Tie-dyeing Onesies using Jacquard Procion MX dyes

Professional Nannies Cara and Kim arranged this fun tie-dyeing Summer Holiday activity to entertain the children they look after. These cotton onesies were dyed by the children themselves.

Tie-dyeing is a resist dyeing method. The dye is prevented from reaching the areas of fabric which are tightly bound with either elastic bands or string, or by tying the fabric in a knot.

Tie dyed cotton onesies
Four onesies tie-dyed by their wearers
A kaleidoscopic explosion of colour!
A kaleidoscopic explosion of colour!

Fancy getting the rubber gloves out?

For tie-dyeing you will need the following:

  • Cotton T-shirts / Pillow cases / Onesies – to dye
  • String or elastic bands
  • Rubber gloves – to wear during each stage of the process
  • A bucket
  • Soda ash
  • 2-4 colours of Procion MX dye (Jacquard dyes were used for the onesies and Fibrecrafts Procion MX dyes will work equally well)
  • 240ml plastic squeeze bottles (1 for each colour of dye)
  • Air-tight plastic bags or cling film
  • Synthrapol (optional)

Here’s how to tie-dye:

  1. Make a solution of soda ash dissolved in warm tap water. This is what will set the dye on the fabric and is an essential step. You will need 20g soda ash per litre of water and approximately 2 litres of water for every 100g of dry fabric.
  2. Soak the fabric in the bucket of soda ash solution until saturated. Remove, squeeze out excess liquid and allow to dry.
  3. Prepare the fabric to be dyed by making sections of the material impermeable to the dye solution. Bind string or wrap elastic bands tightly around the fabric. Ensure the ties are as tight and secure as possible. See our examples below for simple ways to tie the fabric.
  4. Prepare the dyes. Pour 150ml of hot tap water into a squeeze bottle and add 2-4 teaspoons of dye powder. Shake the bottle until fully dissolved. Repeat for each colour of dye.
  5. Protect work surfaces with plastic sheets or bin bags. Apply the dye colours with the plastic squeeze bottle to the exposed areas of fabric.
  6. Wrap the fabric in a plastic bag or cling film and leave to stand for 12-24 hours in a warm area.
  7. Rinse the fabric to remove excess dye. Wearing rubber gloves, rinse first in cold water, increasing the heat of the water with each rinse. To help remove the last traces of dye residue, prepare a bucket of very warm water with 1/2 teaspoon Synthrapol per 5 litres of water and soak for 5-10 minutes, before rinsing in clean water a further 2-3 times and until the rinse water is clear.

Simple methods for binding the fabric for tie-dyeing:

Tie example for tie-dyeing
A simple method of binding fabric for tie-dyeing. Tying this t-shirt above will create a pattern similar to the one below
Example of how tie-dyed t-shirt may look
Example of how tie-dyed t-shirt may look
Radial pattern for tie-dyeing
Creating a radial pattern using tie-dye. Pick up a section of material between your thumb and forefinger and lift into a peak. Smooth the ‘peak’ with your other hand and bind at intervals along its length
Tie-dyed t-shirt example
Colourful tie-dyed t-shirt using the method above. Experiment with different ways of binding the fabric. Try twisting it, folding it or crumpling it before binding to create different patterning

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