Popular Tie Dye Projects

The most popular tie dye projects are probably colorful T-shirts, but almost any garment or fabric can be tie dyed. It is easy to make a scarf or shawl to enliven an outfit, and many people have added dreamy patterns to boring white or ecru sheets.

Certain rules apply to every project. Always prewash, because fabric finishes resist dye. Always protect your work surfaces from dye stains. Always wear gloves and a dust mask when you are working with chemicals.

Tea is a safe and simple dye that produces subtle, natural, beige-to-tan results. Drugstore dyes like Rit are nearly as easy, and produce relatively colorful designs. However, for truly brilliant results, two-step dyes are necessary. Find such dyes at the craft store or the Internet.

Do not try to dye polyester, the dye will not penetrate. Poly blends can work, but the color will be muted. Silk, linen, ramie and cotton dye beautifully, especially if you use fabric-specific dye. Here are some fun and popular tie dye projects:

Tea Dyed Tie Dyed Tee or Tunic -- Stripes Pattern

To make tea dye, use about eight tea bags to a quart of boiling water. Let steep for an hour. Meanwhile, rinse and wring out your fabric. To tie dye stripes, loosely roll up the fabric. The stripes with be perpendicular to the direction that you roll, so to get vertical stripes, start rolling at the hem, to get horizontal stripes start at the side. Tie your fabric very tightly, using white string or rubber bands where you want stripes. Immerse in the tea. A short soak will produce subtle color, while overnight produces tan. Dye dries lighter than it looks when wet.

Rinse, then untie and rinse some more. Iron with a hot iron, if possible, to set the color.

Coffee, including used grounds, will dye fabric a darker shade, and hibiscus, available at health food stores, will produce shades from pink to purple. Never use bleach on tea dye. Hand wash with gentle cleaners.

Micro-dyed silk square -- squares pattern

Start with a square of silk, any size. Choose three or four silk dye colors from the craft store or from an online company like Dharma Traders. The best way to dye silk is in the microwave. First, soak the silk in white vinegar for 30 minutes, and then wring out gently.

Fold the top left and bottom right corners so they touch. Crease and then unfold. Fold the top right and bottom left corners so they touch; crease and unfold. Now fold the top to touch the bottom, crease and unfold, and the left to touch the right, crease and unfold. You have a square with a star pattern of folds.

Fold the top to touch the bottom again. Now bring the center of the left side and the center of the right side together inside the silk. If you did this right, you will be looking at a folded triangle, with the top and bottom edges of the square at the base of the triangle, the center of the square at the peak of the triangle and the sides neatly tucked inside.

Now, pleat the right side of the triangle, pleating the silk back and forth as if you were folding a map. Do the same on the left side of the triangle.

Now, put kite string ties around your scarf. The more ties you use, the more stripes of color you will have, and the more areas of white.

Mix commercial dyes, strictly according to instructions. Squirt or brush on, carefully coloring within the lines. Dye spreads quickly on silk. Put the fabric in a heavy-duty locking plastic bag. Microwave for 45 seconds, watching carefully. Stop the microwave, and let the steam bubble collapse. Microwave again, and stop again, then microwave a third time, to total 2 minutes. Let the bag cool thoroughly in the microwave to avoid serious steam burns.

Remove and rinse carefully, then untie and rinse again. Wash in gentle detergent, and hang to dry.

The secret of making squares in tie dye is the fold. You must fold the fabric into a triangle, with the sides tucked inside.

Scrunch Dyed Tee -- Easy Random Pattern

Choose two harmonious colors of dye, such as royal blue and turquoise. Wet a pure cotton tee and wring it out. Now scrunch it up into the bottom of a small container, like a large yogurt or slurpy container, making as many wrinkles as you can. Mix two colors of Rit dye, and pour them down the side of the container simultaneously, nearly filling it. With a wooden spoon, slowly push down on the shirt to distribute the dye. Put another similar cup on top of your shirt, and weight it down with something. Leave overnight.

Rinse the shirt thoroughly and let dry. Iron it, and then wash in warm water and gentle detergent. Pretty easy.

Spiral Dyed Tee

Use two-step dye for the bright and lively look. Wet the tee and wring it out. Lay it on a flat surface and pinch together a bit of its material where you want the center of your spiral. Twist the material four or five times. After each twist, fatten the material with your palm. Continue until you have a disc. Now slide rubber bands under the disc and slip them into place to hold it in place. They should be positioned to cross at the center, so that the disc looks as if it has been cut into sections like a pizza.

Dissolve 1/2 cup soda ash in 2 cups water. Soak the garment in this solution for 15 minutes.

Put on a dust mask and gloves and mix your dyes, following directions carefully. Load them into squirt bottles, or place them in plastic cups. Three colors are fine for a spiral tee, but use as many as you like.

Put the tee in a plastic bag and leave it alone for 24 hours. Then rinse it thoroughly with cold water, preferably with a garden hose. Rinse it again as you untie it, preferably with warm water, and then wash with detergent on a normal warm cycle. Groovy.

Tie-dye is an art rather than a science. Though it can be frustrating, it is tremendous fun to unwrap the bundles and see what you have created. That is why tie-dye will always be popular.

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Tie dye is a great way to make old things new again and once you learn the basic tie dye techniques and instructions, you can start updating unloved t-shirts, jersey knits, even bed linens. For best results, always use 100% natural fibers and perfect your technique or experiment with new ones on fabric remnants that you can afford to ruin.

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