HOW TO TIE DYE A NICE FIVE POINTED STAR ON A SHIRT
Here's a photograph of my completed star tie dye project. Since it came out fairly nice, and the method isn't available elsewhere online, I present my complete method below for your enjoyment and edification.
When I first started doing tie dye, I went to the web to research and found a great number of instructional pages and videos which discussed dyes, techniques, and taught how to spin or band some great patterns. As I got into the craft a bit I discovered the almost mythical star or mandala tie and stain. I found pictures of completed projects and a few vague instructions, but the only actual workable instructions I found were available only on DVD at a cost of around $20.00. Being unwilling to pay for the information, and knowing a bit about doing origami, I set out to see if I could fold and tie a shirt in a way that would produce a five pointed star.
MATERIALS USED FOR THE PROJECT:
The T-shirts are inexpensive Haynes. The marker is a Crayola washable. The tie dye kit is made by Tulip and purchased at Walmart for around $20. I bought some rubber bands, though the kit comes with a good number too.
The Tulip kit comes with five squeeze bottles with dye powder inside and ready to be filled with water. It also has five refill packs to replace each bottle's contents once. The dye uses baking soda in the mix to set, which is more gentle than the soda ash used by many others but requires more effort to get a full rich color. The kit says it's good for about 20 T-shirts. But, because I like saturated color and full coverage, I'm lucky to get three shirts out of it.
PREWASHING THE T-SHIRT:
The first time I dyed one of these t-shirts, the dye beaded up and had trouble penetrating the folds of the fabric. Since then I've prewashed the shirts using a bit of laundry soap and bleach, then put them through two rinse cycles to be sure of removing all the detergent.
BAKING SODA RINSE:
As a last step before folding and tieing the pattern, I rinse the shirt in about a half cup of baking soda then let it spin dry. On my old washer I can set the cycle to just rinse and spin (see the inset).This leaves the baking soda in the fabric and I've found it makes my colors a bit richer.
ABOUT THE FOLDING:
The most important thing about tie dying a star is how to fold the shirt. That is the information it is crucial to understand. Therefore, to make it very clear, I'm going to use animations as well as photographs to make the folding unmistakable. Please note that to show a different perspective, the animations are turned 90 degrees from the photographs.
With the t-shirt still damp with the baking soda solution:
1. Smooth it out, front down, and do your best to remove all wrinkles.
2. Fold it in half, front out, and align sleeves, sides, and bottom.
3. Think about where you want the top of the star to appear.
4. Carefully fold under the top of the shirt, right across the sleeve, at a point
some three inches above where you want the star to start. Make the
fold line square to the left edge. It's the upper left corner that is
Here are those steps animated:
Here's the shirt ready for the most important fold of the project. Do your best to get all the edges, sleeves, and hem matched between layers.
MOST IMPORTANT FOLD:
1. Carefully look over the shirt and make your best estimate of a point in the center,
down from the top about 1 and a half times the width. I've added lines to help identify
this important point in the photo. If you need to, use a ruler to get it right. For
Example: If your folded shirt is 10 inches wide, the point would be down from the top
15 inches and 5 inches from both sides.
2. Grasp the upper left corner of the folded shirt and pull it down to the point identified
previously. Be careful not to let the layers of material shift as you make this fold.
3. Since everything hinges on this fold, it's worth the effort to double-check that it is
4. Unfold the top of the shirt that you tucked under in step 4 above.
Here are those steps animated:
IMPORTANT FOLD COMPLETED:
There are just a couple of folds left to make and they are both completely dependent on the fold above. It sets the angle on which the star pattern is built.
THE NEXT FOLD:
Compared with the last fold, this one is easy. Just fold the left side over the line we already established.
Here's that step animated:
THE LAST FOLD:
This easy fold is to turn the right section of shirt under and fold it back to the line established two folds ago. If all is perfect (yes, it should be as accurate as possible), this section of shirt will line up on both sides.
Here's that step animated:
I also turn the shirt drawing here to match the photographs.
MARKING THE STAR:
With the folding done, you have the makings of several possible outcomes in the pointed blank. The top edge is the center vertical fold of the shirt. The point to the right is the center of the shape. The top and bottom edges are the spokes of the shape and if dyed contrasting will show the geometric edges of the shape triangles. Any line drawn between the top and bottom edges will form the edge or outline of the shape.
To make a star, I used my washable marker to first identify the edge line, then to mark it. I did my best to make an isosceles triangle where the angle to the left was the same as the folded angle to the right, but think it would have been better to make it a bit more pointed. This star will have the point up. To make a straight pentagon, you would make the line a right angle with the edge closest to you. If you changed the line so that it was further from the point along the edge closest to you, this would make a star with the point down.
IMPORTANT: Whichever edge, top or bottom, is the longest will be one half of the shape's diameter! It is very easy to get the shape too big! Check this for yourself: The line drawn in the above photo, produced the star pictured at the top of this page.
This animation shows Some of the shapes possible with this fold:
PLEATING THE SHIRT:
With both the front and back of the shirt represented in the shape, there are an astonishing 20 layers of fabric under your star-line. Probably using anything but the thinnest shirt would make this terribly difficult. In any case, our object with this step is to gather the material along the line and make it as straight and tight as possible.
