To Tie-dye for…

The Rainbow Spiral Design

I love tie-dye. I think it’s because of all the amazing colors and patterns. Honestly, how could you not be happy wearing bold, bright colors? Tie-dye shirts and clothing appeared in the 1960’s during the decade of incredible social change. Tie-die is a sign of freedom, peace, and love. The resurgence of tie-dye is here. (Although I don’t think it ever went away.) So how do you dye textiles? Simple, you combine a mixture of dyes and chemicals and voila you have a pallet of colors to tie-dye with. It can be a little messy, but let’s face it, ART is messy. So, get some plastic gloves and get ready to make groovy shirts…

My tie-dye hoodie and the supplies to make it.

Whether you are using dye for making batik cloth or tie-dye, I have found an incredible resource at Dharma Trading Co. This is the place to find exactly the right color you are looking for. You can use tie-dye kits found at art and craft stores like Tulip Brand, but I like going for a custom look. When using fiber reactive dyes, you’ll need to prepare it with Urea. Urea is a chemical that is mixed with the fiber reactive dye to keep the moisture in the fabric allowing the dye to cure longer. What does that mean? For example, remember dying Easter eggs? If you leave the egg in longer the brighter the color is, right? Same for the fabric.

Now if you want the colors to really stay in the fabric, you’ll need to soak your fabric (shirts for this project) in a bath of Soda Ash Fixer. As the name suggests, the dye needs help to stay fixed on cotton fabrics. (Don’t want your undies turning ‘pink’.) This is super, easy soak your fabric with the manufacturer’s instructions and you are ready to go! (To clarify, soak the shirts first in the soda ash fixer, wring out the water and while the shirts are still damp, that is when you apply your dyes.)

Mixing your own colors allows you more ‘freedom’ for expanding your creativity. There are many full-proof patterns that are time tested and Hippie approved, like the Spiral, Crumple and Stripes. This is a fun project that everyone can do including kids. When dying other types of fabric like wool, silk, nylon etc. different dyes, chemicals and techniques are used. If you are interested in learning about other fiber arts techniques, please leave a comment below.

Artfully yours,


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