Two Ways to Tie Dye

After returning to school in July, Joss’s class started substituting “Brain Breaks” for their usual afternoon nap time. Obviously, because all the kids’ naptime routines got thrown off when they were out of school! During Brain Breaks, the class usually watched an episode of an educational TV show. One of these was Creative Galaxy.

Creative Galaxy follows the adventures of a young alien named Arty, who uses art to solve problems. In one episode, Arty and his friends have trouble deciding which color they want their team shirts to be. Eventually, the friends realize they can use tie dye to create multi-colored shirts that all look similar! After watching this episode at school, Joss was ALL about tie dye.

So it was very exciting when, on our recent trip to Bentonville, Grandma Stephanie suggested we try some Shibori dyeing! We ran to Wal-mart, bought Joss a plain white T-shirt, and got ready.

Unfortunately, Joss had something VERY SPECIFIC in mind based on what he’d seen in that Creative Galaxy episode, and as neither of us adults had seen it, it was hard to interpret what he wanted. Commence tears…and more tears.

I’m happy to report that in an hour or so, Joss had calmed down and was excited to wear his new Shibori shirt. But when I ran to Michael’s recently and saw their tie dye kits, I decided to buy one. After watching the Creative Galaxy episode together, I realized what Joss had been talking about, and we created a “space ball team” shirt. Find instructions for both the Shibori method we used and the regular tie dyeing below!


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Shibori is a Japanese art form (see an explanation about how tie dye is actually the “great-grandchild” of shibori here). As with tie dye, there are multiple ways to create different patterns of color on your material. I honestly don’t know much about it – this was our first attempt, after all – so please forgive me! However, this slideshow article from Martha Stewart gives a good idea of what we did. It also provides some other techniques that are all beautiful! The method we used would be the Arashi method,  or at least close to it.

This is the what we did:

  1. Drape shirt over a large plastic tube. Scrunch the shirt up, wrapping it with twine along the way so that the wrinkles hold. See picture above.
  2. Using fabric paint, paint the shirt.

There you go! Just give it some time to dry.


Use alcohol to spritz the colors so that they blend together better. Make sure to use colors that won’t turn muddy. So think about the color wheel when choosing your colors. This goes for tie dye, too.

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We used this Dye-na-Flow paint, which you can buy from Dharma Trading Company.

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Ta-da! I had to try on the shirt first because Joss was still not having it.

Traditional Tie Dye

This couldn’t have been easier…because we picked up a Tie Dye Party kit at Michael’s. All the paint powder is in squirt bottles, and all you have to do is add water and get to work!

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Here’s a YouTube tutorial with four different design methods. Watching a tutorial is definitely helpful, as the tie-dye party kit instructions didn’t really get into specifics. We, of course, ended up doing the design from Creative Galaxy. I also tried a spiral.

How to Tie Dye

Step 1: Rinse shirt in water, and ring out excess water. It’s easier for the dye to stick to a damp shirt.

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Step 2: Bunch up your shirt according to your preferred design method. Joss’s was simple: Pull up a section in the middle of the shirt and wrap a rubber band around the base. Then wrap another rubber band closer to the top. This will give you a bull’s-eye kind of pattern.

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Step 3: Add the dye! Make sure to saturate the fabric well.

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This method makes a spiral pattern. Simply pinch the material wherever you’d like your spiral to begin, and twist the shirt in a circular motion, until it’s all twisted into a circle. Hold it in place with rubber bands as shown above.

Step 4: Let the shirt dry for an hour or so, then put it in a plastic ziploc. Let it dry overnight

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Step 5: Rinse the shirt to remove excess dye (I did this outside). Then throw it in the washing machine with a small amount of dish soap. Use the “large” setting. Dry as usual.

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So there you have it! Both the paint brush and the squirt bottle methods were a lot of fun. And I keep hearing that tie dye is in style again, so…now is the perfect time to give it a go!

Sotw Tie Dye Pin

Categories: Spaghetti on the Wall