Tonawanda News

September 16, 2013

PINSPIRED: Work pays off for Disney-inspired tie-dye

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’ve tie-dyed before. Once. I think. Maybe back when I was a Brownie scout.

If I did, it likely didn’t go well. 

I can be crafty (in the scrapbooking sense, anyway), but anything involving fabric, sewing or wearable art has always been beyond me. I can sew on a button — sort of — but anything more elaborate quickly becomes a tangled mess. Working with dye? Well, that seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

I’d buy my tie-dye shirts at the fair, thanks. It just seemed safer.

In my frenzy of Disney planning earlier this year, however, I kept coming across a certain project, a spiral tie-dyed shirt with the iconic mouse-head shape in the middle. I loved them, and those who made them kept asserting that it was “easy, really!” I had images of my family wearing them on our trip, so I resolved to give it a try.

There are multiple pins of the project on Pinterest. Just search “Mickey tie-dye.”

I bought packages of plain white T-shirts at a department store — plan for them to shrink a little — a tie-dye set and some extra rubber bands. The Tulip-brand dye set I purchased was convenient because it contained all the dye and even bottles to hold it. Most directions recommend 100 percent cotton shirts, which is what we used.

Trace that mouse-head shape on a piece of black paper — the better to see it — and cut out. Trace the shape with light pencil on the front of the shirts.

Thread a needle with non-flavored, non-colored, waxed dental floss. Make sure it’s a pretty long piece; I used 2 1/2 feet. Tie it off at the end. At some point around the traced design, start a basting stitch. (I’m a little ashamed I had to Google “basting stitch” here.) Stitch all the way around the design.

Either when you’re done or along the way, pull the floss tight so that the design puckers away from the shirt. Make sure it’s as tight as possible, and take care not to break the floss. Do this with each shirt. 

Now, take a number of rubber bands for each shirt. (I used three each, but I wish I’d used more on the adult shirts.) Wrap all three rubber bands around the base of the puckered design, just under the stitching (as close as you can get without covering it). Make them as tight as possible. 

Wet down the shirts and wring them out so that they’re damp. Lay a shirt at a time out flat with the puckered design sticking out. Grab the puckered bit and, keeping the rest of the shirt as flat as you can, start twisting the non-puckered portion of the shirt until you have a flat spiral. Take rubber bands (I used three per shirt) and put them around the spiral to keep the shape. The puckered, rubber-banded bit needs to still be standing away from the rest of the shirt.

Now, mix up your dye according to package directions. (If squirt bottles don’t come with the kit, I recommend you get some and use them.) Do it as quickly as possible so the shirts don’t dry out.

Hold the shirt so that the puckered bit is tilted away from the rest of the shirt and use one color of dye to color the puckered portion as completely as possible. When done, wrap that in a bit of plastic wrap or a plastic bag to make sure that dye doesn’t get onto the rest of the shirt and vice versa.

When done with that, use the other colors on the spiral part of the shirt. (I usually three each, so four total colors on each shirt.) Get the colors down into the folds if you can. When done with each, wrap the shirt — still in disc form — with plastic wrap to keep it damp.

Now you wait. We put our shirts in a storage bin (don’t stack them) and waited 24 hours. Whatever you do, make sure you wait at least the minimal amount of time recommended on your dye.

The next day, we unwrapped them and removed the rubber bands and floss. (I had to cut them free; they were that tight.) Rinse each shirt in cold water until the water runs clear, then wash according to dye kit directions.

After completing the dye portion of the project, I wasn’t expecting much. The whole process was incredibly messy, the colors seemed muddy and I resigned myself to murky shirts with blobs on the front. New sleep shirts for the kids, I decided. At least that way, we weren’t out money on this whole crazy idea.

As you can see from the pictures ... I was surprised. 

Not all of them turned out pristine. A few of the designs were blurry, though still recognizable. Were I to do this again, I wouldn’t wring out the shirts while rinsing them until the water ran completely clear. (I think the colors ran just a little because of that.)

But with at least half of the shirts, they really did turn out as something we happily wore on our trip. The key, I think, is how tight the stitching and rubber bands are around the design. Ones that were a tiny bit looser didn’t seem to turn out as clear. 

 The boys were thrilled. I was pleased. And we have something truly unique. Pin it!

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.

• PROJECT: Mickey-inspired tie-dye T-shirts • LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Complicated, but medium difficulty. • RESULT: Pin it!