new tie dyes posting on its way

I am so sorry about not following up on my tie dyes posting. There has been a few changes in my life, including the sudden discovery that I’m going to be a daddy! Yup, it’s official…we are having a baby. Now I get to make tie dyes for my little one. Everyone keep their collective fingers crossed and keep us in your prayers. I will be back tomorrow or the next day to update my “how to tie dye an alien” post with dyeing instructions and photos. Again, sorry about the delay, but under the circumstances I feel lucky. Peace to you all.

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How to fold Alien Tie Dyes

OK. So now we have covered the basic process from start to finish. So, I guess I’ll also go briefly over exactly how I fold one of my favorite designs. I must admit that I didn’t make this pattern up. I saw a really, really bad one somewhere and thought that I could do it better. Nope, no chumpy spiral tie dye to begin with. Let’s start with something a little cooler than that. After all, I’m just breezing over how it’s done. The next post will be a brief overview of the dyeing and wash out. Anyway, on with the show.

First, you will want to take your shirt that has been scoured and soaked overnight in soda ash and wring it out as dry as you can. Next, lay it out and flatten any wrinkles just like in the picture.

flattened out shirt

flatten wrinkles out completely

Next, after you have the shirt laid out flat and smooth all wrinkles out as absolutely best that you can. Using a fabric marker mark the center of the neck of the shirt and mark the bottom right and left hand corners of the shirt as shown in the pictures. This will help you fold a near perfect center line.

neck center mark

center mark in the neck

corner marks

mark each corner

ready to fold center line

both corners marked

After you mark each corner and the neck you will want to fold the shirt by picking it up at the neck mark and exactly in between the two corner marks. Grab only the front of the shirt. when you fold it along the center make sure that your corner marks line up. Crease and do your best to get all of the wrinkles out.

center line folded

front center line folded

lined up corner marks

line up corner marks

Now you are ready to draw half an alien head with eyes and mouth on the shirt with your fabric marker.

half of the alien

half of the alien

Your shirt should look like the picture. I flipped mine over but it doesn’t matter which side you use. After you have your alien head drawn out you can start accordion folding along the line making sure to keep your fold heights the same.

start folding at the bottom

Start at the bottom

keep the outline in a straight line

Make a straight line out of the outline

keep your line straight

Keep your line straight

You should end up with a nice, even staright line

You should end up with a nice, even straight line

Tie along the line

Tie along the line

Tie again 1/2" on each side

Tie again 1/2" on each side

Tie again 1/8" on each side

Tie again 1/8" on each side

Now you want to find the eye and fold it at the corners so a nice straight line is made and the sides are equal.

Now fold the eye in half at the corners and make a nice straight line out of the eye’s line. The front and back should line up. Then accordion fold the line and tie at the line and 1/8″ outside the line.

Fold the eye in half

Fold the eye in half

Tie the eye with two ties

Tie the eye with two ties

Tie the mouth twice also

Tie the mouth twice also

Pull the rest of the shirt out

Pull the rest of the shirt out

Now you should pull the rest of the shirt out so that the folds are accented all the way back. The backside of the shirt is pulled out so that the folds can continue. The shirt should look like the last picture.

The next post will be the dyeing. Always check out my tie dyes.

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This is where I make tie dyes.

my work spacepicture of my shelvesthe other side of my tie dye area

This is where I make tie dyes. I treat my area sort of like a laboratory and try to keep things clean as I go. I would not recommend tie dyeing in your home unless you have extensive experience and are ultra, ultra careful. For the most part, you will want to get a plastic topped folding table to haul in your yard to tie dye on. You’ll want to wear old clothes too. I don’t but I have been doing this for years. I rarely get any significant dye anywhere but on my folded shirts. OK. ‘Nuff with the small talk.

Let’s go over, briefly, what I do from start to finish when I make tie dyes. When a batch of shirts comes in I scour them immediately. Scouring removes any brighteners and stain resistant protective coating sprayed on at the plant. Yuck! We simply must get rid of this stuff. I do this by washing the shirts with a half a cup of regular laundry detergent and half a cup of soda ash. I line dry the shirts and now they are ready for the soda ash soak whenever I get good and ready. The soda ash soak is made by adding about three and a half gallons of hot water to a five gallon bucket and stirring in one and a half cups of soda ash until it is completely dissolved. Not hard, right? Now just soak the shirts overnight.

