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Tie-Dye a T-shirt

Tie-dye ShirtIn the 1960s, young people tie-dyed materials with bright colors and designs. Major manufacturers also began to sell tie-dyed sheets, rugs, curtains and shirts.

Tie-dyeing is a way of tying fabric so that the dye does not get absorbed into a particular part of the material. The pattern is the result of tying, knotting, folding, or sewing areas of the material which do not absorb the colors when they are dipped in pots of dye. Bright colors are mixed with white streaks (those other areas which do not absorb colors).

Tie-dyeing is fun and easy to do on a small budget. You can make amazing colorful patterns and designs. The colorful T-shirt pictured above is featured in the 1960s gallery in A Time to Question.

Here are some simple directions for tie-dyeing a T-shirt, handkerchief, scarf or pillowcase. You will want to ask an older person to help you with this activity.

Materials Needed

Wear old clothes!
You will need these materials to tie-dye:

  • liquid dyes
  • water
  • rubber gloves
  • spoon for stirring
  • bowl or pot for mixing the dye with water
  • thread, string or rubber bands for binding the areas you want to keep white
  • scissors
  • white T-shirt or material from a fabric store to make a handkerchief or scarf or a pillowcase
Directions Example shirt that has been tied in 4 places
  1. Tie the fabric tightly where you do not want dye to color the fabric.
  2. Prepare the dye according to the manufacturer's directions.
  3. Soak the material or a section of it in the dye solution for the time given on the package or until it is the color you want. Remember that the color will be lighter after it dries.
  4. Squeeze out the excess dye.
  5. Rinse the fabric well until water is clear.
  6. Dry on folded newspaper or a plastic sheet—out-of-doors!
  7. When dry, untie.
  8. Knotted T-shirtTie the fabric again in different places. Another section may now be dyed in a different color or a second color dyed over the first. Repeat rinse and dry process.
  9. When the material is dry, untie and iron.

Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.

Updated 09/10/2010

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