Upcycled T-Shirt: Tie-Dye with Natural Ingredients

Posted by on


Tie-dying goes back to the Egyptians, who used natural pigments to dye their fabrics. It became popular again in the 1960s - groovy! This tie dying tutorial is eco-friendly and uses natural ingredients you have in your kitchen to give an old cotton shirt a new twist.
Any natural fiber is great for tie-dye: cotton, rayon, hemp, linen, ramie, etc. If you can’t find 100% natural shirts, a 90% cotton and 10% polyester or lycra blend is suitable. Avoid 50/50 blends because the colors do not fasten as well to this fabric. You’ll get a weak tie-dye.

Step 1

Here's what you need:
- Items to dye, such as white cotton T-shirts and pillow cases
- Elastic bands or string
- Rubber gloves
- Natural ingredients to make the dye (choose from the Dye Color Guide)
- Old sock or nylons
- White vinegar
- Salt
- Soda ash
- A large stock pot or bucket for each color
- 1 plastic bag per garment
- Baking soda (for cabbage-juice blue)

Step 2

Use these natural ingredients to get the color you crave.
- Reds and pinks: beets, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, pomegranate seeds, chili powder, rose petals, lavender and rosehips
- Purples: red cabbage, blackberries, elderberry, grape juice and purple iris
- Tans and browns: coffee grounds, tea leaves, paprika and boiled acorns
- Oranges: carrot juice, yellow onion and oats
- Yellows: saffron, turmeric, ginger powder, marigolds, daffodil and
carrot leaves
- Greens: boiled spinach, crab apples, artichokes, grass, peppermint and red onion skins
- Blues: blueberries, blackberries and red cabbage (Slowly stir in baking soda, and the cabbage juice will react, creating a beautiful blue hue.)

Step 3

Prep your clothing:

  • The night before, boil 4 parts water, 2 parts vinegar, 1 part salt, 1 part soda ash, and remove from the stove.  
  • Soak cotton items for up to two hours in the solution. Rinse with cold water and let dry. This will help the dye color set.

Step 4

Prepare your dye bath:
- Boil a stockpot of each color you wish to use (three to four colors).
- Choose from the list of ingredients from the Dye Color Guide. Chop, smash, or juice ingredients. Add water and bring to a slow simmer for at least an hour; then let it cool.
- Strain out the ingredients and place them in an old sock or nylon, knot the end, and place it back in the pot. This way, the contents will continue to add color to your dye bath.
- Keep the dye bath on low heat so it is warm but not boiling.

Step 5

Gather, pucker, pull, and twist sections of your garment up and secure tightly with rubber bands or string.

Step 6

Dye your garment. Dip sections of your garment into the dye. For full coverage, submerge it. To create splatter effects, use a spray bottle. For a more controlled application, use an old condiment squeeze bottle, sponge or paintbrush. The longer you dip, the stronger the color will be.

Step 7

Set and cure your garment. Place the banded, dyed garment into a plastic bag and allow to sit overnight in a warm place. In the morning, rinse out your garment until the water runs clean and then hang it out to dry.

Step 8

This tutorial is excerpted with permission from "Just Us Girls: 48 Creative Art Projects for Mothers and Daughters to Do Together" by Cindy Ann Ganaden and published by Quarry Books.

Log-in to Post a Comment: Craftfoxes shadow Google shadow