Sunday, April 24, 2016

How to Make the Perfect Tie Dye Shirt!

After 15 years of doing tie dye t-shirts with my kinders and second graders, I can officially say I have it down to a science!  Each year, I still make my own shirt and currently have more shirts than someone over the age of 10 should have.  If you are taking on the task of tie dye, read below and I hope these tips help you!   

I usually have 2-3 parent volunteers help out- although it’s not necessary, you’ll want them for your sanity.

What I’ve learned:

  •         I always use the Jacquard kits and even though they say it makes 15 shirts, I always buy between 2-3 kits (for 25 shirts) otherwise we run out of dye.  If you use the 40% coupon found at most craft stores, they aren’t too expensive and the kits can be found online as well.

  •             Even though the kit comes with gloves and rubber bands, I always pick up dishwashing gloves and rubber bands at the dollar store because the gloves cover a lot more and the rubber bands are easier for the kids to stretch around the shirt.  You'll need about 3-4 rubber bands per shirt.

So here it goes

You’ll need the following supplies:

You will need 2-3 Jacquard Tie Dye Kits from A.C. MOORE, Micheals or any other craft store. 
1 set of dishwashing gloves for each volunteer. *Even though they have gloves in the kit, you’ll be happier and cleaner with these!
1 large plastic tablecloth to go over the table.
3-4 large aluminum trays (ex. lasagna/roasting size)
1 bag of rubber bands
1 container baby wipes
1 roll of paper towels
Ziploc bags (labeled with child's name) * get the real-deal- the cheaper versions might not seal well.

Prior to tie-dyeing:

You’ll need to size up your kids for the t-shirts.  I always go bigger since the shirts are 100% cotton and they’ll want to wear them next year (my 2nd graders got mostly larges with a few mediums).
I buy the 100% cotton (very important) Hanes undershirts as they always hold the colors the best.

Put the child’s name on the inside collar with a sharpie prior to soaking in the soda ash.

Next, send home the t-shirts and the soda ash (from the kit) with a parent (or do it yourself) to soak the t-shirts for at least 20 minutes. I always leave it in longer. Wring them out and bring them back to school damp. They will feel a bit slimy.

                          For tie-dyeing:

I mix the dye colors with very warm/hot water and shake them up quite well (they’ll cool down while the kids are twisting the shirts).  Sometimes the nozzle gets clogged, so keep a paper clip handy to unclog it. The DVD is great to watch if you've never done it before.

I partner up my kids- one kid will twist the shirt and the other is responsible for opening up the rubber bands for them to put around their shirt.  Make sure the table you twist the shirt on is really clean!  Any marker residue will go on your shirt. The kit has a great video on the different styles- spiral, bullseye, etc.  

We do the 'pinch and twist' technique.

Squish the ends in.  

  I usually make sure their name is visible to make it easier when I call them to dye it.
We use three rubber bands to hold it in place. We make a 'plus sign' with the first two and add another one diagonally.

I usually have all the kids twist and rubber band their shirts and then work on an activity until I call them one at a time to dye their shirts.
Next, put the tablecloth on the table, put the shirt in the lasagna tray and have the child apply the dye.  Make sure the dye goes into the shirt, as well as on the outside, otherwise you will have a white middle.  It's a great time to discuss how to create other colors  such as green, orange and purple. 

Make sure you do NOT squeeze/wring the shirt as the dyes will combine and make a lovely brown =(   We do one side and flip the shirt over to do the other. Put the shirt in a labeled Ziploc and put to the side.

Clean the tray after EACH shirt with a paper towel or wet wipe. If you don’t, the dyes will pool and ruin the next shirt. 

No matter how you apply the dye, each shirt will come out unique and fabulous!!  I send home instructions (they are in the kit) with the parents so they can wash them. They need to wait 24 hours before washing them!

We wear our shirts on class trips and for class events- they look great! Here are some shirts we've made.

The next day I have my kids complete the How to Make a Tie Dye Shirt packet. We brainstorm what we did and try to make it into 6 steps. They did a great job using their temporal words.  Grab your own How to Packet for FREE here.  If you found this helpful for creating your own shirts, please let me know!


  1. This is a great post and very informative on how to tie dye properly. I've been wanting to do this with my kiddos. Thanks for sharing the how-to-booklet freebie too! Teacher Ms H ~ Third Is the Word

  2. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy making the shirts with your kiddies- it's a blast!