With the ice dyeing gaining quite a lot of interest earlier in the year (see e.g. blogs by Gill and Lynda), I was delighted to spot some tie dye kits in the ‘special buys’ at Aldi; they looked like something fun and easy to do with children.

What you need

Tie dye kits; ideally the ones with bottles of powder which you just add warm water to and then shake. If Aldi hasn’t got any left, you can get them at Amazon all year round. Amazon also sells refill tabs in various colours (other suppliers are available).

Something to dye; I mainly used white school t-shirts from the local supermarket (three for less than £5).

Protections; both for your work area (cling film / newspapers) and gloves for everyone involved.

Cling film; to wrap the dyed material in while it sets. Air-tight plastic bags may work if you can’t find any cling film at home.

Rinsing bucket(s) and running cold water; ideally an outdoor tap with good drainage (and dark surface material!) or a sink in a utility room. It is probably best to avoid the white new sink in the posh guest room.

Tie dyeing – a few different designs

Preparations

I pre-washed all t-shirts in the washing machine and set the spin to medium (700-900) rather than max (1200-1400) so they’d stay damp for longer.

All participants were told to wear dark clothes or clothes they weren’t too worried about getting ruined. Plastic gloves were also provided for everyone.

To protect the working area, the instructions called for cling film, but I found old newspapers provided better protection and was easier to deal with.

Where to do it

I didn’t want to do tie dyeing indoors with children, so I picked a day when it was dry and not too warm, so we could be outside. Expecting a bit of a mess, I set everything up on the grass, as it would grow out quicker than it would be possible to clean tiles or gravel…

Getting stuck in

After I had added warm water to each of the bottles and shaken them (as per the instructions), I gave each of the children a damp t-shirt and 4 or 5 elastic bands.

They all had different ideas of what pattern they wanted to make, so I let them get on with the folding, or crumbling up, of their own t-shirts.

With all t-shirts ready, newspapers out and gloves on, the bottles of tie dye were passed around and everyone added colours to their t-shirt bundles. Some of the kids added considerably more dye than others, and I was definitely glad I wasn’t doing this indoors!

Wrapping it all up

With everyone happy with their creations so far, I wrapped each bundle individually in cling film and then put them all in a larger plastic bag to allow them to be safely stored until the dye had set. According to the instructions, this should take 6-8 hours, although leaving them longer than this (over-night) worked well too.

Rinsing the bundles

Once the stipulated time (or longer) had passed I carefully removed the cling film around each bundle. I strongly recommend wearing gloves for this!!

Leaving the elastic bands in, I rinsed each bundle in cold water until there was no more dye coming out when squeezing it. By doing the bundles individually or only with similar colours, I ensured that darker colours from one t-shirt didn’t discolour others with more white areas.

As the rinsing may not be the most exciting step, it can be done without the children around.

The big reveal

Once everything was rinsed, it was time to remove the elastic bands and check how the t-shirts turned out. The children absolutely loved this step as they could finally see their creations! There may still be some dye left in the t-shirts, so you may like the kids to wear gloves (I didn’t…).

Once you have seen the creations, my kit called for a warm wash in detergent before they could be worn. I also recommend to wash the t-shirts with similar or darker colours for the first few washes.

A few of the t-shirts the children created

More fun

There are only so many tie dyed t-shirts a child can wear, so I ended up buying some plain tote bags for another session. Next, I am tempted to dye some fabric and use in quilts. I hope you are inspired to try it too, as it was great fun and easy for everyone to get involved, including the four year old.

PS. Dye on the skin comes off with baby wet wipes or by rubbing some baking soda on it.

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