Tie-dye has been a popular form of art for many years, and while a tie-dyed T-shirt brings to mind hippies and the summer of love, using tie-die to decorate fabrics can be a fun craft for children to learn how colors work together. Tie-dye is fun for kids because sometimes you get the results that you expect, while other times your creation is a complete surprise. This project is best done outdoors on a sunny afternoon. Make sure you have plenty of room to move around your pots and string a clothesline for drying garments and fabric.
Age Group: 6+
Time: 2- 3 hours – but allow all afternoon for experiments with color and overnight to dry
- 3+ packages of dye for fabric – like RIT®
- One gallon of plain white vinegar
- A pot for each dye color
- Stirring sticks
- A big bunch of rubber bands
- Rubber gloves to protect hands from dye
- Old clothes – you will get at least one stain on something you are wearing.
- Clothesline for drying.
- This project is very messy. Plan to tie-dye on a sunny afternoon, and plan to do it outside. By dying outside you will not have to worry about drips and spills.
- Suit up with your old clothes and gloves.
- Boil water – you can boil inside and bring outside if you do not have hot plates outside.
- Follow directions on the dye package.
- Make sure everything that you are dying is pre-washed.
- Make sure that you follow instructions when preparing the dye so that you end up with bright, vibrant colors. Adding about a cup of vinegar for every three gallons of water will keep color from fading. Stir well to completely dissolve.
- Twist fabric and secure with rubber bands.
- Dip fabric or a portion of the fabric into the dye for several minutes. Start with lighter colors and continue on to darker colored dyes. This is where the experimenting comes into play, and it is a great way for kids to see what happens when different colors mix.
- After dying is complete, rinse fabric in a bucket of fresh, cold water with vinegar added. Repeat several times.
- Hang fabric on clothesline to dry overnight.
- Wash dyed items with laundry soap and vinegar before wearing. Make sure to follow washing instructions on any garment that you are washing.
- Experiment with mixing colors by putting dyes on top of each other to see what you get. Start with light and move to dark. Rearrange your rubber bands and see how the pattern changes.
- Find interesting things to dye. Any natural fiber will dye well. Beach towels or table napkins are excellent candidates for dying.
- Use dye as paint instead of dipping. You can paint it directly onto the fabric with an artist brush.
Make it a Learning Experience
- Read how dye works. Look up the history of dyes and which civilizations first used them. Find out how dye is made today and compare how ancient civilizations made dye.
- Understand why vinegar makes colors brighter (on Easter Eggs as well).
- Find out when tie-dye first became popular in the U.S.
- Find out how to make natural dyes, and compare to how they make store bought dye.
- Dye water is safe to dispose of down a drain, but it may stain anything it touches. This includes hands, clothes and sinks.
- Clean dye spills with cold water because hot water sets the dye and makes it permanent.
- Throw away all used gloves and open packages of dye.
Photo credit to Twins Squared.