A Story I’m “Dyeing” to Tell.

9 Jul

Six years ago I bravely entered the world of Tye Dyeing, not knowing what I was getting into, but figuring, “How hard can it be?” I learned that it’s not hard, exactly, but it is…what shall I say… time-consuming, trickier than expected (if you want to get it perfect), and, to be honest, far more full of finesse than I ever would have guessed.

We enjoyed the results of our labor that day, and love seeing the photo we took of our wee baby in her “Hippie Duds”.

Our first tye dyeing event - 6 years ago!

Our first tye dyeing event – 6 years ago!

The biggest thing I retained from that original experience was remembering how much my fingers hurt from removing the rubberbands one at a time. (This year I got wise and CUT them off…good grief, why didn’t I think of that before?!) My kids tell me that we tye dyed one other time, but I have, apparently, blocked that moment from my life.

All geared up and ready.

All geared up and ready.

Well, this year I thought I could face the process again. So, when we finally got a warm and dry day here in SW Minnesota last week, we pulled out the tye dye kit we’d bought, found all the white clothes we could get our hands on, and set to work, plastic gloves firmly in place – alongside huge amounts of optimism.

Hard at work.

Hard at work.


You may be wondering how a person can go wrong when tye dyeing? Well, in a way, you can’t. But if you want your t-shirt to turn out like something bought at Woodstock in the 60’s, there are tricks and cautions and rules that you need to obey – the “rulelessness” of Woodstock notwithstanding.
Waiting...for 6 hours.

Waiting…for 6 hours.


Rule One: Yellow + Blue = Green; Pink + Blue = Purple; but Pink + Yellow = Mud.

Rule Two: To make a “Vibrant Sunburst” you must twist excessively and tie tightly and, to make it really stand out, leave the area around it WHITE. White is your friend in tye dyeing. I forgot this rule.

Rule Three: There are no experiments in tye dyeing. What goes on the fabric stays on the fabric. Perhaps you’d be wise to buy two kits and use lots of flour sacking towels to experiment on. I’m totally doing that next summer.

Rule Four: When they say that you have to “rinse the garment until it rinses clear” they are optimistic beyond belief and if you try to do this you will lose your mind. Know this in advance and know that the washing machine setting of “rinse and spin only” is your friend.

Fashion show.

Stained with blackberry juice? Nope. Tye Dye.


I’m afraid that I depleted our well in our tye dyeing extravaganza. I’m afraid that I turned my daughter’s arm permanently pink to the point where she looks like a burn victim. Or as if she’s been mashing blackberries with her bare hands. I’m also afraid that my husband will never wear the shirt we so carefully dyed for him…at lest in public.
Fashion show!

Fashion show!


But, all in all, I’m afraid that I love tye dyeing. My husband is right: I’m a hippie at heart. Albeit a non-druggie one who never listens to Jimi Hendrix. I do eat nuts and berries, though. That’s about as wild as I get. But watch out, world, if I start eating nuts and berries while wearing my tye dye. Who knows what crazy things might happen then?
He Wore It!

He Wore It!

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19 Responses to “A Story I’m “Dyeing” to Tell.”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots July 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Your tie dyeing experience is totally different than ours, which used to occur whenever the cousins visited from Michigan. Back then, we filled five-gallon buckets with water and dye and used stir sticks. None of this kit stuff or plastic bags.

    But I love what you created. Look how happy your girls appear in their finished duds.

    Now Collin, not so sure about his opinion. But he’s certainly a bright spot on the prairie.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Indeed he is! Whether he likes it or not! Probably the way you dyed is better, but this was easy at least!

  2. Beth Ann July 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I love it! Especially pink + yellow = mud!!! :-) Your end products look great and I totally understand the whole husband thing. Many years ago we did the painted shirt project and did one for the hubby. The boys and I wore ours but the hubby was not convinced that a paint splattered tshirt was what a “professional” man should wear even on vacation! I think I do have one picture in the archives of him wearing it…..great project, Gretchen. The girls look adorable!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      Ah, memories! We had a lot of fun for sure. And have been wearing them on vacation!

  3. gardenfreshtomatoes July 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    A great way to spend a day! And one we never tried when my kids were little…maybe when the Grands are bigger…We did lots of t-shirt painting once upon a time – the stains are awful, too. White towels, so you can bleach them!
    Good to know before the first time your oldest decides to dye her hair ;)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      LOL! Yes, it was very fun. And a surprise for Daddy when he opened his drawer after a work trip and found a new shirt!!

  4. treadlemusic July 9, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Brings back tons of memories…..not of the 70’s but of a Saturday, or 2, doing such to the bike club shirts we had ordered with only the appropriate logos and no other color. They were shirts/tank tops that we would then sell at various biker gatherings. They were very popular…..in fact, I wore one today while pitting the cherries we picked last night. I figured that the dye from the cherry juice would fit right in!!!!! I was totally right!! LOL! Thanks for the memories……Hugs….

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      That would be a PERFECT cherry-pitting shirt!

      • treadlemusic July 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

        Yup, it is and, wouldn’t ya know it!!!, all the cherry drips came right out in the first wash!!!! Wouldn’t have happened if it would have been something else!!!! LOL!

        • Gretchen O'Donnell July 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

          Yeah, if it had been white…you’d have been doomed!

        • treadlemusic July 22, 2013 at 9:44 am #

          Absolutely correct!!! LOL!

  5. Hotly Spiced July 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    What a fun activity for the girls during their holidays. I remember tie dying as a teenager and yes, managed to get the dye on not just the garments being treated. I think your girls look great in their created garments and your husband is very brave to be wearing his! xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      That’s a public as he gets with it – on the mower on our country/dirt road!! But now it’s his uniform for mowing, and the girls love that.

  6. whatimeant2say July 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    You are definitely a better mom than me. I can’t show my daughter this post!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell July 16, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

      Ah, but I don’t commit to swim team like you do! Dimples would love tye dyeing with friends!

  7. megtraveling July 10, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    What cute pictures!

  8. thewritesteph.com July 11, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    What a fun project! We did this at a Girl Scouts camp out. I wonder where my shirt went….

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