Back from Colorado, unpacked and just finished mixing 12 quarts of Procion MX dyes for my first batch of tie-dyed tshirts in 2010. Ive decided to focus on basic patterns such as swirls, hearts and maybe a Mandela or two in my first batch of shirts, but depending on my luck off the San Diego Coast this comings week, i may also attempt a fish patterned shirt to record a halibut catch.
Tie Dying is a hobby I can recommend heartily by waving two dye-stained hands over my head. I like it because it's something I can do despite being handicapped by the loss of my left hand as the permanent effect of a stroke several years ago, and because it extremely creative and relatively inexpensive.
My cost for dyes, plastic activity boxes-- which I use as catch basins when I apply dyes, and misc supplies was about $75 last year. High quality white t-shirts ( I prefer AllStyle heavyweight t-shirts) added another $100 to last year's budget.
$175 for a hobby that takes up a couple of hours each week throughout the year seems inexpensive, given the enjoyment get from wearing shirts I created and designed.
Although i've made tie dyes for more than a year, I still have a long way to go. For example, through trial and numerous brown spotted errors, i've learned that when you're using the color purple, it needs to be the last color you apply. Pinks are also twitchy to apply, although I like the contrast of hot pink and caribbean blue when used to create a two-color swirl patterned shirt.
My tie dyed hobby came upon me quite suddenly and i was incredibly surprised to find out that many left-handed people who have had mid right brain strokes can become artistically creative out of the blue.
that's exactly how my hands came to be stained on weekends. One year into the hobby I have a nice collection of hand crafter tie dyed shirts and a new found appreciation of the need to buy and use good gloves that can withstand multiple exposures to caustic dyes. Even when I goof up making a shirt i never forget that with tie dyes you proudly wear your mistakes.
ten years ago, if someone would have told me i'd be making tie dyes and curing the shirts in aluminum roasting pans sitting on bricks on my frot porch that had beenheated in my kitchen stove to 200 degrees, I would have said "Shut up, no way!"
But here I am, on the first Saturday night of the new year waiting for three shirts to hit 150 degrees before they go into my washing machine for two cycles and from there into my closet.
Way dude! the path to unlocking my creativity came to me after a devastating stroke that left me embarrassed about being handicapped.
that's my story and Im sticking to it! Dude--jim Forbes, with Procion dye stained hands in Escondido, CA on 01/02/2010.
This weekend I passed a tie-dyed milestone—my 100th shirt. I wish I could say I’m getting better at it, but what’s happened in my year of making tie dyes is that I’ve become more knowledgeable about basic chemistry, the handling and mishandling of chemicalsolutions and I’m no longer reticent about entering crafts stores when they’re having sales on scrapbooking supplies.
One of the most important parts of tie-dying is learning to make the water based chemical solution that you mix with Procion MX fiber reactive dyes. I dissolve about 8 ounces of urea pellets (which is almost pure nitrogen)about four ounces of Calgon water softener with 1.5 gallons of water and vigorously agitate the mixture to make sure the Urea and water softener are fully dissolved. I then add the powdered dyes I plan to use the next morning into quart canning bottles. I thoroughly mix the dyes being careful to make sure there are no clots. I keep my mixed dyes in a storage bin I keep in a cool dark place (having learned how quickly some dyes--particularly reds and yellows--oxidize and change colors when stored any place where it’s hot).
The other lesson in tie dye chemistry I’ve learned is never to be miserly with Soda Ash when I soak t-shirts or other material prior to dying. I dissolve about 10 ounces of soda ash in a five gallon bucket and let my shirts and material soak for up to 10 minutes. To save time, I run the soaked items through a shortened spin cycle in my washing machine. My best results have been with fabric that’s still wet to the touch. Soda Ash is the chemical that causes Procion MX dyes to react, so I don’t skimp on this chemical when I prep my shirts.
I carefully lay out my shirts, making sure the surface is flat and use the handle of a large serving spoon to twirl the fabric into a flat spiral. It helps use one hand to keep the fabric from bunching up as it’s twirled.I then make sure the bundle is as neat as I can make it and use three pieces of string to tie the shirt, creating six panels for dying. It’s taken me a while to learn how to tie the string so that the connecting knots are in the center of the pattern, but when you tie dye it’s fun to wear your mistakes.
The most common mistake I’ve made in the last year has been not putting enough dye in the folds of the patterns, resulting in spotty colors. To correct this I visited a local cosmetic supplies store and bought goose neck applicators for my dye applicator bottles, which will allow me to more easily apply colors to panel folds, thus also cutting down on the amount of dye I need to apply to the back sides of my shirts.
Oh, in case you’re wondering: I normally use up about all of the dye --six quarts--I’ve made the night before when I create seven to ten shirts.
The swirl pattern is probably the most common pattern used in tie-dyes, but it’s not the only one.
I’ve recently begun creating designs such as crosses, moons and stars, by folding the shirt in half along its horizontal axis, tracing the design in place on the half fold with a washable marker, and then folding the pattern along the marked line so that when you’re done your pattern appears as a straight marked line on the fabric. Once that’s done you can pleat along the edges of the folded design and then tie off the long fabric train using tied string placed every three or four inches. The resulting effect after dying creates a colored outline of the basic pattern that’s repeated on the front and back of the shirt. With a little experience and confidence, it’s possible to create shapes within shapes, which gives the tie dyer the opportunity to experiment with color patterns that compliment a shape or theme.
Tie Dying is a fun craft that lets you harness your creativity. It’s cheaper and has fewer rules than golf and it yields distinctive clothing that’s fun to wear and never looks like it came from any store’s rack.
