Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids – Part 1

June 24, 2013Allison Murray

Today I’m going to show you a couple of tie dye patterns that are super easy. In fact, they’re easy enough for little fingers.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

I am a freak about tie dye and I know exactly when I fell in love with it. I was a kid, standing over a boiling pot of dye while my once white shirt was becoming purple. I didn’t even like the color purple but, dude was I stoked. This was like magic.

Side note, nowadays to people let their 7 year old kids stand over a boiling pot on the stove with a pair of tongs on a kitchen chair? Probably not.

I loved how the different ways of folding and bunching made different patterns. I loved how you can have more dye or less dye. Back then all of my tie dyes were one color because that’s how we did it. Momma bought up a package of pink dye and we dyed everything pink. Which reminds me of the movie I Capture the Castle where they’re dyeing everything in the home green! And their new landlord guests want to know why they all wear nothing but green. It’s a fun movie.

At any rate we’d best be getting on this. I’ll be sharing 2 patterns today + tips and tricks and another 4 tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

First off my honest recommendations:

  • Use 100% cotton tee shirts for the best results. Non-natural fibers like polyester will not be colored normally by regular dyes like you’ll find in store-bought kits. These fibers will take on some color but in the end will mute the effect of the dye considerably.
  • Unless you’re going to order professional grade tie dye from Dharma Trading, go Tulip. This one is my favorite with neon colors. But there are tons of others to choose from. Plus they sell them at craft stores and big stores like Wal-Mart.
  • Get some decent rubber bands. You can purchase a box from the office supplies section, or grab the Tulip brand ones I used for this batch of tees. They are different colors for the sizes which wound up being far more convenient than I would have imagined. If you try using older ones they might snap on you and it hurts and it sucks to wince every time because you’re worried you’re gonna get popped!
  • Buy some better gloves. The ones in the kits are made to be able to be used by everyone, which means they’re going to be a lot bigger than most of our hands. In the medical section you can find latex and non-latex disposable gloves that work really well.
  • Always wet your shirts prior to actually tie dyeing. This will help the colors blur or blend together and prevent any sharp lines from occurring between the colors.
  • Think about the colors you are using and consider the color wheel. Certain colors are going to look great together. For example, orange and blue are a fantastic color pairing, but when they blur together, they can make brown. So your shirt can be blue, orange and brown where the two colors meet. This is another reason kits are great, they tend to have colors that work well together.
  • If you want darker or brighter colors, use less water than recommended. You’ll get less mileage out of your kit but if you’re going for the darker or brighter colors you’ll be happier in the long run.
  • There’s this stuff called soda ash that helps colors be brighter. There’s already a dose of it in store-bought kits but you can always use more. Earlier I mentioned to always dye on wet shirts, well in this case you’ll mix the soda ash with some water, dunk the shirts in, wring out the excess and then dye. FYI – this stuff is kind of sticky for some reason.
  • The tighter you tie your shirts the less the color will seap in, or the more white you’ll maintain on the shirts.
  • After you apply the dye, wrap each shirt up individually with plastic wrap and toss into a plastic shopping bag you get when you bring your groceries home. Toss those into a warm, dark place for at least 6 hours, though I always leave mine for 24 hours.
  • How you rinse your shirts is very important and key to maintaining the white areas on your shirt. And it takes a lot of time. I’m talkin’ you’re gonna get sick of standing at the sink if you dye a whole boatload in one go, which I always do.
  1. First keep all of your ties on and rinse and squeeze and rinse and squeeze until the water appears to run clear.
  2. Next remove the ties and bands but keep the shirt together in that shape as much as possible. Rinse and squeeze until the water appears to be clear.
  3. Finally, undo the shirt and remove any remaining dye. Give it a little bit longer than you think it needs. Wring the excess water out and toss it right into the washer.
  • Wash your shirts in small batches just in case you didn’t remove all of the dye in your rinsing. I only rinse and then immediately wash 3 at a time. No soap, just run through the machine and then dry.
  • Wash your shirts separately for a time or two to ensure they don’t bleed onto your other laundry.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

The bullseye pattern is really easy and one that kids can do themselves. The very first pic in this post was a bullseye pattern that began on the shoulder and was tied very tightly to try to maintain as much white as possible. The one immediately above is a bullseye starting right in the center of the shirt and not tied nearly as loosely.

