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How to Tie Dye a T-Shirt

Learn how to tie dye a t-shirt in this Howcast video.


I'm going to show you how to tie-dye a t-shirt. I have an example here in which I actually did some stripes and this one look that you can go for and for the stripes, which is pretty much gather it and rubber band it and repeat it. And for this one I'm going to make some circular shapes happening using resists and clamps.

So this is my shirt and I'm envisioning my circle shapes happening here, so I'm going to accordion fold the bottom of the t-shirt like this, making sure that it's nice and neat, because it is a t-shirt and you want to be able to wear it. And then I'm going to fold it on the other way, accordion fold as well.

If we wouldn't look to the top of this t-shirt, in which I actually didn't do much, if we just center our attentions to the bottom of the t-shirt, you can see that is now folded into a square section. In this square I'm going to place one of my circles on the top and the other one of my circles are on the bottom and make sure that they're pretty tight and fitting together.

I'm going to use a clamp to clamp it in place. After that I want to get my t-shirt wet before I put it in my immersion vat. After you tie your shirt or you've made your pattern, now you want to prepare your immersion vat. I chose a green color and I already dissolved the dye in my dye vat, so all I have to do now is to add my dye activator.

Remember that the dye activator or washing soda only dissolves in hot water, so you want to dissolve it separately before you put it in the dye vat. So I have some hot water in here and the proportion is about 9 teaspoons per gallon of water. I have slightly less of a gallon, probably, about a half, so I'm going to add 4-5 teaspoons to it.

And I wanted to remind you again that the purpose of the dye activator, as the name says is to make the dye active and able to fix with the fiber, so this is really a step that you don't want to skip, otherwise your dye will just run the first time you wash it. So make sure you really dissolve well the dye activator before you add it to your dye bath.

I think that's good enough, so I'm going to put it in, give it a stir. Now I'm going to add my t-shirt to my dye bath and its going to be in there for about one hour and it should be really one hour. If you see the color getting darker than you want it, you cannot remove it before one hour, because one hour is the minimum time that the dye and the dye activator and the fiber will take to connect all with each other.

If you see that it got a little bit darker than you wanted, then you know that next time we just need to make a more diluted dye bath. If it got lighter than you wanted, then you're in good luck and you can always re-dye it again, and just make the dye bath more concentrated. So I'm about to dunk it. I'm just going to shift my clamps a little bit, so it can fit. Again, make sure it's fully submerged so you can have an even dying in the end.

We'll wait one hour to see the final results. My t-shirt has been soaking in the dye vat for the past hour. I just removed it, wrung out the excess, quickly rinse in to water, and I'm about to reveal the result. So let's see how it turned out. Removing the clamps, which are pretty tight which is a good sign. What a neat circle. This is a good sign, hopefully. That's really cool. So this how it looks overall.

I'm sort of happy, sort of not happy. I'm just going to go through with a couple of things that happened to explain if this had happened to you, how you could correct it. So as you can see, not all of the circles appeared as separate and that happened, mainly because the margin that we left in between the circles was not as big. So for the next time, once you're actually folding it into a square, maybe we need to fold into bigger squares, so there's more margin around the circle.

The other thing that happened, which was probably my mistake for rushing, was that these center areas are actually still dry. So the dye didn't penetrate all evenly around the circles, because I encountered a dry fabric. So for next time maybe we should soak the t-shirt longer, to make sure that it's fully wet before we dye it. But overall I think it looks kind of cool, even though its not a fully complete circle, but at least the two top ones look like it. I think it looks kind of funky and kind of nice. But hey, we only learn through our mistakes, so this was a good experiment and this is how you tie-dye a t-shirt.

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