It’s Raining Tie Dye Around Here

Posted by Dani on September 14, 2013

how to tie dye
It was a colourful summer. Maybe not hot and hazy, but colourful.

I usually like to bring a craft to do with the girls during our cottage holiday. It’s one time that I have a captive audience, so I like to take advantage of it. Not that the girls don’t like doing craft projects – they do, absolutely. But being teens, they have busier lives, and tie dying with mom isn’t as far up the list as it used to be in the old days. I find if I think of a craft that appeals to them, and do some of the initial set up so they can get involved in the fun and easy part, then it’s a great activity for the 3 of us and we all have a good time.

DIY tie dye fun

So here’s my advice if you want to do craft-bonding with your teens: remember IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM. Which probably applies to most things that have to do with teens. If you just accept this, then things go well. And tie dying some of the old odds and ends hanging around their closet to see what comes out the other side on a lazy summer day meets the criteria perfectly. So we had a great time, and wound up with a lot of colourful additions to our closets.

I’ve done tie dying with the girls in the past, when they were young. I always used the Rit or Tintex fabric dyes you can find at the drug store, the ones that come in the little boxes. But these colours tend to fade in the wash, and I wanted to try something a little more professional-grade. I headed over to G & S Dye for my advice and supplies.

tie dye bath

These people know their fabric dyeing stuff. I chose a cold water fibre reactive dye called Procion MX, perfect for immersion dying. It’s a little more complicated to use than the packaged Rit dyes, but the colours are intense and amazing. And G & S will give you a kit with all the ingredients and supplies, making it all very easy.

I tend to take an experimental approach to my crafts and this one was no exception. We broke a number of tie dying rules, and in this case everything turned out fine. Obviously, following the directions carefully is the best way to ensure perfect results. But if you want to cut loose a little, here’s what we did, so you know what might work for you.

How To Bend The Tie Dye Rules

1. Most dyeing instructions specify cotton fabrics only. I used some cotton blends for this project and the dye worked great.
2. The dyeing instructions will specify how much dye you need to use for each pound of fabric. We dyed way more fabric than recommended. What happened was the shades got lighter as we went along. I didn’t mind the lighter colours and so this wasn’t a problem for me. Just make sure you first dye the items that you want coloured intensely.
3. For pure colours, you should dye white cotton items. But you can over-dye coloured items as well. This will change the final colour, but that’s all part of the fun.
4. You don’t have to buy new items to dye. The girls ended up pulling all kinds of older clothes out of their closets that they weren’t wearing any more. This is a great way to rejuvenate dingy or stained items.

Some of the things I dyed for this project were previously, and unsuccessfully, dyed with natural indigo. That was an example where I followed all the rules, and it still didn’t work out – go figure. These pieces had a light blue base, and the final results were great when I overdyed them with the new colours.

You’ll also notice that some of the things I dyed here were lengths of cotton fabric. I used these as sarongs, which I practically live in during the summer. This is a throwback to my backpacking-in-Asia days, when a sarong was your best friend. You could use it to make a dress, a short or long skirt, a bed sheet, a towel for the beach, and to carry your belongings. I don’t live in grass huts any more, but I still love to wrap a sarong around me on hot days. Obviously no one needs THAT many sarongs, but I got a little carried away.

Here’s a cute sports bra the girls made:

tie dye sports bra

A fun crop top:

tie dye crop top

And a tank and some tees:

tie dye tank top

tie dye t-shirts

Fun, right? This is going to make for a pretty psychedelic household.

Here are my tie dye tips and tricks. So now you’ll know how to rip up a few bedsheets and make your family a set of sarongs.

How To Tie Dye

1. Gather your dye, elastics, and buckets for the dye bath. I used Procion MX cold water fibre reactive dyes in 4 colours – black, yellow, turquoise, and fuchsia. In addition to the dye, you need sodium carbonate, and salt. G & S Dye will sell you a kit with all the required supplies. We followed the directions on their website for immersion dyeing.

tie dye supplies

2. Wash all your fabric. G & S Dye recommends T.N.A. soap, a Synthropol-type detergent, but we just used regular laundry soap.

