Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY: Tie Dye T-shirts with Kids

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When I was in 7th grade, growing up in South Dakota, my science teacher helped me learn a lesson that would encourage me all through my teenage and college years. On the first day of class, she asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up. Fireman, teacher, doctor, lawyer... were the common responses. When my turn came, I blurted out "a mom." I remember the snickers and giggles at my response, and even though I was slightly embarrassed, I felt a swelling in my heart. Right then, I knew that what I had just said was true. I hoped to grow up to be a mother. Years later, I'm so very grateful to my Heavenly Father for blessing me with that opportunity.

As a mother, one of the ultimate joys of my heart is involving my kids in basically everything I do. I love having a child, or two, or three by my side as we make dinner. I cherish the moment when a little one sits on my lap as I sew. I smile so big when my 4 year old begs to help me with the laundry. I know these special years won't last forever, which is why I try to soak it all in. Being a present mother to my kids is my passion. I love to create meaningful memories with them.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the craft store and purchased supplies to tie dye t-shirts. When we sat down to do the project, I realized it would be a messy job. My first instinct was to let them stand by and watch, but when I rethought the situation, I decided that with a little patience and instruction on my end, they could be trusted to apply the dye themselves. They were so careful and did such a great job, and they proudly wore the t-shirts they created.

Being a mother has helped me understand and relate to my Heavenly Father. Now that I see life through the eyes of a parent, I can understand how much He loves and cares for each one of His children. I imagine that He would love to take over and do the hard and messy things for us. Instead He allows us to learn and grow by figuring things out on our own, just like I realized I should do when helping my kids tie dye their shirts.

I found this kit from Hobby Lobby ($12 with a coupon. It comes with a lot of product, I think I have enough to dye at least 8 small shirts). The kit comes with the dye, bottles, rubber bands, and gloves. In addition, you'll need shirts (or whatever you're dying), an old towel or garbage bags, and aprons for your kids. The kit comes with directions, but I thought I'd share a few additional personal tips. To prep your shirts, get them damp. I threw ours in the washing machine in hot water to preshrink them.

The Spiral

Start by pinching bother layers (front and back) in the middle of the shirt. Start twisting.
Twist the fabric until it is all twisted up.
Now take 3 rubberbands and section off the shirt like a pie.
Put an apron and gloves on your little helper. Carefully explain where the color will go. Make sure the dye goes on the front, back, and all the little crevices. You might have to add more dye when your helper is finished and not looking... wink wink.

The Polka Dots

Pinch both layers of the fabric in random places and tightly wrap a rubberband on each section.
This might seem silly to mention, but be careful not place two sections right across the chest of the shirt, if you know what I mean.
Again, prepare your helper with an apron specific directions, and close supervision. Then let her have fun!

The Stripes

Fold your shirt accordian style (like the paper fans you made when you were a kid). You can make the folds lengthwise or widthwise.
Section off the shirt into equal portions, and add rubberbands.
Little brother was taking a nap when his sisters and mom were decorating shirts. It was a good opportunity for me to demonstrate to the other girls on what to do!

Once you are finished applying the dye, place each shirt in a plastic bag, and tie in a knot. Let the shirts sit at least 6 hours (I let them sit overnight, to ensure the colors really penetrated). Then rinse the shirts- a lot of excess dye will wash out. My directions said to wash each shirt separately in the washing machine, but I washed them all together without problems. (Just make sure you don't wash them with any other laundry)!


We took these on vacation when we went to the Redwoods in August.
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This post was originally published on Time Out for Women.


  1. Great project! My 5 year old did a tie dye t-shirt project with his class at school. This messy fun is going on my to-do list for the summer :)

  2. Cute!! My kids would have way too much fun with that.

  3. i have always loved tie dye!

  4. These shirts are seriously fun....
    Congrats on being featured on Time Out for Women!

    hugs ~ Crystelle

  5. My kids are older but I still like when they hang around me while I do stuff around the house! My daughter loves to tie dye. This is a great tutorial.

  6. Love your results! My daughter recently got together with her friends to tie dye t-shirts, socks, bras and underwear. They looked so cool, I honestly wish I had joined in!

  7. Takes me back to elementary school when we tie dyed t-shirts in art class. Wish I had had your guide then.... Love the photo at the end of your post with the three shirts on display, especially the holding hands. Definitely pinning this!


  8. Love this! And so much fun to do this with your kids. Great idea! Liz

  9. So cute:) My kids will definitely love that.


  10. what a fun project! we will have to try this this summer!

  11. How fun! We would love for you to share this on our Kitchen Fun and Crafty link party!

  12. Thanks for posting this! We are so excited to try some of your same patterns!

  13. Have you had any issues with colors bleeding into the washing machine and lingering?
    My biggest fear is dye sticking to the inside of the washing machine and ruining other laundry!
    I've also never tie-dyed shirts so this could be an irrational fear!
    What about color fade? I've seen other sites mention soaking in soda ash + water before dyeing.
    From your pics it looks like your shirts turned out just fine without that step!
    I'm having a tie-dye party next week, so I want to make sure I buy enough of the right materials!

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