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  • Kimberlie Clare-Campbell

What can I tie dye?

12 tips to tie dyeing your old clothes

Dyeing your old clothes to give them new life is the perfect answer to combining creativity and up-cycling. It's also a practicle hands on way to teach children about ways they can use our resources wisely.

Here are 12 tips that can make dyeing your old clothes more successful for you.

1- Read the clothing label to discover what kind of dye will work best on your clothes

  • plant based eg cotton, rayon, bamboo, hemp are easy to dye with Bright Crafts fibre reactive dyes at room temperatures.

  • animal fibres eg wool, silk need acid based dyes with the steaming method.

  • synthetic fibres eg nylon, polyester need special dyes with boiling.

  • If your fabric is a poly-cotton mix with 80% cotton it will dye beautifully.

  • If you clothes are 50% poly-cotton the cotton will dye and the polyester will leave undyed white specks all over your clothes.

  • Cotton rich clothing may contain as little as 35% cotton and won’t dye well.

2- To create the beautiful colours and patterns you see in Tie Dyes and Japanese Shibori you need to use plant based fibres eg cotton, rayon, bamboo, hemp, linen, viscose.

3- Check your clothing for stains.

  • oil stains wont absorb any dyes.

  • dirt stains can be hidden with darker coloured dyes.

  • blood stains may come out by soaking in kitchen salt and cold water.

  • any paint splatters wont absorb dye either, but these can add an interested effect to your clothing.

4- Gather together all the clothes with plant-based fibres you’re going to up-cycle and wash them in warm water in the washing machine with clothes detergent.

  • This warm wash may remove some of the stains.

  • Wash any delicate clothes by hand in warm water instead.

  • DON’T add fabric softener as this stops the dye penetrating the fibres.

5- While your clothes are in the wash let your imagination loose, dream up designs you’d like to create.

6- When you’re thinking of your design remember to work with your fabric.

  • Thin fabric eg rayon can be enriched with beautiful detailed pattens.

  • Thick fabric like denim is harder to fold so bold designs may work best.

  • Any screen printed areas won’t dye so the design will show itself.

7- Your designs can include traditional folds, modern patterns or a combination for patterns.

  • You can even have different patterns in different parts of your clothes eg. on your t-shirt you can combine stripes and spirals.

  • You can use found items like pebbles, bottle tops or lego to create resist patterns.

8- Find a clean flat surface to tie up your designs.

9- Remember:

  • The thinner and tighter the pattern is folded the harder it is for dye to get into the fabric the more detail can be shown.

  • Loose folds let more dye through the pattern and may show less definition.

10- For the best results use Bright Crafts Tie Dye kits. We’ve sourced professional fibre reactive textile dyes and created an easy to use group kit that gives you long lasting bright colours that don’t fade or leak in the wash.

  • You do need to use dye fixer (pure soda ash) to make sure your dye permanently bonds with your fabric, we always include this in our kits.

11- Remember:

Dark colours eg black, navy, deep purple won’t show any dyeing you unless they’re very faded. You can boost or refresh their original colours or chose an complimentary colour to over-dye.

  • The base colour of your fabric will tint any colours dyed over the top.

  • eg: a yellow t-shirt dyed with turquoise will have a green hue.

  • eg: a yellow t-shirt dyed with magenta will have an orange hue.

12- Letting the original colour of your fabric peak through can add interest to your design.

  • You can do this by leaving some areas undyed eg dye one side but not the other.

By Up-cycling and making Art instead of war on waste clothing you’ll create treasured memories and one of a kind clothing that no-one else has.

We'd love to support you in having an upcycling Tie Dye workshop for your centre or school. To find out more give Kimberlie a call on 0400 747 618 or send us an email.

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