Tie Dyeing T-Shirts with my Children

We have been having great fun tie dyeing T-shirts and experimenting with dyes.  First we dyed with a solid colour using a pot with the boil and simmer method, then we decided to try a hand-painting method which I prefer.

This is what we did:

– We soaked our white t-shirts in a bucket of vinegar water, (a couple of litres of water and I added a cup of vinegar). I let that soak for about half an hour. The vinegar makes the dye take to the fabric like it does with yarn.


The shirts were placed flat on a counter top surface and marbles were held at the back of the shirts and pushed upwards, an elastic band was then placed around each marble. The elastics were very tight to keep out the colour and keep the whiteness of the fabric.

The dyes were mixed into rainbow colours, these are earth friendly dyes.

Then each colour was hand-painted or squeezed out onto each little bauble so that we would have circles of colour afterwards. This was so exciting, really, like digging up a potato plant and discovering plenty of delicious potatoes under the ground, like precious gifts!

Kye had SO much fun doing this!

Oh yes, don’t forget to put plenty of plastic down on your counter tops so that the dye doesn’t go anywhere it shouldn’t. I used bin bags and then just washed them afterwards.

Once all the colours had been added, I really wanted to put the shirts into our solar cooker outside in the sun but we had rain that day so each shirt was wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a sieve over a pot of boiling water with the lid on to boil for 20 minutes, this seals the colour. I have separate pots, sieves and everything for my dyeing work.

Then I removed the pots from the stove, allowed the plastic wrap to cool and when the shirt was cooler, rinsed it in cool water to let any excess dye run out.

This was one of the most enjoyable crafting activities we have ever done:)

This is Jenna’s T-shirt.



Happy Monday and have a lovely week.

PS for everyone who very kindly offered to test knit my Camel pattern, a thread has been started over on my Mamma4earth Ravelry group where you can also read the test knit requirements and take part in the discussions.

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12 Responses to Tie Dyeing T-Shirts with my Children

  1. Jeni October 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    This looks like so much fun! Did you get your dyes locally, or did you have to order them?

    • Linda October 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      It really was Jeni, they are called Lanaset dyes, I bought them locally but I think if you Google them they are available in the US too.

  2. Casey- Sesame Seed Designs October 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    What great shirts! I’ve had fabric dye for years that my kids have been asking to use on something. This inspires me to finally let them dye some clothes!

  3. Ginny October 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    That looks a lot of fun. Can I call you hippychicks now?

  4. Julie October 16, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    Great tie dyes. We have used bottles with very small openings to have good control of the color. Dharma Trading has very good quality dye. Our tie dying weather is about gone. So nice to see you enjoying it.

  5. chelsey October 16, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    Love this! I can’t believe I have yet to try it with my daughter. Had to pin it~ love the directions and will have to come back later and try it!

  6. lori October 16, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    oh i love tiedye! what fun you had, love the girls modeling their shirts too, so cute!

  7. Jenni @ Baamekniits October 16, 2012 at 9:30 am #

    Tye dying is so much fun isnt it. I did it with a friend and she had the most amazing dye colours all sun cured so no boiling. I seem to recall that the dyes were very expensive though! The t shirts turned out lovley 🙂

  8. steph October 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    designer shirts!!! love the look, colors, fit—perfect

  9. K October 28, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    I was in high school during the ’60s, the time when tie dying became a rage. And I loved it, but also worried about it, because everything back then was sort of linked with drug taking and “expanded” minds. It’s such a delight to me, this last ten years, seeing people do this again without any such link – just joy in the process and the surprise of the result. I bought a shirt from a local artist who had managed to create a GUITAR in the center of one such shirt, and bought it for one of our guitarists, a delightful friend who remembers the old days like I do. And Rachel did this with her family once and I think with her whole young women’s group at church. I’ve always been interested, but working with dye seems like it takes so much prep, I shy away. Lovely stuff you all came up with! And having the children work the dye and produce these things – and all the things you teach them – there’s a deeper lesson here: they learn that they can take the earth in hand and actively create something of their own in it, and that the choices they make will either make the end product stronger or weaker – and that good intentions don’t guarantee good outcomes – but learning, choosing and taking careful steps in process do. That they have power in their own lives to make things happen, to shape things, feelings, events, social environments, governments, world attitudes – all the exact same way they make the shirts.

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