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Tie Dye - 60 Minute Activities

60 Minute Activities Series

In this blog series, Sleep8 is branching out from sleep related topics to bring you fun activities that can be completed in about 60 minutes, the same duration as your Sleep8 cleaning cycle. These could be anything from recipes, crafts, DIY projects, skills to master, workouts, or more. Keep your eyes peeled to the Sleep8 blog to find your new favorite pastime.


Any time I think of tie dye I am immediately brought back to the third grade. I had this neon tie dye t-shirt and short set that I wore far too often because I absolutely 100% believed I was the coolest person I knew. The set was purchased, but later on that summer I learned how to tie dye in a camp session. Nine year old Mindi certainly met some challenges; however it still was the greatest thing ever. Tie dye can be used for many different types of projects ranging from the most common t-shirt all the way over to tapestries. I’ve seen some really beautiful tie dyed outfits on etsy, it is a progressive skill. Trial and error will certainly be needed, however; it’s a relaxing and creative way to do something cool in art when you are no good at art, or even just to learn a new skill. In today’s 60-minute series we will talk about the basics such as what you need to tie dye, the process, and different ways to get results.

What You Will Need

  • A flat working surface. This could be a table, counter, or floor
  • Trash bags, disposable tablecloth, plastic shower curtain, or a tarp to cover said flat working surface
  • Rubber gloves because no one needs tie dyed hands
  • An old t-shirt to wear while working that you don’t mind getting dye on
  • A 100% cotton tee shirt, tank, dress, or apron. You can tie dye shorts for the summer or a tapestry for the beach - the possibilities stretch pretty far here, so get creative. The item should be all or mostly white in color so the dye shows up well
  • Ties - Rubber bands and string are the most popular, but you could also use zip ties or twine, something of that nature. You can also use different materials such as marbles or coins to create more shape and texture in your patterns.
  • Dye - Kits are available for purchase at most major craft stores or online, but you can also just purchase the dye separately
  • Dye Fixer - Most prepackaged kits will have this included, but if you get the dye on your own you will need soda ash and a spray bottle to set the dye before washing
  • Ziploc bags to place the shirts in once dyed
  • A bucket to rinse off your work of art
  • Some also recommend using paper towel tubing or a wooden dowel to help in the positioning of your tying

The Process

The great thing about a tie dye piece is that all parts of the process are unique to the individual that is making it. Therefore; the process of tie dye can be as simple or as involved as you wish for it to be. Generally the entire process will take around 2 to 4 hours but the good news is that the longer tie dye sits the more vibrant the colors will be. So really the beginning stages can be this 60 minute project today and the results can be another 60 minute project tomorrow if you so choose. If not there are always ways to speed it up. To begin you will get out all supplies and cover your work areas. Then you will start by tying up, banding, folding, or stringing different parts of the item you are going to dye. This can be done in several different ways, styles, and patterns. You can even freestyle applying the dye if you are feeling bold, but the most popular technique is simply gathering fabric from different areas of the item (at least five or six areas total for a normal shirt for example) and wrapping the rubber band around the item. The gathering and banding will allow the dye to soak in and form a pattern.

Once you have your item all tied up, it’s time for the dye. Pour or paint a generous amount on, or dip it into the container to soak up. For a beginner it will be best to start with one or two colors, working your way up to more with experience. Also remember to choose colors that complement each other. Once the dye has been applied to the shirt you will want to place it in a Ziploc bag to set and retain moisture. As previously mentioned, the longer the dye can soak into the garment the better. A final rinse out and hang dry will finish you up, just remember to rinse your shirt out once it has had time to soak the dye up and you are ready.

Different ways to get results

I mentioned above that there are several different ways to create tie dye art. You can choose numerous colors, or only a few. You can use materials along with your tying or you can use the ties only. You can try more intricate folding and stringing techniques such as shibori, bullseye, or ombre. Check out an awesome list here:  http://www.bystephanielynn.com/tag/tie-dye-ideas.

Another cool option which is a personal favorite of mine is to do a reverse tie dye. This would consist of mixing one part bleach and one part water and adding that to a black tee shirt until you lighten the design to your liking. You then can add dye to the lightened spaces, or just leave it the cool bleached out color. Find out more detailed instructions here: https://www.tiedyeyoursummer.com/Technique/reverse-tie-dye-technique.

No matter which method you choose, you are bound to find a great way to pass some time and end up with something pretty cool. It’s a great way to express yourself and can be done alone, with the kids, or a group of friends. See what all you are able to create.


Written by: Mindi Flippen

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