Some simple rules: always wear gloves when you work with Procion MX or other dyes, soda ash solutions, eye protection is recommended if you’re mixing dyes in a ventilated space or pouring dry soda ash into a tub. Also, pay attention to the amount of dye you add to chemical water (some shades such as hot pink or other pastels require twice the amount of dye as basic colors).
There are numerous books and DVDs on how to create tie dyes. Some of the ones that have helped me include the tie dying 101, 201 and 303 DVDs from www.TrueTieDye.com and basic crafts books such as “Tie Dye and Batik” by Doug Otten and Doug Feltus.
I now purchase most of my dyes in bulk from www.dharmatrading.comin San Rafael, CA,and freely recommend them because of their willingness to answer questions about tie dying. I also like this company’s selection of white cotton women’s sun and farmer’s dresses, the quality of which is utterly remarkable.
In the one year I’ve been working this hobby, I’ve supplied most of my friends and all of my loved ones with selections of tie dyed clothing, And that definitely doesn’t harsh anyone’s vibe.—Jim Forbes 08/30/2009.
I made some tie-dyed shirts for a friend today then hopped on my ATV on a "gleaning run" through nearby abandoned avocado grove. Looking up at the tippy top of a picked clean but parched Pinkerton avocado tree i spied the huge avocado in the center of this picture. The big avocados on the extreme left and right respectively are a Haas-Lamb and a Reed. the other fruits in this shot are a mix of Haas and Reeds. Any questions about why I love living in Escondido? Oh I sent a similar box with canned seafood, good cigars and avocados to my cousin in Iraq on his fifth tour. He gets the box five days after i drop them off at the local Post Office.-- bad photo by Jim Forbes on 05/02/2209.
Tie-dying doesn’t always yield success and great looking clothing. Sometimes, it takes several tries to tie a pattern correctly and then guess what colors to use.
Case in point: the supposedly simple Ying yang pattern, which starts out as two opposite small swirls offset from each other. I had great plans for this pattern until this evening when –after setting for 24 hours—I washed my shirts.
My first attempt was a yellow red ying yang combo. Wrong choice. I ended up with a yellow top and a red bottom with a barely discernable red swirl pattern.
Looking at the finished shirts, I can see where I need to make tighter swirls and learn to carefully follow the folds,and only dye about one half of the swirled circles. I also think I’ll use a resist agent to separate the patterns on the next bunch of two shirts I dye.Come to think of it, a plain white barrier between the ying and yang would like nice.
Finally, my choice of colors for this pattern are wrong,I shouldn’t use dark primary or compounded colors, but instead go for somewhat vibrant (but color wheel opposite) pastels.
The nice thing about my hobby is that it’s less expensive than golf, somewhat rewarding, and your failures are just as wearable as your successes. No one cares, however, when you warp and tie off at the San Diego Bay bait barge here. Beside, the fish don’t care that the pattern of your tie dyed t-shirt isn’t precisely executed.The seagulls at the barge, do notice the colors and scream their encouragement as they dive bomb your boat with fresh poop.—Jim Forbes on 02/12/2008.
Monday Feb02 tie dye crop: two swirl patterns including my first ever sun dress tie dye (center) a dark blue flower tie-dyed shirt with interpreted red rose petals. Wash outs with Synthrapol really do limit color bleed. Next time i make a purple and yellow ti-dye shirt I'll remember to dye the yellow section first, then do the purple sections. That way I'll avoid accidental brown spots caused by the yellow dye reacting to purple. You learn something with every batch.--jim Forbes 02/03/2009
Busy weekend. Started off folding and dying 15 birthday tie-dyed t-shirts and my first-ever tie-dyed sundress and as of late Saturday night I have both washers and dryers in my house chugging away on finished projects.
I’m getting a little better at folding and trying to bring more precision into my patterns and dying. For me precision equals fewer colors per shirt and paying much more attention to applying dyes bybeing be careful not to overlap the pattern lines separating “panels".
Another thing I’ve starting to do with my tie-dyes is to pay much closer attention to basic chemistry. Little things make a big difference, specifically my use of small amounts of sodium alginate to lightly thicken the dye medium. Although it’s sunny, here in San Diego now, I’ve found a thickener lets me produce bolder colors such as variations of turquoise, bright yellows and hot pinks.
I inadvertently discovered one drawback to sodium alginate—excessive color bleeding when you lay primaries (such as dark blue) next to yellows.
The other chemical I’m adding to the water I mix dyes with is Urea—a pure form of nitrogen sold in nurseries and orchard supply stores as a fast acting fertilizer. Urea acts as a low level oxidizer on Procion dyes and is also as a wetting agent, (which helps the dyes flow through natural fibers).
Learning the basic tie dying techniques has been a lot of fun. I really enjoy the artistic creativity of this hobby. It’s not particularly expensive and it provides a way for me to give unique birthday gifts to friends and family. And, if the results aren’t professional looking I can always say “ hey it’s just tie-dye and if you don’t like it, use them for colorful dust rags.”
But my friends don’t do that. They wear them, and that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. And with that, it’s back to the vats to dye my first “V” and “star patterns, as well as a sundress for my daughter.Now, I just need to find a hand cleaner that gets the dyes of my large paws.—Jim Forbes—02/01/2009.
Three new tie dyes in what's supposed to have been a Mandala pattern. I'm learning to place and use colors a little better and still having fun.This coming week I'm folding and dying a couple of children's t-shirts and may attempt an eight pointed star for my collection.
Just when I thought I was done making t-shirts until late in January, yesterdy I discovered three new heavy white t-shirts tees in a plastic bag and a box of Procion MX reactive dyes in my mail box down at the street.
And so it came to pass that while my household was watching the Rose Parade on TV, I was out on the edge of my front porch dying shirts.—Jim Forbes 01/01/2009.