Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Project - Red, White, and Blue Tie Dye!

With Fourth of July celebrations a week away, you still have time to tie dye up some great red, white, and blue t-shirts!  These are the shirts Big C, my mom, and I tie dyed for our family barbecue last year.  Yep - nine of them plus a onesie.  Our arms about fell off rinsing them all!  Big C and I had planned to start the summer off with a blog on new tie dye designs, but that was before she got a job in Portland as little c's nanny.  We'll do that post in late August!

*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!)
*rubber bands
*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
For these shirts, I used Procion Fire Red and Procion Cobalt Blue
*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.

See this past blog post for directions on tie dying T-shirts.  There are a couple of videos demonstrating how to tie the shirts for spirals and stripes.  For the shirts in the middle of the opening photo, we pleated the shirts vertically and then tied the pleats only up to the arm pits.  Above that, we scrunched them up and added the blue in splotches.  It's a very uncontrolled method!

A few hints --

Be sure to leave a good size buffer of white between the red and blue to avoid getting purple.  It was close on some of these, but we managed to only get a little brown on one shirt.  Brown?!  Yeah, we couldn't figure that one out either.

Be prepared for lots of rinsing!  Both of these colors seem to need that.

You'll have pinkish tinges on the white when rinsing.  Don't panic!  Wash in Synthrapol or another dye dispersing detergent and you'll have white again when they come out of the washer.

Try other types of shirts too!  I made this one for my husband with a rayon button up shirt from Dharma.  I had very little pattern in mind - so I got very little pattern!  But he liked it.

Happy Creating!  Deborah


  1. These look beautiful! And I had never heard about using Synthrapol, I´m not sure where to get it in Germany or how it´s called, but it sounds like the thing I´d need :)
    I´m trying to tie dye my skirt green this week.

  2. Thank you! I order Synthrapol and a house brand from Dharma Trading Company ( in the San Francisco area. They do ship world wide - don't know what the shipping charge would be, though! It's fantastic for keeping that back dye off your whites in tie dye.