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Filled your freezer with home-baked bread and maxed out on your handheld gaming device’s storage? Perhaps it’s time to pick up another hobby — one that’ll add more color to your wardrobe, whether it’s social distancing-friendly loungewear or everyday essentials. If you’re looking to make the most out of your extra time and idle hands, why not try some of the best home tie-dye kits to transform your basic staples?
Whether you’re DIY-ing your Deadhead uniform or want to add another stylish skill to your artistic arsenal, you’ve certainly got plenty of options. If you’re not into the trippy Seventies-inspired look, there are cool pre-made kits that allow you to put a modern twist on Japanese shibori and other traditional techniques. Here’s how to tie-dye at home, as well as a list of the supplies to stock up on — and don’t forget to dust off your old color wheel, too.
What Do You Need to Tie-Dye at Home?
Dyes: From food coloring to everyday produce to ready-made kits, you’ve got a multitude of ways to dye your items. If you’re looking to make your own all-natural dyes, you can even extract colors from pantry ingredients such as basil (which gives you a purplish-gray), red cabbage, turmeric, beets, and even avocado skins, to name a few, by boiling them.
Squirting bottles or non-cooking pot/bucket: Most at-home tie-dye kits include the colors in ready-to-use bottles. If you’re making your own dyes, you’ll want to make sure you have some small squirt bottles to apply your color or a large bucket or non-cooking pot for dyes like indigo.
Stirring stick: If you’re using a bucket or pot in the dye-making process, make sure you also have some type of stirring stick that you don’t use for cooking.
Fabrics or garments: Natural fabrics — or those made from animal- and plant-based fibers — work best for most dyes. That includes cotton, hemp, linen, rayon, silk, and wool. It’s worth noting not that all dyes work with synthetic fibers (such as polyester) because the fibers don’t absorb the color.
Protective gloves: Rubber, plastic, or disposable gloves (such as the type used for dyeing hair) should be worn if you want to keep your hands clean and dye-free.
Rubber bands or string: Want to make intricate patterns? You’ll need to bundle, twist, or scrunch your fabrics to make those kaleidoscopic designs, and wrapping rubber bands or string around your items will help achieve the look.
Clothesline or drying rack: Once you’ve wrapped up with dyeing and washing, your technicolor masterpiece should be hung to dry. If you don’t already have a drying rack, you can also hang your pieces to dry on a makeshift clothesline.
How to Tie-Dye at Home
1. Protect your workspace and yourself: This might go without saying, but things will probably get messy. Don’t forget to keep yourself and your crafting area clean and cover any surfaces that you want to keep color-free — that includes wearing old clothes that you don’t mind soaking up any dye.
2. Wash and pretreat your fabric: Make sure you thoroughly wash your material first to make sure there are no leftover chemicals on the fiber, especially if you’re using used items. For extra vibrancy, you may need to pre-treat or soak your fabric in warm water or a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. You may need half a cup or up to two cups of each, depending on how many items you’re dyeing.
3. Tie and dye: This is when you can really get experimental. Pull on your gloves, then scrunch, twist, and bundle up your fabric and secure it with rubber bands or string to create one-of-a-kind designs. You can try pleating the material and using rubber bands to pinch small areas in order to create detailed patterns, or make stripes by twisting the fabric diagonally and wrapping it with string or rope. Then, apply your color or immerse your pieces into your dye pot/bucket.
4. Let it soak and sit: Once you’ve dyed your items, wrap them up in a plastic bag to keep the moisture in and allow the pigments to do their magic. Depending on the type of dye and the color intensity you’re going for, you can let your pieces sit for six to eight hours, or up to 12 or 24 hours.
5. Rinse and wash in cold water: The penultimate step in the process is to rinse your tie-dyed garments in cold water until it runs clear. Then, wash them in cold water again, this time in a washing machine — and don’t mix it with your regular laundry. Keep your items tied up to preserve your designs and prevent the dye from bleeding. You can also go an extra step and wash them a third time after you untie your colorful creations.
Now that you know how to tie-dye at home, keep reading for our top picks for colors and kits for your next DIY art project.
1. SEI Galaxy Tie-Dye Kit
Create intergalactic-inspired wearable art with this eight-piece tie-dye kit by SEI Tumble Dye. You’ll get a spectrum of seven non-toxic colors (pink, seafoam green, light blue, midnight blue, purple, and gray) as well as a glow-in-the-dark shade in 2.8-ounce spray bottles. It’s easy to use and clean up: Simply shake your paint, spray it onto your garment, air-dry your design, and heat-set it with an iron.
2. DIY Tie-Dye Kit
This three-color dye kit comes with pink, yellow, and blue shades, plus 10 elastic bands and two pairs of disposable gloves. All you need to add is a plain white tee or any other basics in your wardrobe that need a splash of color.
3. House Sparrow Nesting Organic Indigo Kit
If you’re looking to master the art of shibori (or the Japanese manual resist dye technique), this organic indigo dye kit from House Sparrow Fine Nesting will help you twist your garments into intricate patterns like a pro. It has enough for a gallon of blue solution and comes with a pair of gloves, rubber bands, two wooden blocks, and instructions and links to video tutorials.
The indigo dye works best on natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk, and you’ll also need a stirring stick, a clothesline, and a pot and mixing cups that you don’t use for cooking.
4. Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye 15-Color Party Kit
This easy, one-step kit includes a rainbow of 15 non-toxic, highly-concentrated colors in handy squeeze bottles. We like that you don’t need to pre-soak the fabrics (just activate your dyes by adding water), and that this family-friendly set has enough supplies for five people.
These bold shades work best with natural fibers like cotton, rayon, and wool, and the set comes with instructions to make eight different looks. The dyes are machine wash-safe and stay vibrant even after multiple washes.
5. Slow Stitch Studio Natural Bundle Dye Kit
This kid-friendly kit is a great introduction to natural dyes and includes a square silk bandana (choose between 17 inches or 26 inches) to get you started. You’ll get vibrant golden and pink shades from the mangosteen, sappanwood, and turmeric dye powders, while dried marigold and butterfly pea flower petals bring beautiful yellow, green, and deep blue colors.
The set also includes cotton string, parchment paper, and instructions, and you can use the extra powders and dried florals to create more designs on other silk garments that you have.
6. Japanese Bengala Mud Dye
Intermediate dye artists can upgrade their color kits with natural and non-toxic Bengala mud dye, a sustainably-sourced shade mined from soil. Available in 12 different colors, these eco-friendly dyes are fade-resistant and also offer UV protection, and they’re also great for painting, silk printing, and fabric stenciling.
We like that you can use basic tap water with these mud dyes, and they also work well with a range of fiber, including cotton, wool, linen, hemp, rayon, and silk as well as synthetic fabrics treated with pre-fixer.
7. Tulip Reverse Tie-Dye Kit
If you’re looking to create decidedly minimalist designs, Tulip’s Reverse Tie-Dye set is a great option. It includes four Color Changer squeeze bottles, three pairs of disposable protective gloves, 30 rubber bands, and a project guide with instructions for making spiral and bullseye patterns (to name a few ideas).
8. Swirl & Style Tie-Dye Studio Activity Kit
You don’t have to be a crafty kid to get the most out of this foolproof activity kit, which includes six bright colors and a mess-free dyeing station. You’ll roll your garment into the orb, add water and dye into the self-sealing valves, snap the ball into the station, and crank the handle to spin your pieces into a tie-dye masterpiece.
The kit comes with 12 individually-packed colors, disposable gloves, rubber bands, and an instruction booklet that guides you through 12 unique designs.