Dyeing is such a fun way to transform fabric. You can dye just about anything – including yarn, but today we are going to transform the same T-shirt with 4 amazing techniques that will make you want to dye everything white (or not quite white) in the house.

Two quick things before we go on:

For best results stick with fabric that is 100% natural. Some garments (like the ones in this post) are sewn with polyester threads which don’t take the dye as well.

If your project is large (like sheets or a few items to go in the same dye lot), please weigh the project and refer to the dye packet to see how much dye you will need for stunning colour. You may be able to dye subsequent items in the same dye pot but the colour will be much weaker and the dye may not hold as well. Better to make sure there is enough dye than have an unusable project.

Today I’ll show you:

  1. Painting with dye
  2. Ombre
  3. Tie Dyeing
  4. Shibori

All you need is something to dye (we have 4 identical white t-shirts) and:

  • Dylon Dye in a few different colours
  • Household Salt (pure salt)
  • Sodium Carbonate – also known as Lectric Soda or Soda Ash and (from the supermarket)
  • Rubber gloves
  • A container for dying in (laundry tub or sink) – make sure it’s not porous – porcelain may stain
  • A bucket
  • Water to rinse your finished project

For the painted dye motif you will also need:

  • A jar with a lid
  • A thick Paint brush
  • A plastic shield to put behind the fabric so the dye doesn’t go through 2 layers. Foil wrapped cardboard, or an oven tray in a plastic bag will work if you have nothing else

For the Ombre Project you will also need:

  • A metal or plastic container (optional)

For the Shibori Project you will also need:

For the Tie Dying Project you will also need:

  • Rubber bands
  • A container to let your project rest in overnight

Painting with dye

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This is a great beginner’s project with fantastic results but please note that the finished colour will be much lighter than the original painted dye as a lot of the colour will run out and can bleed so you do need to be prepared for a surprise ending and use a dye that is dark to start with. Today we are paint-dying a t-shirt, but you could just as easily dye fabric for quilting or paint some plain cushion covers.

Prepare your t-shirt by washing it in Sodium carbonate. This will remove any residue in the fabric and allow the dye to better penetrate the fabric.

Mix your dye (Dylon Dark Green) by adding 1 cup of very hot water & ½ cup of salt in a jar & give it a good shake to dissolve the salt, when the water is clear, add the dye in and shake it again to dissolve the dye.

Lay the wet t-shirt on a flat surface and put a plastic shield under the front to protect the back.

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Wearing rubber gloves, paint a design on the front of the t-shirt. When finished move the t-shirt with its plastic protection still inside to an area where it can dry safely.

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When dry, rinse the residual dye out until the water runs clear. Note – the finished colour may be significantly lighter than it looks when you are painting it. Results are unpredictable but that’s part of the fun.

Ombre effects

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This project will take around 60 minutes. Because the t-shirt needs to be held in the dye, it might be helpful to arrange a wire coathanger or some other hanging arrangement over the tap in your sink so you don’t have to hold the shirt yourself all that time.

Prepare your t-shirt by washing it in Sodium carbonate. This will remove any residue in the fabric and allow the dye to better penetrate the fabric.

Mix the dye (Dylon Dark green) by following the directions on the packet and empty it into a shallow sink. I used the remainder of the dye from the painted project above for this shirt.

Wearing rubber gloves, fully immerse the t-shirt in the dye bath and bring it back out, letting the excess dye and water run off. Holding the top of the coathanger, immerse most of the t-shirt into the dye bath and hold it there for 10 minutes. Pull the t-shirt out a bit, leaving the rest of it still in the dye bath and leave for another 10 minutes. Continue in this way until you have only the bottom part in the dye bath. If you like, you can swish the shirt around in the dye bath when removing it at each stage to blend the colour a bit better – but the ombre effect happens because the dye is draining towards the bottom, so try to keep the previous stage mostly clear of the dye.

