Tie-Dyed T-Shirts

It seems incredible to me that in all my years of exploring arts and crafts, I’ve never actually had a go at tie-dyeing before, but because it looked so easy, I thought it was about time we tried it.  Although this activity may seem a little more craftful than artful, after doing so much playing with watercolour, it felt pretty similar, only this time we were using the T-shirts as our canvas!

We tried 2 different techniques – the first to create a random effect, and the second to create horizontal white lines. As for the dye itself, we used Dylon’s range of hand-dyes and followed the instructions for making it up. Having done a few searches online for tie-dyeing, I found some tutorials which told you to put the fabric in while dry, but also others which recommended you to put it in while damp. So as I was going to be dyeing 2 T-shirts at a time (according to the instructions, I probably could have done 3 since the T-shirts were quite small) I decided to put one T-shirt in dry, and the other damp to see what the difference would be.

For the random style, we scrunched up the two T-shirts tightly, and secured them with elastic bands, before putting them into the dye. Then, after about an hour we took them out, removed the elastic bands, and rinsed them through to remove the excess dye. There were clear differences to be seen between the two T-shirts. The T-shirt which had been placed into the dye dry (photo below), had much more white space left on it, while with the one which had been put into the dye damp (see photo on right), the dye had diffused across the T-shirt more. I like the effect of both, but I think do prefer the one that was put in damp, so my next experiment was done that way. My younger son though liked his T-shirt (the one that had been put in dry) especially because he thought the patterns looked like roses!





For the T-shirts with diagonal lines, we pleated the damp T-shirts diagonally and then tied elastic bands around it at intervals, before being placed in the dye bath.




You can see the finished effect below.




This is a really easy activity to do – just make sure that you wear old clothes/aprons and rubber gloves. Oh, and do make sure that the rubber gloves you use don’t have holes in first. I forgot to check this and ended up with very red fingers for a few days.  All of us loved the anticipation of taking the T-shirt out of the dye and untying it at the end – you never know quite what result you’re going to get!

There are of course lots of other ways of tying the material to get different effects, and if you use the slightly different technique where you squirt the dye onto the T-shirt and then place it in a plastic bag, you can get multi-colour effects too. I’m not personally so keen on this style though, so we didn’t try it, but I do plan to have a go at dip-dyeing some T-shirts next….