Something Fun: A Tie Dye Party

Today I thought I would give you an idea for something really fun to do on a sunny day:   host a tie dye party.  It’s not very expensive, and it’s a lot of fun.

Step 1:  Grab a coupon for your local craft store, then go buy a tie-dye kit.  All three of the major craft chains (Michael’s, AC Moore and Hobby Lobby) usually put out a coupon once a week for 40% off or 50% off one item.  Grab one online or from your local sale flyer and then head to the store.  Buy the Tulip brand tie dye party kit.  It looks like this:

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The packaging may vary, but look for the kit that makes 36 projects.  Realistically, it will make more like 15-18 projects using the colors you really WANT.  Just know that going in.  It typically retails (in North Carolina) for $29.99, so with the coupon, you’re looking at it costing about $1 per project.

Step 2:  Find some stuff to tie-dye.  I order men’s white v-neck t-shirts from, but you can also watch for those at your local discount store.  And, sometimes the craft chains put Gildan brand t-shirts on sale for as little as $1.99 apiece.  But, don’t limit yourself to t-shirts!  You can do tote bags, socks, scarves, and even underwear.

My son really likes to tie-dye boxer briefs.  He once made a pair using the brown dye in the Tulip kit.  It was kind of disgusting but funny.  (Use your imagination).  This is also a good way to repurpose white shirts that have a stain on them, or that have turned yellowish.

Tell guests to bring their own garments.  That way you aren’t trying to buy shirts for everyone, and, they can be sure to have the right size and style of whatever it is they want to tie-dye.  Be specific about how many garments you want them to bring.  Whether it’s one, two or three, or more, make sure you have figured on having enough dye and supplies  for the quantity people will bring.

Pre-wash all the items, and do not dry them with fabric softener, which can impede the dye’s absorption.  I recommend also drying them once, to shrink them.  Then, wet them again (a rinse cycle in the washer is great). It’s easiest to fold and shape the tie-dye design with a damp garment, which is why you need to rinse them one more time.

(Be sure to tell your guests to do this pre-washing step before arriving, and to bring their shirts damp, if possible.)

Step 3:  Set up a tie-dye station outdoors.  You really need tables for this, if at all possible.  Cover the tables with plastic (the kit comes with a plastic table cover, but you may need more).  Don’t use newspaper!  The dye will soak through it and stain your table.  Just a few minutes before the party, add cold water to the dye bottles and mix them up.  Do NOT pre-mix the dye earlier!  It has to be mixed fresh and used within an hour or two.

The kit contains gloves and rubber bands for tie dying, but you’ll probably need extra gloves and you’ll definitely need extra rubber bands.  It takes a lot of rubber bands to create most of the styles that people want to make when they tie-dye.  So, have extras of those.  Good thick strong big rubber bands are ideal, but whatever you have will work.

Finally, you’ll need to have a supply of plastic bags.  The shirts have to be wrapped in plastic and left to process for at least 6 to 8 hours–24 hours is better.  I recommend a package of gallon-sized Ziploc bags for shirts and larger projects, and a package of quart-sized bags for smaller items.  (They are a little pricey but they are the easiest to use and they ensure that dye doesn’t leak out of the bag).

When you invite guests, you can go ahead and tell them to bring one Ziploc bag per garment.  If they are going to bring their garments damp, the bag is a perfect container for transporting the damp items.

So…. you’ve got a plastic-covered table, dye, gloves, rubber bands, and plastic bags.  Now what?

Step 4:   Start the party and fold the garments.  The dye kit comes with some instructions on basic tie-dye folding and design.  You can also find some great design suggestions and ideas online here (just click here to go to the Tulip website).  Pinterest also has lots of other suggestions that you can search for.  Print out the design ideas for your guests so they have something to look at and refer to when folding and shaping their garment.

This is the fun part, where the table comes in handy.  You have to fold and work the garments, and rubber band as needed.  Once the garment is folded and banded, you put on gloves, apply the dye, and place the garment in a bag.  Rainbow Spider DIY:

My advice for a smooth and successful party is to have everyone fold and shape their garments first, THEN apply the dye.  This way someone who is folding and working on a shirt doesn’t bump into an open bottle of dye that someone else is using.

Step 5:  You’ll rinse the shirts out after several hours.  The package says 8 hours, but I recommend 24 hours.  The dye can process for that long without harming the garment.

You should probably print out these instructions for your guests to take home with them…

  1.  Remove garment from the bag and in a stain-proof sink (such as stainless steel, or a laundry sink), rinse the garment thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  2. Remove the rubber bands, unfold, and wash in the washing machine by itself, with no other garments.  Remember there’s still soluble dye in this item that can stain other things it touches, so it’s important to wash it alone.
  3. Dry thoroughly.
  4. For the first 2 times you wash it, you’ll want to wash it alone, or with other tie-dye garments, just to be safe.  After that, it’s fine to wash with other colored clothing.  I’ve never had the dye rub off on other clothes after that point.

There!  That’s it.  Provide a snack or two and some cocktails and you’ve got a really fun afternoon, with a take-away that guests can keep and enjoy for a long time.