While you might think of tie-dye as a staple of the hippie generation, it actually has a rich history dating back more than 5,000 years ago to ancient India. With this history in mind and an array of modern techniques available, you can take your tie-dyed shirt projects from kindergarten-level crafts to classy -- and eclectically creative -- fashion statements.
Shibori is a time-tested Japanese tie-dye tradition that uses folding and tying, binding or loosely sewing fabric together to create pleats that either accept or resist the dye. Take a T-shirt, solid white turtleneck, scoop-neck pullover or any other similarly plain shirt and fold it accordion style; then tie or stitch it together to hold the pleats. When you've dipped it into a dye bath, the result is a striated pattern that looks almost zebra-like. Create an all-over shibori pattern; unfold, repleat and redye the shirt to give it a two-colored look; or simply bind and dip a portion of your shirt for a partial print.
Divide your tie-dye project into two coordinating or contrasting halves with a two-toned shirt. Choose a simple shirt free from embellishments, such as a T-shirt, long-sleeved crew neck or tank top. Separate the two halves -- you can do top and bottom or left and right -- by tying a central portion with elastic bands. Dip the fabric on one side of the rubber band in one color and the other side into a different one. For example, dip the top of your shirt into a blue color bath and the bottom into a yellow dye. If you wish, let the colors bleed into each other near the midpoint. This slight overlap adds another layer to your multicolored look.
Instead of using a traditional dye bath, get crafty and try a tissue paper tie-dye shirt project. Use non-colorfast tissue paper only -- papers that claim not to bleed simply won't work for this project -- in rich or bold colors that will make your pattern show up better and add oomph to your design. Cut or tear the paper into strips or shapes, coming up with an abstract pattern or a pieced-together picture. For the dyeing, insert a sheet of cardboard between the front and back of your white shirt if you don't want the color to flow through. Place the colorful tissue on the shirt and let the dye bleed into the fabric. Remove the paper after letting it set for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the shirt to remove any excess dye, following this step with a run through the washing machine. Even though you are using an alternative method to add color, the colors should stay set in the same way that they would if you'd used a dye bath.
Instead of adding color, use a subtractive process. Swirl, band or fold a bright cotton shirt or a dark denim blouse to get a base pattern. Fill a squirt bottle with a bleach-and-water solution, using 80 percent bleach and 20 percent water. Don a pair of plastic gloves, put your shirt on a work surface that the bleach won't ruin, and squirt the mix onto the shirt. After letting the shirt sit in a plastic bag for a few hours, unwrap it and rinse off the excess bleach, all while wearing protective gloves. Wash your shirt to set the pattern.
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