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Category: Character
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Category: Leisure

Teach Your Child How to Make a Tie-Dye Shirt

Tie-dye shirts and other tie-dyed items will probably always be “in”. The endless variety of patterns and colors that result when creating these “hippie-era” clothing items have made tie-dyeing an art form all its own.

Tie-dyeing is not new, however. The art probably originated in the East- in China, India, Japan, or Indonesia, although some historians trace tie-dyeing to West African and Central American tribes. There are various methods for tie-dyeing, each requiring its own materials and process. The method outlined here was chosen for its simplicity and fool-proof results.

Bright tie-dyes are great for outings and events that may be crowded, as the colorful shirts will standout, helping you to easily spot family members. They also make great (and inexpensive) uniforms for your son’s or daughter’s sports team, class or club.

Kids will love this colorful project. You may want to make one for yourself, too!

You will need:

  • various colors of fabric dye, available at craft stores. (You can use RIT dye, which works well with this method, but produces less intense colors.)
  • soda ash (available at craft and fabric stores)
  • rubber bands
  • rubber gloves (long, cuffed are best)
  • tap water
  • salt
  • marbles and coins
  • pre-washed white cotton tee-shirts
  • 4-5 gallon plastic buckets or dishpans
  • stainless or old plastic tongs and long-handled spoons
  • large plastic bags or plastic sheets
  • medium-size Ziploc bags
  • white cotton tee-shirts


Even toddlers can take part in tie-dyeing if they have the patience and ability to follow your directions. Older children will still need your active participation to avoid mishaps and poor results.

Go over the steps together before beginning and obtain the cooperation of your child, explaining that the process cannot be altered or the end result will not be the same. You may want to have your child put his shirt design on paper while you are preparing the dyes and getting equipment ready. Watching an Internet video on tie-dyeing while they wait might give your child a better idea of what they will be doing.

Remember to wear old clothing or an art smock, protect your floor and table or counters with several layers of newspaper, or plastic sheets or bags, and to keep dye away from eyes, nose and mouth. You may want to do this project outside on a picnic or folding table.

Basic Method:

Note: If working with a very young child, do the first two steps ahead of time.

  1. Pre-wash white cotton tee-shirts in warm water to remove sizing and to pre-shrink. Dry on the normal cycle or line dry.
  2. Soak shirt in soda wash solution, mixed according to manufacturer’s directions. Keep shirt wrung-out but still wet.
  3. Create the design or pattern desired using rubber bands alone, or coins or marbles tied with rubber bands. There are many cool designs in the resources listed below.
  4. Dip shirt in one or more dye baths to add color where you want. The longer you leave the material in the dye bath, the deeper the color will be.
  5. Wring out shirt, fold and place in a Ziploc bag to set overnight.
  6. The next day rinse shirt with warm water until the water runs clear. Make sure to use rubber gloves. Remove rubber bands while rinsing, being careful not to get dye on anything else.
  7. Machine wash each shirt by itself with cold water, then line dry or machine dry on the coolest setting.

After wearing, remember to wash separately.

Your child will enjoy wearing their tie-dye creation and be proud they designed and made it themselves. Your family may also want to try making tie-dyed bandanas, hats, shorts, curtains, tablecloths, or placemats using the same method or one of the other methods that can be found in the resources below.

Main points to address:

  • Tie-dyed creations have universal appeal.
  • There are several methods of tie-dyeing.
  • Make sure to protect clothing, furniture, floors and utensils from dye, which is permanent.
  • Follow steps precisely for best results.
  • Experiment with other projects and methods.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Leisure.

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