Modern Tie-Dye Tutorial
Don’t get me wrong, I love tie-dyed shirts just as much as anyone who went through a hippie phase in high school, but there comes a point where it just isn’t acceptable to wear brightly colored tie-dyed shirts in real life. By creating them in one color, especially a dark one, you can make the shirt visually interesting without the flower-child overtones.
You Will Need:
A plain, white shirt. I like to use the 5 pack of men’s undershirts that you can get at target for like $6. You can make a ton of them and you don’t have to worry about screwing up your dye job on an expensive shirt.
2 tbsp. salt
A big bag of rubber bands
A package of dye. I use Rit, because it’s cheap and you can find it everywhere, but you can experiment. I also like to get the liquid dye because it cuts down on the mess. For this I used black dye, because it gives the most impact, but you could use anything.
A bucket or big glass jar
A pair of rubber gloves
1. Get all of your shirts out on a large, clean work surface and make sure they are flat. I’ll give 5 different techniques here for different patterns, so you can choose whichever number you’d like that will fit the number of shirts you have.
2. To create the “lines” look, you’ll need to rubber band the shirt in horizontal bands. I like to start at the bottom and gather the edge together, making it as even as possible. You’ll want to wrap the band several times – tight enough so that there will be some white space but loose enough that you’ll be able to get it right. Depending on the shirt I’ll do this at the top too to make it as easy as possible to wrap the bands in between.
3. At this point you can add as many “stripes” as you’d like. Mix it up a bit! Put several rubber bands really close to each other, or alternate band widths. Keep in mind that the closer the rubber bands are to each other, the more “white” space will remain in between the stripes.
4. To create the “zig-zag”, place your shirt on a flat surface and fold in accordion pleats, like you would a fan. When you have them all gathered together, rubber band both ends and then fill in between them.
5. Much like the “lines” technique, you can add as many or as few as you’d like. I personally like putting a lot of rubber bands here because the end effect is a lot more striking when there are more vertical lines.
6. To make the “ruffles”, you gather it much the same as the zig-zag, but just sort of scrunch it all together. Then you wrap the ends and then the middle. This will result in a more organic set of vertical lines.
7. The “twist” is my favorite technique, and the one you will be most familiar with seeing in tie-dye. Grab a section in the middle of the shirt, making sure that it won’t hit in your problem areas – if you don’t like your belly, painting a big target on it isn’t the best idea – go for the ribs instead.
8. Twirl the shirt slowly in one direction, trying to keep it as flat as possible. This will make it easier to wrap it all up in rubber bands.
9. You want to make sure that it is all twisted in the same direction and there are no errand ends flying around to disrupt your pattern.
10. Place rubber bands around the circle you’ve created in a pie-like shape. In traditional tie-dye, this is where you would add different colors to get the multicolor swirl effect but this will only leave you with a slight twist. As with the other techniques, the more rubber bands you use and the tighter you wrap them, the more white space you will have.
11. The last technique is the “target”. As with the twist, you’ll want to be very aware of your placement here. When in doubt, stick to the ribs. I’ve had a few projects go horribly wrong when the circles migrated slightly northward. Pick up just the front side of the fabric and create a little nub, securing a rubber band around it.
12. You can go further down the nub and add more rubber bands, or you can add a bunch of single circles. I like to vary it up a bit, different circles, different sizes, different parts of the shirt.
Now you’re ready to dye!
13. To prepare your dye, get ready to sacrifice a bucket or a big glass jar you won’t need again. I like to use big glass jars because they are not messy and once you close the lid you can shake it up quite well without it spilling everywhere. Plus, you can pop them in the dishwasher and they are as good as new afterward! The only drawback is the size. If you’ve got too much stuff to dye, a bucket is your only option. To the dye! First, get your tap water as hot as it can go. Add the salt and the dye in the bucket, and then fill with just enough water to cover your projects. A lot of people like to add more water and swirl it around, but I think it gets too diluted. I also use an entire package of dye because hey, it’s cheap, and you want it as dark as it can go. When you’re sure that the dye is dissolved (if you’ve used powder) add your items and make sure they get good and soaked. I don’t get my shirts wet beforehand because that increases the bleed factor too much. I use bamboo skewers to move things around and make sure that the shirts get evenly coated and not my hands. This next part is a matter of personal preference. You’ll have to leave the shirts in for at least 10 minutes in order to get the dye to stick. That will get you a really light color. 30 minutes, and it will still be pretty dark, with lots of white highlights still. 1 hour, and it will be pretty black and the white highlights won’t be noticeable. If you leave the shirts in for longer than that the dye will start creeping under your rubber bands and the patterns will be really subtle (that’s what I did). Like I said, it’s all up to personal preference. When you’re ready to take the shirts out, rinse them all in really hot water to start, and then decreasingly cooler water, squeezing occasionally, until the water runs clear. Make sure to use your gloves when rinsing these out because the dye will stain skin like nobody’s business. Most of the the time I get it mostly clear before I take off the rubber bands to see what I’ve got and then rinse it out the rest of the way. You don’t have to be too attentive to this detail since I suggest washing them all together before wearing by themselves just to make sure no dye is going to rub off. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go! Wear your super-modern tie-dye shirt and feel great doing it. Here is what the techniques I showed you above will result in:
(please forgive the shadows in my pictures)
Keep in mind that it’s not a technical pursuit. Relax, have fun with it, and don’t worry about making mistakes! It will look great no matter what you do.