I’ve loved tie-dye forever…I tried it a few times as a teen with rather dismal results then gave up on the idea for years. I didn’t like the faded, blended colors. I didn’t like that my shirts looked “home dyed”. Well, I’ve been doing it successfully for several years now and have finally prepared a tutorial…

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Step One:

First and most important, buy the right kind of dye! Do not go to your local craft store and buy a “tie-dye kit”. Chances are it will have some cheap anemic looking dyes. I always use Jaquard Procion MX Dye. It can be purchased from Amazon. These dyes are offered in six bajillion and two different colors. Or something like that.

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Step Two:

Next, mix the dye. I usually do this the night before because it takes a bit of time. There are directions on the container of dye. Each container yields about two full squeeze bottles of dye for me- enough for several sessions. I have been using these same bottles for several years. The squeeze bottles help you keep the colors just where you want them. And this int turn helps to give your items a more “professional” look.

Step Three:

Prepare your work area. Lay out newspaper, then cover with plastic…have plenty of napkins or paper towels on hand to soak up drips.

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Step Four:

Soak your items to be dyed. Some dyes call for the items to be soaked in a soda ash mixture to help the colors “bond” to the fiber. And since tie dye is all about peace, love and rainbows, we want our fibers and dye to bond, now don’t we? It’s not scientific or anything, but I’m pretty sure playing Beatles music and wearing flowers in your hair while dying also produces more vibrant colors. Besides, even if you’re not using soda ash, soaking the shirts in water makes it easier to fold them.

I collect white shirts and onsies all year long. If one gets stained, or they come in a bag of hand-me-downs, I keep them for future tie dye sessions. If a shirt is stained, I just make sure to cover the stain thoroughly with a dark-colored dye.

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Step Five:

Next comes the folding and “tying”. This is when you decide what type of pattern you are going to have on your shirt. Do you want spirals? Stripes? Vertical, horizontal or diagonal stripes? There is really no limit to the patterns you can come up with…If you want horizontal stripes, you do vertical folds and if you want vertical stripes do horizontal folds.  This site has some great visual instructions on folding. Paula Burch’s site has a ton of resources on how to tie dye, but I found her site a bit hard to navigate (hence my own tutorial) but if you have questions, by all means head over there.

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Step Six:

Next, you apply the rubber bands. This is what is going to separate your colors. If you do the bands nice and tight, you will have while between the colors. I personally like that look, but some prefer to do the bands looser and allow the colors to overlap.

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Step Seven:

Now apply the dye.  Wearing gloves is not optional! Otherwise your hands will be tie-dyed for days. Please don’t ask me how I know…just take my word for it. Choose one color at a time. Gently separate the folds of fabric and apply dye generously.

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Choose your color placement carefully. For obvious reasons, you don’t want orange and purple next to each other…use plenty of napkins to soak up the extra dye. You want to be generous in your application, but not have puddles running together under your shirt.

Step Eight:

Leave your shirts overnight. In the morning rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse in cold water until your hands are chapped and bleeding. Well, maybe not quite, but pretty close. All the directions I’ve read say “rinse until water runs clear”. I have yet to see the water actually run clear, but you can get pretty close with a little (or a lot) of determination. As you are rinsing undo the rubber bands. Wash in your washing machine one cycle on cold (no soap), one cycle however you regularly wash, then dry and you’re good to go. Since the dye and your fibers have become bonded your colors shouldn’t fade over time but stay a bright, vibrant signal to all that you too are sorry you missed out on Woodstock.

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