Last updated: November 12, 2020, at 1:41 p.m. PT
Originally published: November 12, 2020, at 1:41 p.m. PT
A classic and favorite camp activity is Tie-Dye! Start with a plain item of clothing and end up with a beautiful, wearable work of art! When choosing what to dye, any white or light-colored item will do and 100% cotton holds the dye the best. You may get dye on you, so wear clothing that you won’t mind getting dye on, either old, dark-colored, or already tie-dyed clothes. Remember the dye will stay on fabric forever, but it will wash off your skin.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Squeeze bottles
- Tie-dye powder (we order ours here)
- Rubber bands
- Soda ash (½ cup for every three gallons of water) – you can find this at a swimming pool supply company or order it at the same place where we order the tie-dye powder
- Gloves (optional)
- A clean working space
- Bucket or tub for water
- The item(s) you’re going to tie-dye
Preparing Your Space
Make sure you start with a clean workspace. Here at camp, we put down sheets of butcher paper on tables to help with clean up, but you can also use sheets of plastic, newspaper, or cardboard.
To start, fill your bucket with enough water to cover your clothing item. About three gallons usually does the trick. Next, add your soda ash to the water. Stir the water until the soda ash mostly dissolves.
Tying & Dying
Now that you’re ready and have your materials gathered, it’s time to decide what pattern you’re doing! Make sure that before you start dyeing, you soak the item in cold soda ash water for at least five minutes. This helps the color stay in when you wash your shirt and keeps the colors looking bright. After soaking, squeeze out the extra water until the item isn’t dripping.
Pro Tip: Using more rubber bands and wrapping them tighter will cause there to be more space between the colors. Using fewer or wrapping them less tightly allows the colors to blend more.
- Start with your item flat on the table, then pinch the point you want the center of the spiral to be. Begin twisting fabric while keeping a hold on the center.
- Using your other hand, turn the outsides of the item to match the rest of the spiral. At this point, the spiral should look like a disc.
- Carefully wrap rubber bands around the spiral from one side to the other, so it looks like the rubber bands are cutting it in half.
- Continue adding rubber bands, cutting the spiral so it looks like a sliced pie. You can add as many or as few as you want.
- Add color to the areas between the rubber bands. Make sure to check both sides of the spiral to make sure there are no visible white spaces.
- Fold your item in half. This can be a hot dog, hamburger, or a triangle fold.
- Pinch where you want the center of the spiral to be and begin twisting until it forms a disc, just like above.
- Start wrapping rubber bands around the spiral, the first one going through the middle.
- Add as many rubber bands as you like, just like the spiral above.
- Add color to the areas between the rubber bands. Similar to the single spiral, make sure to check both sides to see if the color shows all the way through.
- With your item flat on the table, grab the point that you want to be the center of the bullseye. Pinching the top of it should form a cone-like shape with the rest of the item.
- Wrap rubber bands down the length of the item, starting at the tip of the cone going down.
- More rubber bands mean more rings on your bullseye, and the tighter you wrap them, the more defined your bullseye circles will be.
- Add color to the spaces between the rubber bands
Polka-dots and Donuts
- To create a polka-dot pattern, pinch a bit of the item up and wrap it with a rubber band.
- When making a donut, add a second rubber band further down from the first, as if you’re making a mini bullseye.
- When dyeing this pattern, choose a background color to fill in the spaces between the dots and donuts. This can be one solid color or a mix, depending on what you think would look cool.
- Add color to the spaces between the rubber bands, making sure to get all the way around.
- Fold or roll your item starting from one end. This can be from the sides or from top to bottom, depending on what kind of stripe you want.
- Folding your item vertically will give you horizontal (side to side) stripes and folding your shirt horizontally will give you vertical (top to bottom) stripes.
- Add rubber bands going down the length of the item. Adding more creates more sections for different colors.
- Add color to the spaces between the rubber bands.
- Take a handful of fabric near the bottom of the item and pull down in the center, and pull the rest of the item up away from your hand.
- Use rubber bands near the top and bottom of the item to keep it in place.
- Still using the rubber bands, mark off the sections you wish to have your rainbow! (It also doesn’t have to be just one part of the item, you can section off the entire item into a rainbow if you want to!)
- Add color to the rainbow and the outside areas
- This pattern requires rocks or another item that can get tie dye on it to help form the bubble.
- Put the rock against the back of the item and press forward, then wrap a rubber band around the base. This should create something similar to a polka-dot (above), but with a rock in the center.
- Continue adding rocks until you have the number of bubbles you want.
- Add color in whatever way you want! Be sure to check the back of the item and the undersides of the rock for any white spaces.
Finishing the Job
After you have completed your tie-dye, it’s important to let it sit for at least 24 hours before being rinsed. This allows the color to soak fully into the fabric. It’s hard to wait to see what it looks like, but it will be worth it in the end! After sitting for 24 hours, rinse the tie-dye in cold water until the extra dye comes out. You can tell it’s done when the water coming off the shirt is mostly clear. Make sure you clean up your workspace as well, as tie-dye will stick to other surfaces besides fabric.
After rinsing, show off your finished creation! It’s always really exciting to see what the finished product looks like. We’d love to see your completed work of art! Send us a photo or share it on social media with #VirtualCampColman.
Here’s the most important tip about tie-dye: it’s going to be new and exciting no matter what happens. Sometimes it’s not the way you expect it to be, and that’s ok. Every tie dye is unique and original – just like you!