Once the shirts have soaked for at least a few hours then they are ready to wring out and fold. I wring them out in the bucket because you can always re-use soda ash…it doesn’t go bad. I like to let my shirts drip dry for a while so they aren’t too damp when I fold. I mark where I want my folds to be with a fabric or washable marker. Next, I fold them, tie them with sinew and start applying the dye.

The dye is in squirt bottles and I use plastic coated racks over large plastic containers to dye the shirts on. I usually, though not always, dye one side completely before flipping the shirt onto a clean rack and dyeing the other side. Tie dye dyed at this point. The shirts sit overnight before untying and washing out.

Once the tie dyes have cured overnight then they are ready to be washed out. I cut and and remove the sinew and wash in very, very hot water. Turn the hot water heater way, way up and be careful not scorch yourself. Fill your washer up and add two ounces of Synthrapol detergent, or a homebrew that I’ll teach you how to make later, and wash out with two rinses making sure to add a cup of white vinegar in the second rinse. Remember not to let the shirts sit on top of each other long between wash and rinses.

Now, tumble dry the shirts long enough just to make sure they don’t drip and hang out to dry.

Voila! In a nutshell that is the process. Next post I’ll start by showing an actual fold and tie with pictures. Always remember to check my tie dyes out. Peace always…

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We are almost ready to tie dye…

Flat waxed artificial sinew

Flat waxed artificial sinew

OK, now onto more trivial but nonetheless needing to be discussed materials you’ll be needing when tie dyeing. First, the string you need to be using to make your ties is a waxed flat artificial sinew. The wax coating makes the sinew grab itself and hold on while you tighten the individual ties. Trust me, it’s a “gotta have.” At least for me anyway when I tie dye.

Squirt bottles

Different sized squirt bottles

Next, you need to obtain different sized applicator or squirt bottles. You don’t have to use any specific size or type for tie dyeing. Just make sure that they will not leak at the threads on the neck. Ketchup bottles tend to leak. Again, you can get really good ones at Dharma Trading Co. Dharma has everything you need to tie dye.

measuring cupswashable markers

two funnels and a spoon
You can find cheap measuring cups and spoons at most dollar stores. I exploit dollar stores for tie dyeing. You will also be needing washable markers that you can find very cheaply at almost any Wal-Mart. Naturally, you’ll be needing scissors and extra scrap towels. And, before I forget…I know, I know it’s a chemical sort of…you will want to always have white vinegar on hand. Oops, almost forgot to mention that.
In my next post I’ll be covering actually mixing and storing dyes that you use on tie dyes.
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Ok, so what about the chemicals used in tie dyes?

On my first post I had a picture of three chemicals in bags. And, none of them were dye. You see, there is a wee bit more to the dyes used in tie dyeing than just adding them to water and using them. As a matter of fact, if you do that then you will have disastrous results all around. Not recommended at all. I’ll briefly go over what I call the “big three” as far as chemicals go. If you have these three and the right dye then there’s no reason why you can’t make some outrageous tie dyes.

First off, there’s soda ash. It’s the chemical that actually makes the dye adhere chemically to the actual fiber of the shirt. The shirts are soaked thoroughly in a soda ash mixture after they have been scoured. What is this “scoured,” you say? It’s the first wash of the white cotton tees to remove any unwanted chemicals such as brighteners and stain blockers applied by the manufacturer. These will most certainly affect the tie dyeing process and should rightfully be removed. One does this by washing the shirts with one half cup detergent and one half cup of soda ash per large load in the washer. Don’t worry the soda ash will not harm your washer. Add detergent and soda ash after the cycle has begun agitating. Rinse and dry. Easy enough scouring, huh? Now how about that soda ash soak?

To make the soda ash soak for the scoured tees you’ll need a five gallon or so container. Five gallon buckets from restaurants are ideal just make sure that they are pristine in cleanliness. Add about three and a half gallons of warm water to the bucket. If you have hard water then you can add a teensy weensy bit of Calgon or sodium hexametaphosphate. If you are using Calgon then only use about a tablespoon to the three gallons because too much can be as bad as the hard water. Next, add one whole cup of soda ash and stir until thoroughly mixed. You can now add your scoured shirts to the mixture in the bucket. They can be added wet or dry. I recommend soaking overnight to let the soda ash really set in. After the soak the shirts are ready to fold. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Now onto Urea we go!

