Couples Therapy: Making Tie-dyed Shirts

Making tie-dyed shirts is an easy and fun project you can do. The results can be spectacular and you can bond with your partner even after the project is done. It is funny how a simple thing such as wearing matching t-shirts while walking around at a car show or the mall can bring you closer together. People will definitely know you are a couple!

Bubba Harmon in a tie-dyed t-shirt

If you want to get the best results I suggest you start with a kit from the Dharma Trading Company. We purchased the Teeny Tiny Tie-Dye Kit. It comes with everything you need (except for the shirts) to complete your tie-dyed project. The colors in the kit are Lemon Yellow, Fuchsia, and Turquoise. By mixing these colors together you get a rainbow of color!

Teeny Tiny Tie-Dye Kit from Dharma Trading Company
Choose a shirt that is 100% cotton.  A t-shirt makes a fine canvas. Wash them in your washing machine before doing anything else.  This will remove any "sizing" that may be left from when the shirt was made. Following the direction in the kit, mix and soak your garment in the "Soda Ash Fixer" for 15 minutes. This step will make the dyes bond to your shirt better which will make for brighter colors. Notice the gloves. Soda Ash is caustic!

After soaking, wring out as much water as you can. Now it is time to "tie" your shirt. To make a swirl pattern use a dowel to turn the shirt into pie shape.  Keep the wrinkles flat and even for the best look.

Use the supplied rubber bands to secure your garment.

Now it's time for the "dye" part.  Put some paper towels down on your table surface to help suck up any spills. Divide your pie into three triangles and pour the dye to saturate the shirt. You can overlap the dyes to create more colors!

When you are done with one side, carefully flip the shirt over and do the other side.  To get a swirl effect make sure you match the colored triangles on each side.  For a scattered effect, don't match the triangles.

When you are done dying the shirts, carefully put them in a sealed bag.  We found that gallon freezer bags are the perfect size for this. Now you have to wait.  Allow your shirts to sit for 24 hours.

After the resting period, rinse the shirts under cold water to stop the dying process. Untie the shirts and continue rinsing until the water stays clear.  Add the Textile Detergent to your washing machine and wash your shirts on a full cycle.  Your shirts are now done!

Peg Harmon with custom tie-dyed shirts