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When you have finished, remove the t-shirt and hang it somewhere where the remaining dye can drip off and the t-shirt can dry – a wire coathanger can help the shirt to hang so that any excess dye can drip off.   When the shirt is dry, rinse it in running water until the water runs clear and all excess dye has been removed.

Tie Dyeing

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Tie dyeing is such a fun project and you can get so many fantastic effects from overdying. In many ways it’s foolproof because any inconsistencies just add to the random nature. It’s important to remember if you are overdying, to rinse the shirt until the water runs completely clear between each dye bath and to start with the lightest colour first. Use basic colour mixing rules – if your first colour is yellow and you overdye with blue, your shirt will be green. Overdying that combination with red will give you a brown shirt as a finished project.  For this project one colour only was used – but I left the project not fully rinsed and hung it to dry so some residual colour bled into the white sections creating a subtle secondary colour while the blue stayed strong. Not technically the right process but it did give a great subtle colour to the lighter sections without another dye bath and left the blue as a good strong blue.

Prepare your t-shirt by washing it in Sodium carbonate. This will remove any residue in the fabric and allow the dye to better penetrate the fabric. You can use the shirt wet, or allow it to dry if you’d prefer.

Create rings by pinching some fabric and wrapping a rubber band around it. You can create concentric rings by using a few rubber bands. The rubber band will protect the fabric from the dye so these first rubber bands will give us white rings on the fabric.

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Mix the dye by following the directions on the packet (Dylon Navy) and put it in a container or sink that is big enough for your shirt to be submerged.

Using rubber gloves, submerge the shirt and swish it around for 10 minutes. The longer you leave the fabric in the dye, the darker the colour will be.

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Remove the t-shirt when you are happy with the colour (up to an hour), and rinse under cold water until no more dye comes off. For this project I rinsed my shirt until the dye had mostly come out and then let it hang so some of the residual colour bled into the white which left me with a faint pink.

At this point you can remove the rubber bands, or keep them on and add more to make more rings on your shirt and dye again a different colour. The first lot of rubber bands will leave a white ring, but if you remove them for a second dye bath they will take on the new colour, while the rest of the shirt will become darker.

If you kept the original bands on and your first dye bath was yellow, you took some of those first bands off and added some more, then dyed the shirt again in a blue dye bath, your finished project would be a dark green shirt with blue, white and yellow circles.

I would recommend sticking with no more than 2 colours of dye for a project.

Shibori

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The Japanese art of shibori has been around for almost 2,000 years and there are so many beautiful techniques used to give stunning results. Today I’m going to show you how to do a cheats form of Arashi – which is Japanese for storm – the effect looks like rain or rivulets and is gained by pleating the fabric and binding it tightly.

The more precise you pleat your fabric, the better the result will be, but even a very messy scrunch will look good in its own way. The effect comes from only letting parts of the fabric come into contact with the dye – although some will seep into the cracks. The binding itself will create a subtle striped look to the dyed parts of the fabric. Create stronger stripes or rings by wrapping rubber bands around the bound shirt as well. As always, results are unpredictable, but that’s part of the fun.

Prepare your t-shirt by washing it in Sodium carbonate. This will remove any residue in the fabric and allow the dye to better penetrate the fabric. Allow the shirt to dry which will make it easier to fold.

Lay the t-shirt flat & pleat it vertically. I found it easier to do the middle part first, then the sleeves.

When the shirt is completely folded, start wrapping it into a sausage – being careful to keep the pleats together.

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Mix the dye (Dylon Navy) by following the directions on the packet and put it in a container or sink that is big enough for the shirt to be submerged. Note – I used the same dye bath from the tie dye project for this shirt also as their combined weight was within the recommendations on the dye packet.

Leave the t-shirt wrapped and submerged in the dye bath, making sure to return every so often to swish it around in the dye.

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After an hour, take the shirt out of the dye bath, give it a quick rinse and remove the binding from the shirt, by carefully cutting the threads. Open the t-shirt up and rinse it in running water until the water runs clear and all excess dye has been removed.

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Check out more DIY Tie Dye ideas on our Pinterest Page! Happy Dying!