Tye Dye is a fun project for adults and children. Tye dye works well on a variety of surfaces ranging from the traditional white t-shirt to bed sheets. The universal appeal of tye dye has kept it current and somewhat trendy for the last four decades. The process of tye dye is simple and beginners as well as those with a little more experience can achieve great results.
Start by folding or tying the t-shirt or material into the desired patter. You can bunch a part of the fabric up and tie it off with a rubber band or piece of white string. If you want your lines of color to be distinct and more crisp, than wet the fabric before you tie it. Complete the fold and tie process on the entire piece of fabric before you move onto the next step. This is your chance to create a unique pattern, so be creative.
Next, you will want to wear a dust mask for this step. You can find inexpensive dust masks at any home improvement store, hardware store, or even some arts and craft stores. Mix one cup of soda ash fixer with one gallon of warm water. Soda ash fixer can be purchased at the arts and craft store and in some super markets. Place your tied fabric in the soda ash water mixture and allow it to soak for about ten minutes. Once ten minutes has passed remove the garment or fabric from the solution. Squeeze any excess moisture out. The purpose of the soda ash fixer is to allow you to color your material at room temperature. It changes the pH level of your fabric and helps in the development of the dye color. Many dyes today, especially dyes meant for crafting projects with kids, will not call for the use of soda ash fixer. If you are trying to create a tye dye that has the bright professional colors you see on shirts for sale in stores, you will want to use this method. For a quick and easy project with the kids you can eliminate this step.
Now you are ready to prepare your dye. Keep the dust mask on and put on some protective gloves. Mix 1 cup of warm water with your dye. Most dyes will require anywhere from 2 to 8 tsp. of dye per cup of water. Be sure to follow the dilution scale on your specific bottle of dye though because each is different. Other additions to the dye mixture can include urea, water softener, or Sodium Alginate thickener. You specific dye will tell you if these are necessary. Many tye dye colors today are very user friendly and allow you to just mix with water and begin coloring you fabric. The Sodium Alginate thickener is to help control your coloring process. It thickens the dye mixture and allows you to slow the spreading of the dye. This could be very useful if you are doing this project with kids. It is not necessary though.
Now that your dye mixture is ready you can begin applying it to your fabric or t-shirt. You are about half way through the tye dye process. You can use anything to apply the color. Sponges, brushes, and squirt bottles work well. Be creative and try new ideas though! You will get a different tye dye effect every time. Spray bottle are fun too.
Once you have completed the tye dye coloring process you should place your fabric in a plastic bag or plastic container with a lid. You are trying to keep the fabric wet for about four hours. This allows the tye dye to develop and really hold to the fabric. Do not remove the ties on the fabric. If you have time it is best to let you fabric sit over night to let the dye develop. Your results will be brighter and the life of your colored fabric will be longer.
When this curing process is over, remove the tye dye fabric from the bag or container. Do not remove the ties yet. Rinse your fabric underneath cold running water. Once the dye has been washed clean run the fabric under warm water while you untie it. Continue to run under warm water after it is untied until the water runs clear. Now, run the garment through your washing machine on hot. If you are looking to be more professional or truly extend the life of your garment add Synthrapol to the hot water in your washing machine. This will set the color and really extend the life of the garment.
Once your tye dye garment or fabric is washed I recommend air-drying to keep the colors bright as long as possible. You can run it through the dryer though if the fabric is dryer safe. Now it is time to enjoy your new tye dye creation.