Fourth of July Tie Dye

I am not a big fan of what I call “Grateful Dead” tie dye and when I teach dyeing I specifically say that we will not be doing that. It’s been so many years since The Summer of Love and communes and all, it’s interesting that it’s still a very popular technique. My niece Kim calls me her “crafty aunt” and so when she said that she’d like to bring her family down here for a visit, I thought there was enough time to make something. And when buying supplies for something else, I noticed the tie dye kits in all the big box craft stores… So with the help of Dharma Trading Company and Pro Chemical, I got up to speed on what supplies I needed and how to do it.

Dharma has an enormous selection of clothing, ready to dye (PFD) and Kim’s family chose their clothing. It arrived just in time. I had most everything I needed, but sent off to Pro Chem for a few things. Tie dye is direct dyeing, meaning that the dye is painted or squirted onto the fabric, which then needs to sit (batch) for many hours for the dyes to set, or become permanent. First the clothing needs to soak in a solution of soda ash, which is the setting chemical, and then it can be wound or bound or otherwise manipulated with rubber bands.

Kim's hoodie

I had squeeze bottles of magenta, turquoise, blue and a yellow mixed with Urea (to keep the fabric wet) ready to go as well as a big box of plastic gloves. And then the fun really began as they squeezed and kneaded the fabric.

Griffin's t

Even the paper towels they used to mop up spills and puddles look like works of art. I gave them three design ideas because I knew they knew even less about the technique than I did. I was a bit disappointed than none of them chose to do the “classic rainbow spiral”, but they all turned out very well.

Pretty towel

A day later, they squirted the bundles with the hose and then cut off the rubber band bindings. (It’s better than Christmas!) My great-nephew, Mr. Tidy and Symmetrical, was a bit hesitant and fretted when the colors weren’t exactly what he wanted while he was designing, but I hope he likes the end result. (He’s 15 – it can be hard to read him!)

Griff's t

My niece Kim dyed a hoodie which was a lot of fabric to deal with. I love the hood being such different colors from the shirt.

The hoodie

I’m not sure that Kim’s husband understood exactly what he was doing and I know my color wheel explanation went right over his head, but he was squirting dye everywhere and rolling the bound shirt in the dye puddles. Didn’t he end up with a really great t-shirt? I love those exuberant colors!

Lester's t

The best part was that the boys wore them to Asheville the next day and looked just like locals!

I hope you all had a Happy 4th of July…

6 thoughts on “Fourth of July Tie Dye

  1. This is a very fun idea of something to do at a party or when people visit! I’m going to file it all away for future reference . . . It looks like you had a wonderful holiday!


    • We really did! It was crazy and you would understand – when you’ve never had kids you’re used to such a quiet life with no one around. I always get into a bit of a tizzy when we have overnight guests. But it was great fun and I think the t-shirts were a hit. I am ready to do sine dyeing now since I have the chemicals dug out. ;-D


  2. I agree, this does look like fun. At least you made it look like fun! I’m interested in trying some eco printing. Have you done that? There’s a similarity to it with knotting up and tying off the fabric. Asheville is rife with classes in art. I just realized you’re only about an hour from Asheville. I’m only an hour from Asheville (but from a different direction). Perhaps we could meet there and take an eco printing class. Think about it. Then we could finally meet. I’m in Asheville a lot for painting classes, and the city has a large arts council with reasonably priced classes. I’ll check it out if you’re interested. Patsye


    • Sounds like fun, but I’m not into natural dyeing. I did it years ago and did not enjoy the results. I like chemicals so that I can control the outcome. ;-D Thanks for thinking of me though….


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