Groovy Color Party


Before the weather turns frigid, I wanted to write a post about tie dyeing, the central activity of Laurel’s recent Color Party. I obsessed about this topic more than I’d care to admit because I wanted the activity to be fun, safe, and hopefully minimal in the mess department for both kids and parents. I’m thrilled that the activity worked out favorably on each of these counts; here are the tips to get your own groovy color party going.
You will need:

  • Fabric dye: I used Rit Dye, available at your local craft store. Laurel had a grand time picking out colors – we went with 7 colors to hit the rainbow and also offer enough bowls to avoid kiddie squabbling. This worked out to be more than enough for two dozen kids (crazy, I know).

  • Rubber bands: To create tie dye stripes. (Marbles are an optional addition; more on that below.)

  • Rubber gloves: I purchased non-latex medical gloves from the pharmacy to avoid potential latex allergy issues. Obviously, they’re too big for little hands but it worked out fine for the kids, and several of the kids wanted to point to the colors and have the parents do the tie dye anyway.

  • T-shirts: After scouring the web I went with the Fruit of the Loom heavy cotton tees from Jiffy Shirts. The quality of the tees was perfect for tie dye, the pricing is great, and the customer service (inventory alert and crazy fast shipping) was amazing. For the babies, I got onesies from Old Navy (the white multipack) because I like how snuggly soft they are.

  • Bowls: I picked up inexpensive 4-quart plastic bowls at a discount housewares store; one for each tie dye color.

  • Gift bags: I have a lot of small, transparent plastic gift bags kicking around for my art business and these worked perfectly for this purpose. I first attached name tags to all of the bags then tucked the right sized shirt, a handful of rubber bands, and the instructions (below) into the bag. Once kids had finished their tie dyes, they could toss the tee into their bag to take home.

    Preparing the dye:

    Follow the instructions on the package, but in short, all you need to do is pour the dye package in the bowl, add 1 cup of salt (to help set the dye), and add hot tap water (by the time everyone started the process the water had cooled down to a safe temperature). I believe the package said to use only 2 cups of water per packet and I definitely used more than that – probably about 1 quart or more. This worked fine and produced lovely colors but next time around I’d probably not dilute as much since there was plenty of dye and the less water, the quicker and more vivid the color.

    Also set aside a big bowl of water for the pre-soak process. Pre-soaking makes it easier to twist the tee and have it stay in place while you attach the rubber bands.

    Dyeing the shirts:

    Here are the instructions I included in the tie dye bags:

  • Soak tee in plain water; squeeze out excess.
  • Twist tees and secure with rubber bands to make lines (make multiple twists for more than one tie dye burst).
  • Put on non-latex gloves; dip tee into dye(s).
  • Drop tee back in favor bag to take home; allow tee to set overnight.
  • Remove rubber bands and run shirt through the dryer to set the dye (you also can opt to rinse the tee – wear gloves! - until the water runs clear then run alone through laundry).

    [**Note: I rinsed the tee then ran it through the dryer to set and it worked fine. I've since run the tee through the laundry with other clothes without a problem.]

    Final Notes:

  • Click here to see some great tie dye examples from (including the marble technique mentioned above), one of the sites I consulted while figuring out the how to.

  • Some sites suggested using squirt bottles to apply dye, which I initially thought would be a good idea, but squirting instead of dipping uses up more dye and I was worried about the risk of kids squirting each other in the eye so I scrapped this option.

  • We did multiple bursts all over the tee (dipping each in a different color); it came out fantastic!

  • Obviously, the longer you soak the tee the darker the dye will be. But due to the clientele we were working with we held the tees in each color probably no more than a minute or two and it worked out fine.