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Tie Dye Instructions for Kids

by Kyle McBride
  • Overview

    Tie dying is a method of hand dying fabric to create beautiful, random patterns. Also known as shibori in Japan, it has been used by various cultures for more than 6,000 years. (See Reference 3 below.) Made popular in the U.S. during the late 1960s and 1970s, it is enjoying a comeback. Easy to make at home with over-the-counter dyes, tie dying is an engaging and exciting activity for kids. That's because you don't know what one-of-a-kind, beautiful pattern you've created until you unroll the garment after the dying is complete.
    Tie dyed shirts drying.
  • Wash

    Fiber-reactive dyes form a molecular bond with the fibers. This is a chemical process that can be accelerated by raising the pH of the cloth. You can do that by soaking the fabric in a solution of sodium bicarbonate or soda ash. Dissolve a cup of soda ash per gallon of warm water and soak the garments for 10 to 15 minutes prior to dying.
  • Dyes

    Use an all-purpose dye or fiber-reactive dye to dye cellulose fiber material such as cotton, rayon, linen or silk. Fiber-reactive dyes are better because they can be used at temperatures between 95 to 180 degrees F, but all-purpose dyes must be maintained at 212 degrees F. All-purpose dye requires that the material be partially submerged in boiling dye solution and held there for a considerable time. Fiber-reactive dyes are easier to use because they can be loaded into a plastic squirt bottle and applied with precise control. Also, fiber-reactive dyes are more colorfast than all-purpose dyes and will not ruin your whites once through the initial washout period.
  • Tying

    The overall effect is determined by how you tie the garment. You can tie with waxed string or rubber bands. Tying will prevent the dye from evenly distributing itself and will allow you to alternate colors and create patterns on the cloth. To make a spiral, for example, clip a spring-loaded clothespin onto the area you intend to be the center of the pattern. Begin twisting the fabric and dividing the pleats as they form until the whole garment is twisted. Place the ties at two-inch intervals along the garment and then squirt a different color dye into each section. Be sure to get enough dye into the fabric sections or you will have too much base color (white) left over.
  • Colors

    Bright colors are usually used for tie dye projects. You should not use two colors next to each other that are on opposite sides of the color wheel. Do not put purple next to yellow or blue next to orange, for example. Try to use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Red-yellow-green-blue-purple-red is a simplified sample of the color wheel arrangement.

    References & Resources