How to Tie-Dye Simply and Effortlessly

It seems like everyone these days is staying home and chillin’ in a cool matching sweatsuit or pajama set with coordinating tie dye patterns. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been home looking to get crafty or maybe it’s a further step in our keeping it casual, home-style. With soft colors and subtle bleach styles right next to more bold intense color patterns on display all over social media, it’s the perfect time to get inspired and try your hand at a fun DIY project.

Tie dye is a go-to craft favorite for everyone from kindergarten classes to quarantined folks because of how inexpensive, easy and immediate it can be. It doesn’t require any special tools, talent, or even practice. And right now, we could all use a little “Look what I did!” moment to feel productive and creative. Plus, nothing says summer like tie dye. Before you get your buckets and gloves, check out a few ideas that might enhance this classic craft experience. 

Keep it Clean

We all have disposable gloves laying around now, right? Put them to good use, because as chic as dyed clothes might be, you’ll soon tire of having purple hands for days. Tape down plastic drop cloths to protect your work space or rip open trash bags in a pinch. Remember you’ll be working with solutions meant to permanently color fabric so the extra prep goes a long way. Another fun tip: if you don’t want to have to wash squirt bottles full of dye, just punch a small hole in the sealed top of dye bottles — one less thing to clean up!

Classic Kits

You can easily find prefab kits with all the supplies you’ll need to pull off some tying and dyeing. There are no shortage of choices, but some of our favorites include the xiaohuhu Summer Bundle Tie Dye Kit (which features 18 seasonal shades) and the Anna Joyce Iced Dye kit that uses fabric reactive dyes to create cool “iced” colors. 

Tie Dye Your Tips

With many of us not so in love with our hair at the moment, adding a little color to your tips might be just the way to lift your hair mood. All it takes is bleaching the tips of any color and adding foil colors in several different shades. Since you’re just doing the tips, it’s a lot easier to control color and you won’t need to worry about coloring parts of your head you can’t see. Have a night with nothing to do? Why not make yourself look more like a unicorn! You can always cut it off when you get that first post-quarantine haircut.

Tie Dye with Pantry Items

It’s actually very easy to color clothing with items you probably already have. All you need is some white vinegar and some liquid food coloring (just like the kind you might use for dyeing eggs!). This method works best with white fabric and clothing (you’ll need to reach for the bleach if you’re wanting to color dark fabric). Although this method doesn’t use bleach or fabric dyes, you’ll still want to make sure to protect surfaces and wear clothes you don’t mind becoming permanently stained. 

Tie Dye isn’t Just for T-Shirts

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tie dye shirt, but you can make all sorts of things more stylish with some dye. Some of my favorites include: big bulky white sweatshirts (that you can get so cheap right now!), socks, dress shirts, underwear, tablecloths, headbands, shorts, pj sets, yoga pants, and beach towels…is there any good place to stop this list?

Not All Tie Dye is Created Equal

If you grew up in the 80’s like me, you might think of tie dye the same way: bold, zany rainbows of colors – Grateful Dead dancing bears mixed with Wham and Woodstock. But traditional tie dye colors certainly aren’t the only options! Faded tie dye is definitely having a moment right now (notice subtle neutral hues and pastels in these looks). Go with a very small amount of powder dye with water for less intense hues. 

Bleach It

Tie Dye’s beauty is in its simplicity. You don’t even need dye to get the look. For non-white colored fabrics, from black and dark brown to pastels, you can add an easy tie dye pattern with just a little bleach and rubber bands. And it’s SUPER fast, meaning, you’ll have the look ready in just a matter of a few minutes. Make sure to plan your folding and banding patterns well. You can also change the intensity of the bleaching by diluting the bleach with greater amounts of water.

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