A couple of years ago I stumbled into what has become an annual tradition with my kids – creating tie dye shirts. Their daycare used to dye shirts for each summer and the kids would wear them on Tuesdays (ie, Tie Dye Tuesday). All I had to do was bring in a white shirt. Easy peasy. When my daughter reached transitional kindergarten, her shift up somehow missed the window for getting her shirt made. Rather than take one in and have the teacher do it, I decided to make hers one weekend and it turned out great.
That one moment has led to 3 years of making shirts! Last summer we still had supplies from the previous year thankfully as suddenly tie dying rose in popularity during quarantine. All I had to do was get new shirts. I grabbed a few for neighbors too so we could have a fun outdoor activity to share.
This year, surprisingly, our prompt to tie dye came from our trip to Walt Disney World! My sister had texted me asking me to get Mickey Mouse shirts for her boys. It wasn’t until I had left the Emporium and was in a Photopass line after park closing that she texted back “no white!” Um, too late. I told her she could tie dye them. She quickly replied, “you can.” Being the awesome sister and aunt I am, I did just that. And, of course, bought my kids a couple new white shirts to tie dye too while we were buying supplies. Thankfully they were happy with plain white ones.
- White Cotton Shirts
- Tie Dye Kit
- Rubber Bands (if your kit didn’t contain any)
Step 1 Wet the shirt(s) you want to dye. I run our shirts through the wash for a quick cycle. This easily preps them, but you can also just soak in water and wring out excess.
Step 2 Fold. Twist. Rubber band.
There are a LOT of variations and pattern ideas. All take different folding and rubber banding techniques. I’ve learned with kids to just go with whatever they want to do. This year that meant my oldest folded his (no rubber bands) and my youngest wanted a swirl (we twisted from center, the banded). For the Mickey Mouse shirts, I went with the super easy crumple technique where I literally just mushed it up into a compact circle, then added several rubber bands.
Step 3 Glove up your hands. Add water to the dye bottles, screw lids back on, and shake until fully mixed. I also recommend holding the cap firmly while shaking. Maybe overthinking it, but I always worry about dye accidentally flying out.
TIP: I always tie dye with my kids outdoors. This year instead of using plastic containers underneath, I used some of our many plastic shopping bags from curbside pickup. These were super easy for work surface and made clean up simple.
Step 4 Squirt one or more dyes onto the shirt. Keep applying to all visible area. Flip over and repeat.
Step 5 Place completed shirt into a zippered plastic bag and allow to sit at least 6-8 hours. I’ve started leaving ours overnight and even up to 2 days (when I forgot about them!). The longer you wait, the bolder the colors will be.
Step 6 Rinse shirt until cool water until water runs clear. Remove rubber bands by pulling or cutting off.
Step 7 Wash shirt in the washing machine using the hottest water setting. Do not wash with other clothing. Once wash it complete, dry and then your new tie dye shirt is ready to wear!
The Mickey Mouse shirts came out pretty cool I thought. As you can see from the photo, I stuck with one color (blue) to keep it simple and hopefully not detract too much form the red and yellow in the graphic. The crumpled technique led to a random design which is first of all unique (no one will have shirts that exactly match theirs) and second should help hide stains more easily. Or they will just blend in as though part of the design. Win win.