Get Your Groovy On! How to Tie-Dye With Kids

Tie-dyeing T-shirts is a fab outdoor activity for the whole family.

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Tie-Dye Basics: Prep

Jim Franco

Tie-Dye Basics: Prep

Have the kids wear an apron or a smock over old clothes. If you're working on a wood surface, cover it with plastic sheeting.

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Tie-Dye Basics: Step 1

Jim Franco

Tie-Dye Basics: Step 1

Mix fabric dye according to package instructions in 3-gallon enamel or stainless-steel containers (plastic will get stained). Add a cup of salt to the dye bath to enhance the color. Then tie rubber bands tightly around a white T-shirt (we like 100 percent cotton). For special patterns, plan out the design with dots of colored chalk -- it washes off in the dye bath. (That's how we got the heart shape on the previous slide.)

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Tie-Dye Basics: Step 2

Jim Franco

Tie-Dye Basics: Step 2

Immerse T-shirt in hot water first, wring out the excess water, and then soak in dye bath. Stir frequently with a long-handled enamel or stainless-steel spoon. Dyeing takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how deep a color you want. (If you're using two or more colors, dip and hold each section in dye.)

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Tie-Dye Basics: Step 3

Jim Franco

Tie-Dye Basics: Step 3

Remove T-shirt with tongs or a big stick. Rinse under warm, then gradually cooler water until it runs clear. (Wear rubber gloves so your hands don't get dyed.) When you throw the shirt in the laundry for the first time, wash it alone in warm water, rinse in cool water, then line- or machine-dry.

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Bull's-Eye: Step 1

Jim Franco

Bull's-Eye: Step 1

Lay T-shirt flat. Pinch center of the garment and rubber-band both layers, about 1 to 2 inches from center.

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Bull's Eye: Step 2

Jim Franco

Bull's Eye: Step 2

Space rubber bands 1 inch apart.

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Bull's Eye: Finished Product

Jim Franco

Bull's Eye: Finished Product

Even onesies look, um right on target, with this design.

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Diagonal Stripe: Step 1

Jim Franco

Diagonal Stripe: Step 1

Lay T-shirt flat and fold accordion-style from bottom corner.

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Diagonal Stripe: Step 2

Jim Franco

Diagonal Stripe: Step 2

Once folded, wrap with rubber bands every 1 to 2 inches.

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Diagonals Stripe: Finished Product

Jim Franco

Diagonals Stripe: Finished Product

If you're looking for a clean, cool design, this pattern is for you.

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Rosette: Step 1

Jim Franco

Rosette: Step 1

Lay T-shirt flat. Pinch a 2-inch section through both layers and rubber-band it.

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Rosette: Step 2

Jim Franco

Rosette: Step 2

Push your finger down through the rubber band to make a donut shape. Repeat.

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Rosette: Finished Product

Jim Franco

Rosette: Finished Product

This design ends up looking like fun, funky flowers.

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Swirl: Step 1

Jim Franco

Swirl: Step 1

Lay T-shirt flat. Hold a fork on the center of the shirt and twist.

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Swirl: Step 2

Jim Franco

Swirl: Step 2

Gather into a circle and wrap 4 to 6 rubber bands around the shirt.

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Swirl: Finished Product

Jim Franco

Swirl: Finished Product

This classic tie-dye design is sure to be a hit.

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Crinkle: Step 1

Jim Franco

Crinkle: Step 1

Crumple T-shirt at random.

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Crinkle: Step 2

Jim Franco

Crinkle: Step 2

Wrap haphazardly with 4 to 6 rubber bands.

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Crinkle: Finished Product

Jim Franco

Crinkle: Finished Product

Because all you have to do is bunch up the shirt, you really can't mess up this simple look.


Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Parents magazine.