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imageThe tie-dyed t-shirt: The bright colors and random, psychedelic designs are something that has never truly gone away. Tie-dyed shirts and other tie-dyed wearables are a fun and nostalgic throwback to the days of the 60s, Nixon, Woodstock and “flower-power.” The freeform, unstructured, random designs were symbolic of a new way of thinking and expressing one’s self. Over the decades, the tie-dyed look has held on and become a basic clothing staple for the more creatively minded and artistic individuals of each generation. For kids, the bright, colorful, carefree, and casual look of a tie-dyed shirt is a perfect match for their lifestyle and the process of making a shirt can be a great project for a late summer afternoon home with the kids. The process is fairly basic, can be done with a minimal amount of supplies, and always produces a piece of clothing that is unique and fun.

Materials you will need include:image

  • A white t-shirt (100% cotton—polyester will not accept the dye)
  • Plastic drop cloths (to protect your work area)
  • Rubber gloves (to protect your hands from hot water and dyes)
  • Powdered or liquid fabric dyes (your choice of color)
  • A large bucket or stainless steel pot (depending upon dye instructions)
  • Rubber bands (varying widths for variety)
  • Marbles or other small, solid round objects
  • Water
  • Sponge and bucket of soapy water (to clean up any spills)

Pre-wash and dry the t-shirt to rid it of any sizing or fabric treatments that may prevent the dye from being absorbed.

imagePrepare the dye according to the directions on the package. Be sure anyone involved in the project is wearing rubber gloves and old clothing since the dye can, and will, stain anything it touches. If possible, work outdoors to keep potential messes to a minimum. Cover any work areas with a plastic drop cloth (large garbage bags slit down the sides work well also).

An adult should be in charge of the process of mixing the dye and handling the dyeing process since it involves hot water and concentrated colorants. Your child can have the fun of using the rubber bands to tie off sections of the t-shirt. Keep in mind that the dye will not penetrate where the fabric is folded tightly or is covered by the tightness of the rubber band. Some designs to try include:

  • A “sunburst” can be created by taking a section of the t-shirt, putting a marble in the center and securing it with a rubber band to hold it in place. Then, pull some of the fabric down to form a tube and place additional rubber bands at different intervals. The result will be a circle of color with concentric white rings spreading out from it.
  • White lines can be made by taking the t-shirt and rolling it into a “snake”. Then, at different intervals, tie the material off with rubber bands. The areas where the rubber band has compressed the material will remain white and the areas in between will absorb the color of the dye.
  • Small circles can be made by taking a marble (one for each circle desired), gathering some fabric around it and slipping a rubber band over the marble to secure it in place. The result will be a white ring where the rubber band was in place.

Once the t-shirt is tied, you’re ready for the dye bath to color the shirt. This is where an adult will take over. Place the t-shirt in the dye bath and allow it to soak for a period of time, stirring occasionally and keeping the t-shirt submerged. The longer the material soaks in the hot dye bath, the darker the final color on the shirt will become. At the end of the desired dye bath cycle, remove the t-shirt from the dye and rinse the garment according to the instructions on the dye package. Often this will involve rinsing in cold running water and wringing out the t-shirt (still wrapped with rubber bands) until the water runs clear. The color of the shirt will appear darker when wet and will lighten slightly when dried.

Now, for the magic moment: Carefully snip the rubber bands (be careful not to cut the fabric with the points of the scissors) and remove them. Remove the marbles and/or any other items you may have used. Voila! Your child has created a tie-dyed original! Follow the dye manufacturer’s instructions for setting the color on the shirt. This typically calls for running the t-shirt or dyed clothing item through a couple cycles in the washing machine, by itself, to set the color.  To be on the safe side, wash the shirt by itself the first few washings to make certain it doesn’t bleed color onto other laundry items.

Begin with a simple t-shirt project incorporating one dye color. Experiment with the first t-shirt and try different techniques on others. No two designs will be the same and the entire process involves some trial and error. If you and your kids enjoy the project, there are a number of books available that give instructions on how to create more elaborate effects and how to incorporate more than one color into your tie-dyed project. Once you move to that level, you will be able to use complimentary colors in adjoining areas that will blend to form a third color.

Soon your kids will be wearing their new tie-dyed design with a smile and saying “I made it myself!”

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.



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