Don't be afraid to pull the part of the line closest to you to your left as you pleat. The portion of the shirt to the right of the line forms the body of the star so, if it is to be a solid color, can be ignored. As the pleating progresses, the less angular you can make the line, the easier it will be to tie accurately.
TYING THE SHIRT:
As you can see, my pleated star-line still runs at an angle relative to the long axis of the overall fold. When I do another star dye, I'll try to pull it closer to right-angle.
I used rubber bands to put the tight restrictions to either side of the star-line, but it was very difficult to get them to go on at the needed angle as they want to pull straight as you make them tighter. Next time I'm going to try artificial sinew in hopes that it will better preserve the angle.
It's important that the two ties next to your star-line be as tight as possible. We're using them to restrict a sharp contrast dye and draw the shape.
The other ties can be made in a variety of ways and be as tight as you desire. The tighter these are, the more distinct will be the bands they form. These bands will tend to take the shape of a pentagon surrounding the star at the center.
PREPARE TO DYE:
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You tied my father. Prepare to dye." -- Well, ahem... a misquote for you "Princess Bride" fans.
Here I've set up on the kitchen sink. You see the dye bottles before and after they are filled with water to activate the dye. I used a clean grill from a BBQ that fit over my sink to hold the shirt. This lets the excess dye drip out and not cross-contaminate your work.
The first and most important thing to say about working with any of these permanent dyes, is that they are a pain in the neck. You have to wear gloves and can't allow them to touch anything organic that you don't want to color! Did I mention, wear gloves? The plastic gloves that are part of the Tulip kit are useless to a man with big hands. They also tend to have leaks along the seams. Latex gloves are a better choice! Have multiple paper towels handy because you'll be constantly needing to clean your gloves and blot your counter. It's also a good idea to check the seal on your squeeze bottle tops. At least one in my kit leaked around the screw threads. Oh, and a final note, the counter pictured is formica (plastic). I would NEVER use these dyes on uncovered wood!
FIRST DYE APPLICATION:
Since I wanted my star bright and without any white I used pure yellow to saturate the first two sections and well down into the third. At this point it was very important to be sure the star portion was completely drenched in dye.
PROTECTING THE CENTER:
The yellow star at the center of my design was susceptable to any stray splash or puddle. To protect it I put a small plastic bag over it and used a rubber band to seal the edge.
The dark green that came with the kit was cyan in tint, so applying it with the yellow will make a better green. Because there were so many layers to penetrate, I used the squeeze bottle tip to inject dye into every nook and cranny, and kept doing so until I saw dye dripping freely.
WET DYE FINISHED:
With every color, I kept injecting dye and turning the shirt until it was dripping. This saturates the colors and eliminates most of the white but lighter colors like yellow suffer. I should have left the yellow bands a bit wider.
PREPARING THE DYED SHIRT FOR STORAGE:
To get the maximum color binding to the shirt, it is best to wait two days before washing out the excess dye and laundering. You want the dye to remain wet and active so it's best to wrap the shirt in plastic. I used two shopping bags. The first got a bit of dye on the outside, so it went into another bag which was clean and safe.
It's best to store the shirt in a warm place because this helps the binding process. I stored mine in our rather hot garage and on top of the dryer. So, every time someone did laundry, it got an extra boost of heat.
Two days... is a long... boring... time to wait... while your tie dye sits there like a sausage wrapped in a bag! But for better colors... two days... 48 hours... 2880 minutes... Blah.
After two days, hopefully, your dye is still moist and active, so... WEAR GLOVES to remove the shirt from its wraps and take it through the first several rinses.
RINSING THE SHIRT:
To avoid cross contamination during the rinse with excess colors bleeding, it's best to start the process with all the ties still in place. As the rinsing progresses, when you're getting less runoff, you should remove the ties and continue with more vigorous agitation.
After the rinse water is running fairly clear, it's time to remove the ties and do some plunge rinsing.
Then finally agitating in water as hot as you can make it.
THE FIRST REVEAL:
If only the colors would stay this bright and vibrant! Hopefully, if you presoaked with baking soda, and let the dye remain for two days, the colors will stay fairly bright even after washing and drying.
INTO THE WASH:
I make this first wash with a bit of detergent in hot water with a warm water rinse. During the wash agitation, take a look at the water being pumped up into the soap basket. It will carry some color but hopefully not too much.
After this wash I usually run an empty wash through the machine just to be sure no lingering dye will discolor the clothing of whoever uses it next.
WEARING THE SHIRT:
Finally, here I am with a friend, wearing my "Star" shirt at our July 4th Independence Day party. She was kind enough to model the very first shirt I ever dyed. I'd say my technique has come a long way.
I want to encourage you to give tie dying a try. Using the methods shown on this page and those found at many many other places on the web, you'll be surprised at the nice results you can achieve.
The Tulip kit from Walmart is an inexpensive way to start and, as you can see, can achieve some great results. There are more effective and less expensive dyes available online... namely the Fiber Reactive Procion Dye from Dharma Trading.
Dharma's Procion Dye Page
I'm going to try working with them next, but they require some additional chemicals and a bit more effort. There are complete instructions on the Dharma site for their use.
Good Luck, Best Wishes, and Happy Dying!