04 June 2011

DIY: imperfectly perfect tiedye

m e d i u m ][ chunks of time over 2-3 days
cost: $25+
shop at: your house, a craft store, online, clothing stores
read: the instructions once though before you get started

This is going to be an big compilation of advice, and less of a step by step tutorial.
It's a big project, so consider gathering your friends up to do this one, you can split the costs & it's a really great way to spend a few afternoons.

Why do I know so much about such a hippie-associated craft? I took a class in HS, we did this for a month. I'm kind of a pro? x)


- Procion MX dye
- Bag of Soda Ash
- Squirt Bottles (around 5-10 is ideal)
You can learn about & buy all of the above here:
Or call your local craft stores & ask about it
Be sure to read all the labels + mixing details.

- rubber gloves
- bag of rubber bands
- bucket or tub (metal, plastic, whatever you can find)
- measuring pitchers, like you use for cooking, that are ok to get dirty
- Sink or outdoor hose you're allowed to get messy by
- hot water
- cold water
- open area to work (yard, pavement, classroom…)
- clean plastic garbage or grocery bags
- masking tape & marker
- washing machine/dryer/whatever you usually use

- 85-100% white cotton items you want to dye & decorate
(tees, tanks, dresses, the list is endless! just check the item's info tag before buying & dying. buy a few, once you're into this, you want to make MORE)


If you're obsessive over details, mellow out. I'm a detail-oriented graphic design student, so I can relate. Don't worry, this is going to be rad.

The best tie dye happens when you just relax and GO FOR IT. That's what makes it fun, and awesome. You can't talk to the materials and be like "omg be perfect! why aren't you doing what I exactly pictured? waHHH!" They don't listen.

Dye does wonderful things while you aren't looking, and in turn, makes you look talented with next to no effort.


At $3 a container, you probably can't buy 50zillion colors of dye powder. That's ok! Hopefully in kindergarten they taught you that colors mix to make other colors. That's still true, for those of you that haven't checked recently.

$10 color budget? Get a blue, yellow, and reddish-pink or red. You can't go wrong. Those three colors will make a wide range and keep all of your friends happy.

A little more to spend? Each of you can pick out an additional color that you're in love with.

Before finalizing your color choices, think of what sort of item you had in mind.
Do you want a traditional million-color hippie tee?
An edgy dark skirt?
Or a tone-on tone celebrity dolman?

Picture what you want & say to yourself, what colors are in it?
Those are the colors you should buy.

More colors looks youthful, whereas a few colors looks more refined.

BE WARY OF & USE MINIMAL BLACK DYE. IT OVERPOWERS OTHER COLORS ALMOST INSTANTLY. If you're going to use it, build up squirt by squirt and keep an eye on it. It's not chill like the other hues. x)


Basically, rubberbands make sections,
and in each section, between 2 rubberbands,
is where you put the dye.

2 or more colors of dye is do-able, but keep it basic for your first go round.
Get a feel for the materials and results, then go crazy!

In general, I find that putting more dye than you think you need is the way to make sure you totally saturate your item.

Here is a great guide for different ways to band things up, consider printing it out:

You can apply these basic techniques all over complex items, ie, swirls on the hood + main part of a sweatshirt, and stripes on the sleeves.

As far as scheduling goes, I suggest doing this over 2 or 3 days, and build up your confidence.
Day 1: "what the heck are we doing, everyone?" "ohh, that does this…"
Day 2: "wow THAT CAME OUT COOL. let's do that, but do this too…"
Day 3: "we're old pros. do thisthisthis. bam"


Def def def look over instructions on the materials, for water/material ratios, and toxicity warnings. x)


1. mix the soda ash + hot water in a big bucket or tub. soak all of your cotton items in there for at least 30 minutes. remember how your day camp shirts faded after like, 3 days? this will prep the fabric + make colors last longer wash after wash.

2. while you're waiting, put on gloves + mix a little dye powder with cold water in a measuring pitcher. mix it up, and use a funnel to pour it into a squirt bottle. clean everything & repeat for the next bottle. you can mix different colors together before you put it in the squirt bottle. get your range ready!

3. take off your gloves, and with clean hands, or new gloves, ring out the salt water of your items. rubberband up each of your items.

4. put your dye-gloves back on, and apply dye with the squirt bottles onto your items.

5. once you're done putting on all the colors you want, keep the rubberbands on it and wrap up each item individually (things like a set of socks can stay together, haha) in a piece of plastic bag, and masking tape it shut, wrapping it around, or whatever you feel seals it. write your name on it if you're in a big group.

6. ok this is the hard part. once all your items are dyed + wrapped + marked, you gotta wait. ideally, 12-24 hours. this gives the color lots of time to seep into the fabric + stay put.


7. after 12-24 hours, unwrap one item at a time near a sink or hose. this is your first chance to go "OOOH, AHHH, AWEEESOME!" run the item through cold water until the water runs clear and no more dye runs off with the water. repeat for each item (including the oohs and ahhs! haha)

8. let your items dry outside a bit, to make them mobile. then, take them home, and for the first wash, wash everything individually, with detergent as usual. (again, 2 socks can be washed together, haha) dry in the dryer. every wash after that? they can go in with your usual bright clothing. the color is set.

9. still not satisfied with one of your items? work with it again, dye some more, going over the colors that are still there! keep messing with it, it's worth a shot.

10. repeat until you run out of things to dye, or run out of dye.

This guide is helpful if you're interested in dying your own shirt to make a doodle tee like mine.

Have a photo of something you want to dye-copy, and need color advice? PM me, I'll try to help. (:

be sure to check out my other projects!

♥ I worked really hard on this set. It took a long time to prepare.
Big thanks to the websites I linked to, and one of my high school art teachers.
I wrote out these instructions.
So if you see this anywhere else, it's not the original.