3. Tie your fabric using elastics to create patterns. There are all kinds of directions on the internet for tying specific patterns. We just like to do it randomly. Here’s one way that’s quick and easy, and gives you a circular pattern. Just pinch the top and wrap an elastic around the fabric, 1 or 2 inches below the top, depending on how big you want your circles to be. Work your way down the fabric, adding elastics at regular or random intervals.

how to tie for tie dye

We also sometimes pinch and tie with just one elastic to make polka dots. And sometimes we just gather the fabric and add elastics randomly. Don’t worry too much about getting it perfect – I find with tie dying, it all looks great in the end. Here’s what our fabric looked like.

fabric for tie dye

fabric for tie dyeing

4. Mix up your buckets of dye. Use 2 cups of salt for every 25 grams of dye (50 grams for intense black or navy blue), and about 7 liters of tap water. It helps to dissolve the dye in 2 liters of hot water before adding the rest. Dissolve 4 tbsp sodium carbonate in 3 cups of water and add to dye bath.

dyeing fabric

5. Dip your fabric. We just dipped random sections to mix several colours on one item, finishing with a final dip of the entire piece in the lightest colour to make sure all the white areas were dyed. Some pieces were dyed with just one colour. The longer you left the fabric in the dye, the deeper the colour was. After dyeing several items in one dye bath, the colours began to fade.

how to tie dye

how to tie dye

6. We let the fabric sit a while to help set the colour. Since our supply kit from G & S Dye included a bottle of Raycafix, a dye fixative, we gave it a try. We added the 120 ml bottle of Raycafix to a bucket of hot water, and gave our fabric a 5 minute soak. After that we rinsed everything well in buckets of clean water, until the water looked fairly clear. To finish up, we ran everything through the wash with the bottle of T.N.A. soap they gave us. All done!

how to tie dye

how to tie dye

how to tie dye



31 Responses to “It’s Raining Tie Dye Around Here”

  1. Great tutorial and how much fun!I love all the colors!!

  2. So pretty!!! I love the colors that you picked. Very cool project. 🙂

  3. Joan says:

    How much salt do I add to the cold water after my tye dye has set for 12 to 14 hrs. to set the colors. When I rinse my shirts out, the dye is running badly. It is a waste of dye & money. I don’t want any running together of colors. Please help, I’m getting very frustrated & sad with my work.

    Thank you,

    • Dani says:

      I agree Joan – nothing more frustrating than watching your dye run down the sink! That’s one of the reasons I used the Procion dyes – much better results than with the regular drug-store brands. The directions for this dye require that the salt be added to the dye bath, not afterwards. I used a product called Raycafix to help set the dye afterwards, and the colours held really well for me. I wonder which products you’re using? Might be worth a call to the manufacturer if you continue to have problems. Good luck!

  4. Bronwyn MayB says:

    Looks like a ton of fun!

  5. FUN!!! Love the towels… and the sports bra!! 🙂 I’ve only ever tie dyed once, and the results weren’t pretty, but maybe I should give it another go!

  6. Excellent tutorial! You know, I’ve never tie-dyed! 🙁 Pinning for future family fun! And, backpacking – in – Asia? Just when I thought you couldn’t be cooler, BAM! That is so awesome! xo

  7. mara says:

    I LOVE tie-dying. One year we did a tie-dye party for my son’s bday, and the t-shirts were the loot bag. Next time you’re doing it, I want to come over!

  8. so much fun, we love tie dye stuff here 🙂 Thanks for giving me to how too 🙂

  9. Bring on the tie dye! Reminds me of my youth and art class! Thanks for such great instructions. Too much fun, I had to pin it!

  10. Great tutorial!! I have always wanted to try this and now I think I will give it a go!!

  11. Woah so cool – love your tie dyes, they turned out great!!

  12. This is awesome! I’ve tried using Rit dye to cover an entire garment before, but now I want to tie dye!

  13. I love that you tie dyed the sports bra! Who wouldn’t thought to dye that?!?!

  14. Brenda Young says:

    Wow Dani those colors are amazing! thanks for sharing the supplier, we are having a tie dye party at my kid’s school next week, I cant wait!

  15. Great tutorial! Love the beautiful colors you used!

    • Dani says:

      Thanks Glenna! We were really happy with the colours – so bright! And they lasted really well through many washes. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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