By now if you're a regular visitor, it's no surprise that I'm a lover of tie dye. My classroom decor reflects this passion, my tie dye inspired clothing serves as my walking advertisement, and my students CONSTANTLY beg to do it with me. Until recently, I never pulled the trigger on it. I used to be a Summer Camp Counselor at an all girls overnight camp (shout out to you RPC 4 G's) and I once tie dyed with over a dozen 9 year olds because they paid me in pine cones--I wish I was kidding. Never have I ever had so many tie dye nightmares. But fear not it's been about 6 years in the making and I've finally mastered the art of tie dying with my students. In fact, I'm going to share with you how successful tie dying with 60 4th and 5th graders was for me.
Step 1: T-Shirts.
I thought this was going to be the most difficult part--having everyone bring in a t-shirt. To my surprise this was not difficult at all. The best thing about tie dye is that you don't need a new white t-shirt to do the trick, it can even be an old sports camp shirt with screen printing, just make sure it's 100% cotton. You'll always have those parents that send in packs of shirts for those students that forget.
Step 2: How to Tie the Shirts
Keep it simple. For most of your kids they've probably never "properly" tie dyed before. When I say properly they probably just took a whole bunch of rubber bands and tied it up randomly. To guarantee a successful product I show students two very simple patterns to create: Your traditional swirl and an accordion style fold.
Step 3: How the heck am I supposed to do this in my classroom?
Fear not. It's possible, fun, and easy. Break it down into steps. I had students tie their shirts a day or two before we actually dyed them. This is how we did it. After showing them how to tie the shirt they brought their t-shirt (with name written with sharpie on the collar) and dunked it in the sink full of water (shirts are easier to tie if they are wet), we squeezed it out, and students practiced and secured their design with rubber bands. To keep the shirt wet, I immediately had students put the shirt in a ziplock bag with their name on the outside.
Step 4: The Dye
This step is so easy--BUT you must have students thinking about color theory so they don't get a muddy mess. For first timers, I suggest limiting students to choose only 2-3 colors. 2 might even work the best so they can just coat the shirt 1/2 and 1/2. After I showed them how to apply die, we went outside with dye, soda ash, and old file folder racks. I have students remove their shoes (just in case), and we go. Normally, you'd want to soak the shirt for 15 minutes in soda ash to fix the colors, but for this go around we just dunked them right before we dyed them. Students place the shirt on the file folder rack to let the dye drip through and your in business! After both sides are done and the excess dye has dripped off, put it back in your ziplock bag and let it sit. This is the most important part--if you don't let the dye set for at least 24 hrs the colors won't be very vibrant. I didn't trust the kids to wash them at home so I just did that part, before I put them in the wash machine I hose them off to get any extra dye out.
Step 5: Wearing Them
Beware: kids will wear their shirts for the next 5 days straight--I PROMISE. But before they took them home I obviously made all 60 students wear them and parade around school in a line with my Tie Dye posse. Needless to say everyone who wasn't us was jealous.