How to Tie Dye T-Shirts

Kids are naturally creative, and they love getting messy, so teaching them to dye their own shirts is an activity they will really enjoy.

Tie-dyeing is so easy that even younger kids should be able to participate, but just pay attention to what they’re doing – you don’t want them to end up with fabric paint all over their faces!  

Tie Dyeing T-Shirts

Image by penelope waits   

Tie Dyeing T-Shirts: What You Need

If you’ve never tie-dyed clothing before, here’s what you’ll need:

  • A clean white t-shirt
  • Fabric dyes and pigments
  • Water
  • Plastic buckets
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rubber bands

Step 1: Preparing Your Shirt for Tie-Dyeing

Depending on the look your kids want to create, you may want to soak the clothing in warm water before starting the dyeing process. If you use a dry shirt, the colours will be easier to control as they won’t run in the fabric. However, if you soak your shirt beforehand, the moisture in the fabric will encourage the colours to spread and blend. If your kids aren’t sure, try doing one of each! Next, it’s time to really get creative.

Using folding techniques and rubber bands tied tightly around the material, your kids can create all sorts of patterns and designs. The dyeing of fabrics is a straightforward process – any section that comes into contact with the dye will change colour – so fold and tie your shirts so that so sections of material won’t come into contact with the dye, creating both white and colourful designs.

Step 2: Prepare Your Dyes for the Dyeing Process

Fabric dyes and paints can be purchased from craft stores and supermarkets, and are very easy to use. Follow the directions on the label for the best results. Generally, you can add more or less water to create different shades. Adding more water will weaken the colour, producing pastel effects, while adding less will make the colour more bright and vibrant.

Pour your prepared dyes into plastic buckets. The buckets should be quite deep and there should be plenty of room to dip the clothing into the bucket without the dye spilling out. It’s always best to wear plastic gloves for this part, and to cover your furniture and clothing to avoid splashes.

Step 3: Tie and Dye!

Now it’s time to get started. Double check that the shirts are folded and tied just as your kids want them, and then dip sections of the fabric into the dye buckets, wringing out any excess. Your kids can choose to use just a single colour, or they can dunk different areas of the shirt into different colours to create a truly crazy design.

When your kids are happy with what they’ve achieved, place the clothing into a plastic bag and leave for about four hours (it’s always best to tie dye shirts just before your kids have other plans, so they’re not waiting round!). This time allows the dyes to soak into the shirt.

Step 4: Rinse, Wash, & Dry

Take the shirt out of the bag and place into a basin of cold water. You’ll notice that a lot of the dye comes out of the clothing, but rest assured that this is just excess.

Massage the garment until all the excess dye has come out of the material, and then pop it into the washing machine for a cold water spin (don’t add anything else to the washer, as more dye will come out of the material in the machine).

Dry your shirt as normal – either in the machine or by hanging on the rail or line. Tie-dyeing t-shirts really is a fun way to encourage your kids’ creativity and imagination, and it’s so easy to do.

Have you ever dyed clothing with your kids? What colours did you use? Did you create any crazy patterns? Share your stories with us on Facebook!