It’s also using the dregs of my dye which is why the color isn’t exactly spectacular.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

Grab the shirt right where you want the center of the eye to be. This is the shoulder shirt.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

Pick the shirt up, allowing the rest to follow behind and dangle.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

Take your rubber bands and secure where you want your first ring of white to begin.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

Continue your rubber bands down the shirt.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

I always choose to make the sections become larger and larger the further away from the bullseye, but you can also make them all the same distance apart. When actually dyeing, I’ll use the rubber bands as markers for where to place the color.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

This particular pattern is my nephew’s favorite. We call it the window pane though I’m sure it has another name.  This one is more difficult for younger kids, but older kids around 8 or 9 seem to be able to handle it if you show them how to do it first.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

This one was kind of difficult to show in a pictorial, so I’m sorry for that. You’re going to lay the shirt out and starting at the bottom fold the fabric forward and backward just like the pleating in an accordion. Try to keep the folds the same size as you go up the shirt.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

You’ll continue  until you reach the top. If you start at the bottom the sleeves will easily fall into place as you’re folding.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

Starting at one end, continue the accordion style folding of back and forth.

Tie Dye Patterns Great for Kids :: www.dreamalittlebigger.com

When you’re finished, it will look like you have a little package. Secure with a rubber band in either direction. There’s no need to use lots of bands because the tying of this shirt naturally leaves some great white space.

I like to apply dye either by side, like blue on the left and green on the right, or I’ll first douse the shirt in a color like pink and then go over the shirt again in a darker color like purple. That’s how the dye was applied for the shirt above.

That’s all for today, but come back tomorrow for some other interesting ties tomorrow. See you then!


Comments (9)

  • Leah

    July 7, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    Awesome tutorial! I love your blog so sweet and written with a lot of love! Can't wait to bust out a ton of shirts!!

  • Allison Murray

    July 7, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Thanks so much, Leah. And I'm really excited that you can tell how much I love my crafting and my blog :)

  • Lisa

    July 17, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Thank you for such well written and pictured tutorials! Other sites might show how to tie, but not how the finished products look. Your explanations are clear! Thanks so much for sharing! It is a tradition for my "niecephews" to come and stay with me a few days each summer and they always want to tie dye! I finally learned about good fiber reactive dyes and this year will hopefully be the best yet!

  • mandy

    July 21, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Hi! I was wondering if you ever did something that resembles fire. My son is having a fire fighter themed birthday at a Jumpy place and I was thinking of doing tie dye socks that look like flames – as the party favor plus they all need socks to do the jumpy house.


    1. Allison Murray

      July 21, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      I have though I have no images of them. We actually dyed socks, too! We took bamboo socks from Dharma Trading and first dyed them yellow, then orange and red at the tops (all while still wet). We kept them straight and wrapped them in plastic wrap to set. The effect was pretty darn cool!

  • Cherie Magee

    July 21, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Thanks for a great tutorial – plan on doing t-shirts soon with my two granddaughters. Got to ask – you said to rinse t-shirts in water first so it takes the dye better – which makes sense, but in the photos it looks like you are folding up dry t-shirts. Are the shirt supposed to be dried again before tie/dying them or did you just use dry shirts for the photos?

    1. Allison Murray

      July 21, 2014 at 8:57 PM

      Since it’s been a while I had a peek at the pics to be sure I knew what I was talking about :) but the shirts are actually damp. You can dry them out but when slightly wet, the folds hold better so you’re not having to grab around crazy for fabric that’s trying to flip back over on you. Not sure why, but the wet tees stay in place as you fold them. Best of luck with your granddaughters… I hope you have a blast!!!

  • kiran

    May 17, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    thank u so much for such a clear and nice tutorial.

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