Urea. No, it’s not a newly discovered planet or some distant star. It’s actually organic nitrogen. Yup, the very same one as fertilizer and explosives. Only for tie dyeing purposes it needs to be really, really white or clean. I recommend only buying chemicals from Dharma Trading Co. Anyhoo, the Urea is what makes it possible to supersaturate the dye into soft water. I use Urea and water softener to make what I call a “dye base.” The dye base is made as follows. Add about 1.75 liters of hot water to a two liter soda bottle that has been well cleaned. Add about ten a half a teaspoon(not tablespoon) of Calgon. We’ll discuss sodium hexametaphosphate later. Then add two cups of Urea to the hot water. Put the lid on tight and shake until all of the Urea is dissolved. Now you have a dye base that is ready to be portioned, thickened and have dye added…after it cools first. VERY IMPORTANT. Cool to room temperature before adding dye. But, let’s not rush and mix dyes just yet. We haven’t discussed thickening the dyes.

Sodium alginate is made from kelp and, like the other chemicals we use, is very safe. I make my thickener by adding two tablespoons of sodium alginate to hot water, a wide mouthed large jell jar to be exact. My jar is a 48 ounce jar. I then use a wand mixer in the jar to thoroughly mix the sodium alginate. Allow to sit for two days. You should have a super thick paste. If not then you need more sodium alginate. “Why use thickener,” you ask? Well, let’s get to that right now.

The thickener is added to control the spread of the dye. Thin dye spreads farther and less intensely than thicker dye. How much thickener do I use? Well, this is all a matter of personal preference. I use about one part thickener to six parts dye base and mix thoroughly before adding dye. This ratio works very well for me. But, later on we’ll discuss dye spread and dyeing wet or dry and the advantages and disadvantages of both. This will have an impact, or at least it should, as to how thick your dye should be.

picture of dry and mixed sodium alginate thickener

Sodium alginate dry and mixed.

Remember that you can always find contact info for specific questions at My Tie Dyes.

On the next post we’ll be starting to get into the dyes themselves and exactly how to mix and store them. Peace always…

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You’ll need some of these when tie dyeing

Various ContainersTwo types of glovesVarious plastic soda bottles
You will be needing different sized storage containers when you begin tie dyeing. Some of them need to be water tight. Plastic soda bottles work great for storing wet items like dyes and softened water. Old plastic buckets that you can get from restaurants and businesses are great for soaking shirts in soda ash. Old margarine containers can be used to store small quantities of dry chemicals. And, wide mouthed jell jars can be used for sodium alginate, a thickener we’ll discuss later. The larger the tie dye project you plan on then the more storage you’ll be needing. Remember to clearly label everything. Mistakes cost money and produce ugly¬† tie dyes.
I mix my dyes in soda bottles. I use old detergent buckets for soda ash mixing and soaks. I have tons of glass and plastic jars that I use for storage. I rarely buy any containers.
Also, I use two types of gloves: vinyl exam gloves and thick nitrile dish-washing gloves. I use the nitrile gloves for chemical mixing and wringing out shirts. The vinyl exam gloves are for folding because they allow more precise placement of folds. I wash my gloves and use them as many times as possible. Waste not, want not.
labeled chemical containers
Next post we’ll get into the various chemicals and how they relate to tie dyes. You’ll be tie dyeing like a pro before you know it!!!
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Where to begin with tie dyeing

First things first. The dye. You’ll be using Procion MX Fiber Reactive Dyes. And, no other kind of dye will do. RIT Dye is a great dye…just not for tie dyeing. You can obtain Procion MX Dyes and virtually everything else you’ll need from Dharma Trading. They have very good prices and excellent customer support.

Other tie dye chemicals

You'll be needing other chemicals to use with the dyes.

The dyes come in various sizes though I recommend buying them in at least 8 ounce containers. One pound lots of dye can become caked up towards the end of the container. I suggest only buying 8 ounce containers.

Picture of 8 ounce dye containers

8 ounce containers of Procion MX Fiber Reactive Dyes

You can always find contact info at My Tie Dyes.

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