fill the shirt with water and then press it down against a corner of the sink to squeeze the water and dye out.
Keep doing this until you barely have any dye coming out. Some colors, such as fuschia and purple, take longer.
At this point, I set the shirt aside and go on to the next one. When I get the next shirt done, I re-rinse the first one. As I finish each shirt, I re-rinse the shirts that are sitting there already done. When all shirts are finished, I still leave them sitting by the sink (in the tub) and come back to rinse about 2 or 3 more times. Then I'm ready to put them in the washing machine.
10. If you've done a good job of rinsing, you're probably not going to have much trouble with backstaining. This is when one of your colors moves into a lighter area (like white spots) during washing and dyes it a light color. Reds and fuschia are particularly nasty about staining areas pink. To avoid this, I use professional textile detergent, such as Synthrapol or Dharma's house brand. Use 1/4 cup per load (use 1/2 of this amount if you have a front load HE machine - I learned the hard way).
Set the washer for double rinse and you're done! Well ... except for the cleaning up and sink scrubbing.
Here are the shirts we made and a few notes on how they were tied and dyed:
This was C's favorite! She did a diagonal fold and then rolled and tied the long piece into a spiral. She dyed with turquoise, yellow, and purple and then put turquoise on top of all the yellow. Nice!
This shirt was a double spiral - one at the lower left corner and one on the upper right shoulder. Fuschia, turquoise, purple and yellow were used with turquoise applied over the top of all the yellow.
I folded this in a spiral, right in the center of the shirt and then applied turquoise, fuschia, and yellow in spirals.
I folded this one in a diagonal fold and rolled the fold into a spiral. I used tangerine, better black, and deep brown dyes, applied in a spiral.
C folded this one in a spiral and applied the dyes in a spiral. She used fuschia and a purple made from turquoise and fuschia. It was a bugger to rinse out!
C folded this one in diagonal folds and then rolled one end to the middle and the other end to the middle to meet it. It's in the earlier photo sitting in the soda water. She used all the dye colors applied randomly.
If you get tired of tie-dyed shirts, try baby clothes, pillow cases, towels (pool towels are fun!), fabric for quilting, or anything that's 100% cotton ... you'll be seeing more of ours later!
Next week, we'll be dying shirts and fabric in solid colors and will learn different fabric printing methods in the weeks after.
Happy Creating! Deborah