Fun with Color – Tie Dye Shirts

TDP8Today we have a craft to share that our kids all LOVED – Tie Dyed Shirts. Tie dye shirts are a fun craft because you can select specific colors to customize the shirts any way your child desires. My kids chose a sports theme and since it is football season, they used the colors of their favorite NFL teams. Keeping with the sports idea, you could use the colors of youth sports teams your child plays on, the colors of your local high school or the colors of your alma mater so your family has something fun to wear during games. Or, if your child is not into sports, you could use their school colors, the colors that their favorite super hero wears, or simply use colors they love. What makes this fun is that the possibilities are endless.

TD3The mess factor can seem a bit intimidating with this craft, but we found ways to keep the process simple and relatively mess free. Also, since little K managed to tie dye herself while the adults were busy shooting pictures for this post, we know from experience that if the dye does happen to get all over you or a child it will wear off in just a few short days :-).

Supplies Needed:

  1. White 100% cotton T-shirt
  2. Rubber bands
  3. Rubber gloves
  4. Tie dye (we purchased ours at Michaels and would HIGHLY recommend purchasing the ones that come in the little squirt bottles)
  5. Gallon Ziploc bags


  1. Pre-wash and dry the shirts you will be using.
  2. Prepare the dye according to the directions on the box. As mentioned above, when doing this project with children we recommend the dyes you can purchase that are powder in squirt bottles. You simply fill the bottles with water, shake them up and are ready to dye. Leave the prepared dyes out of reach of children while you prep the shirts.
  3. Lay the shirt on a flat surface, grab a big pile of rubber bands and select one of the various techniques to create the patterns your child would like on their shirt. A simple internet search will provide you with many different options, but we selected three simple techniques that our kids loved.
  • Option One – Starburst:TD16

Pinch the fabric of the shirt where you want the circle to be and pull the fabric into a cone shape. Wrap a rubber band approx. 1-2 inches below the tip of the fabric. Be sure to wrap the rubber band several times and make it very tight. Repeat this process all over the front and back of the shirt.

  • Option Two – LinesTD17

Roll your fabric up until it is a tightly wrapped thin cylinder.  Wrap rubber bands tightly around the entire shirt about 1-2 inches apart.

  • Option Three – Rainbow SpiralTD15

Select the spot on the shirt that you want to be the center of your spiral and pinch a small piece of fabric.  While holding that begin to twist the fabric around in a circle until the entire shirt is wrapped up into a flat spiral. When that is done, carefully bind the shirt with rubber bands that go all the way around and across the shirt so it ends up looking like a circle that is divided into several wedges. Make sure you bind the shirt up tightly.

  1. TD2Once the shirts are bound gather up the dyes, shirts and rubber gloves and move outside onto the grass. Using string or some other type of marker block off a small section that will be the tie-dying area (we didn’t do this and that is how we ended up with kids and moms with the bottoms of our feet beautifully tie-dyed). Have the child place their shirt in the center of the tie-dying area.

Note: If you don’t have grass to dye on, you can do this on any surface, but you will want to lay down plastic to protect the surface you are working on.

  1. Ask the child to put on rubber gloves. I would recommend that adults helping wear them as well. Leave the shirt in the center of the marked tie-dying area and have the child sit right outside the area. Hand them the bottle filled with the dye they are going to use first. For the starburst option it works best to have the rubber banded areas dyed one color and the background of the shirt a different color. For the rainbow spiral option you get a more colorful design if you use different colors in the wedges that the rubber bands created.  The same is true for the separate sections created on the line shirts. Have them continue using the bottles filled with dye until their entire shirt is covered in color.
  2. Place the wet shirts into a gallon Ziploc bag and seal them shut. Let them sit for several hours so the dye has time to set. We let ours sit overnight.TD14
  3. Remove the shirts from the bags and carefully cut off the rubber bands. Enjoy the excitement your child feels as they see how awesome their shirt turned out. This is a really fun step :-).
  4. Then launder each shirt so any excess dye is removed. I did a very small load with nothing but the tie dyed shirts in it just to be certain I did not ruin any other laundry.TDP10

For the shirts we made for the girls we added a few extra touches after the shirts had been washed and dried. Details on those variations are below:

Dress Variation:

For these we simply cut the sleeves off the shirts and using the material from the sleeves, we cut long strips of fabric that were about 1″ thick.  We used those strips to tie bows around the material between the arm and neck holes. Then we used a third strip to bring together and tie the fabric that was left between the arm holes on the back of the shirts.  In one dress we left the neckline alone and in another we cut it off. Both ideas worked well.TDP6TDP5

Tank Top Variation:

For the tank top I cut off both the sleeves right at the seam and cut off the neckline a bit below the seam line.   Using the fabric from both the sleeves and the neckline I cut approx. 1″ thick strips. I tied one of the strips around the material that remained between the neck and armholes of the shirt. I simply did a double knot to secure the fabric and then wrapped it around and around the material between the neck and arm holes. The idea is to create thin, round straps. I continued this until I got to the section that would be on the back of the shirt. When I got there I pulled both sides together to create one strap that ran down the back. When I would run out of fabric I would cut another strip and tie a knot to begin the new strip right on top of the piece I had just finished. After my straps were finished I went back and cut off any extra fabric that was showing from the knots I had tied and I twisted the fabric so the knots were on the inside of the straps and not visible. If my directions are at all unclear, here is the link to the post I viewed for inspiration on the tank top shirt idea:


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