I’ve been wanting to do some tie-dyeing with my almost 2 year old, but was a bit discouraged by the warnings on the packages of the dye kits. Even the ones marketed for kids said things like “WARNING: MAY IRRITATE EYES AND SKIN. USE PROTECTIVE GEAR.” One kit even advised to use proper ventilation when using the kit. Ack. At first I was disappointed, realizing that I’d probably need to do this project on my own, and then wondered if it was even a good idea for my little girls to be wearing clothes dyed with these kits. I put the kit back on the shelf and headed home. Flash forward to laundry time. I’ve been trying to get a blueberry stain out of one of my daughter’s shirts for weeks, with no luck. And then it hit me. Tie-dye with blueberries?
Obviously, google (and many many crafty folks) knew exactly what to do, and had ideas to tie-dye with other foods too – I decided on cranberries (pink), blueberries (purpley-blue), and spinach (green). The following is a compilation of many techniques and recipes that I came across, toddler-tested in our home kitchen. As a note, the spinach dye didn’t work well for us (the color was very very faint), but I still included the instructions below. The cranberries and the blueberries were AWESOME.
Preparing the dyes
1. Simmer 2 cups of cranberries/blueberries/spinach (or other colorful plant/fruit! ) in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes.
2. Puree or mash berries or spinach and simmer for another 15 minutes. Cool completely. Next is 3 straining steps, to make sure your dye is free of any fruit/seeds/plant material, which can leave spots.
3. Strain (into a bowl! don’t pour your dye down the sink!) through a simple strainer or sieve.
4. Take your once-strained dye and strain (into a bowl!) through cheesecloth or pantyhose. My daughter loooooved squeezing the squishy wet mess. Also, I’m wearing gloves in the picture, but it was pretty unnecessary. My daughter squeezed with her bare hands, and the cranberry dye washed off with soap. Use your own discretion here.
5. Take your twice-strained dye and strain (into a bowl!) through a coffee filter mounted in a strainer. In my opinion, this last step could probably be omitted, as not much material was strained out in the last straining. Might be that my pantyhose had some extra control material 😉
Preparing the material
1. An important part of natural dyeing is soaking in a “fixative” to insure that the dye gets locked into the fabric fibers, and stays there after rinsing and washing. For berry dyes, you’ll want to soak in a salt solution (1/2 cup salt + 8 cups water), and for plant dyes, you’ll want to soak in a vinegar solution (2 cup vinegar + 8 cups water).
2. Simmer fabrics in appropriate solution for one hour.
3. Rinse in cold water.
1. Use rubber bands to make designs on your fabric/shirts/socks. You can find some great ideas here. After looking at lots of examples, Leah decided on circles. To do this, just grab the center of the shirt, pull fabric around to make a circle, and use rubber bands to hold it all together. We did simple stripes on socks for both of the little girls.
2. Soak your fabric/shirt/socks in the dye. (We found that hot dye worked the best – I warmed up the dye in a stainless steel pot, put our shirt in, and simmered for an hour. After that, we turned off the heat and let it soak for about 3 more hours. As a side note, my daughter now thinks that all shirts and socks are made on a stovetop.)
3. After soaking to desired shade, rinse in COLD COLD COLD water before removing rubber bands. Remove rubber bands and rinse more in COLD COLD COLD water.
4. I washed our shirt and socks in Dreft (together, but not with any other clothes), and tumble-dried on low. The cranberry dye faded a bit, but the blueberry dye still looked just as vibrant.
Our review? Well, my almost 2 year old just asked if we were going to make some more “blueberry soup shirts” today. I’d say it was a hit. Lots of fun hands-on work, and a unique, fun, wearable result. And the best news? It’s SO safe for your little one. Especially if your little one is a sock-eater like mine is.