It is a truth that fashion is now just pumping out reiterations of earlier trends, with tweaks to make them appear more modern. I’m generally fine with this - I love a 70s redux and even though the 90s was an awkward time for me (teenager. Enough said) I can get really on board with some of the styles from that time, too.
HOWEVER. When I saw tie-dye was making a mainstream comeback I felt some qualms. My friends went through an intense tie-dyeing phase a few years back and at the time I was not able to grasp the why and wherefore. Tie-dye seemed kinda niche, and a really bold look that also required you to make quite an unholy mess. This time around I still felt those residual “will this look like a costume” vibes, but after a Pinterest sesh (and following Eva Chen on Instagram, that lady knows how to rock a rainbow tie-dye), I was ready to try the tie-dye.
I wanted it to be cheap, and as chic as possible. Rather than buying a tie-dye tshirt, I decided I’d try dyeing an existing tshirt from my ridiculous stash. This brought me to the following link: https://www.onlinefabricstore.net/makersmill/8-fabric-dyeing-techniques/ and a packet of dye I picked up at the supermarket.
I dyed a yellow tshirt with blue dye, which gave me this very “I support Australia in the cricket” effect. It also gave me the confidence to dye up a storm, so I headed to Spotlight and AS Colour and set myself up as a Shibori dyeing factory one Saturday afternoon. I grabbed a variety of sizes and colours, so that you too can have the gift of a tie-dyed tshirt (stay tuned to the end for details on that!).
Dyeing proved to be simple and, surprisingly, pretty mess-free. I used a metal pot (to carry the dyed items to the washing machine), a glass measuring jug (for mixing the dye, and then filled with clean water so I could rinse my gloves before I took them off), and the stainless steel sink in my kitchen (for the dyeing/soaking) and I’m pleased to report I didn’t accidentally dye anything I didn’t want to dye (success!). You can just follow the instructions on the back of the packet of Dylon dye, so this isn’t a full tutorial. However, I do have some pro tips/obvious things that I apparently had to learn from doing instead of via thinking about it in advance.
1. First up, the longer you dye something for, the deeper the hue. This is obvious. But what this means is that if you’re doing the folding technique, where you just dip the edge of the fabric in the dye, you will have to patiently rotate the thing (or, as I did, accept lower saturation of the dye in these tshirts).
2. As we learned from my first attempt with the yellow tshirt, the dye colour will add to the tshirt colour to create a fun third colour. This can be great. This can be terrible. Live your best life and have fun playing with the combos. Likewise, if you try to dye something with a colour too close to it, it will be blah. Lilac tshirt plus flamingo pink dye = blah.
3. Use hair ties instead of rubber bands. They do the same job, but hair ties are created specifically to not snag on things. They are a million times easier to get off the tshirt after dyeing, which is important. A sticky rubber band can result in you inadvertently flicking dye all over the show and generally, wrestling with a dense bundle of wet fabric just doesn’t need to be any harder than it already is.
4. If you’re dyeing in one area and then going to another area (like your kitchen to your bathroom, in my instance), put a folded towel down right at the perimeter of the “dye zone”. You can walk over this on your way out and it will make sure that you don’t accidentally track dye through the house on the bottom of your shoes.
My favourite folding technique is the one I used on the white and grey tshirt I’m wearing in the outfit shots here. You soak the tshirt, then accordion fold it horizontally (like a fan), then add a bunch of rubber bands about 2 inches apart. I like the dense bands of colour! I also really liked the shibori folding technique (like the pink and green tshirt). You can have a great time folding tshirts in a totally random fashion and seeing what you come up with.
One packet of dye costs about $11.00, and makes up several litres of dye, so you can dye quite a few tshirts at once. I think this would be a great activity to do with kids (older kids. No teensy kids who will create dye-related havoc), and even if they’re not into tie-dye you could easily experiment with dip-dyeing for an ombre effect, or using wax to create more organic relief effects. I can also totally see myself buying plain cotton fabric and dyeing it myself, and then running up some cool skirts and trousers!
If you’d like a tie-dye tshirt but you don’t have the time, resources or level of cares to DIY it, there will be heaps of options available all around you soon OR, you can email me at email@example.com and dibs one of the tshirts I’m giving away! Options are below and it’s first in, first served. She says with unfounded confidence.
Kids size 12/adults XS (rull small): yellow and green! Are you Australian or South African? You gonna be a party at the cricket this summer!
Adults XS: pale pink and green (top right)
Adults M: pale blue and grey (middle)
Adults L: beige and flamingo pink (top left - this is my fave combo)
Adults XL: lilac and blue. Same horizontal stripe action as my white and grey one.
There is no size S because I stole that one for myself. Hah!