By Teachers, For Teachers
Having students create tie-dyed T-shirts is a great way to build class spirit. If you choose a class color or color-scheme, it’s also a wonderful way to keep your students together on a field trip or locate them during school activities.
No more searching in vain for your students among hundreds of kids at an event—just look for the tie-dyed shirts that belong to you! In addition, tie-dye shirts give your students a sense of pride during special events like Field Days or Class Kickball Tournaments, and kids can keep them as a memento of a great school year together!
There are several ways to do this project, but many of them are messy and time-consuming. Fortunately, I’ve learned one way that’s quite easy while still being fun for kids.
In this method, the students will tie their shirts themselves, but they won’t actually put the dye on the shirts. Instead, you will dye the entire batch of shirts in a washing machine. Don’t worry—you can get the stains out of your washer by filling it with water, adding detergent and a cup of bleach, and running it through a wash cycle. I’ve done it many times without a problem.
•A clean white t-shirt for each student and for yourself
•Several boxes or bottles of dye (usually 4 to 6 boxes or 2 to 3 bottles per class)
•Large strong rubber bands (at least 10 per student)
•1 cup salt
How to Use Do The Tie Dye T-Shirt Project
Here are the steps I’ve used to do this project from start to finish. I’ve abbreviated the steps due to space limitations, but you can find a complete set of instructions on Teaching Resources at www.lauracandler.com/filecabinet/misc.php. The directions below assume that you will be dying all the shirts for your class the same color.
Before You Begin
1.Choose Your Color
Let your class vote on a color, but coordinate with other teachers on your grade level if necessary so you don’t duplicate colors.
2.Request Shirts or Money
Send home a letter to parents requesting that students send in white cotton t-shirts or money to pay for shirts if you prefer to buy them yourself. The cheapest method is to buy the shirts in packages of 5 or 6 at a discount store and let the students pay you back. You can download a customizable Word version of a sample parent letter from my website, Teaching Resources, at www.lauracandler.com/filecabinet/misc.php.
As your students bring in their shirts, label the shirts with their name or initials using a permanent marker.
Preparing the Shirts
1. Demonstrate Tying and Folding Methods—Teach your students how to fold a shirt for tie-dying. The main concept to convey is that the shirt will be placed in a hot dye “bath” and anything that is exposed to the water will turn that color. Anything the water can’t touch will stay white. You can find great directions and illustrations on this website: http://www.prochemical.com/directions/Folding.htm. Use your own shirt to demonstrate a few ways to twist or tie a shirt and secure it with rubber bands.
2. Students Tie or Fold Shirts—Now pass out the shirts and a pile of large rubber bands for each group. Let them each tie up their own shirt, and ask them to be sure to leave the area visible that shows their name or initials so they can identify their shirt later. Check their rubber bands carefully to make sure they are tight.
Dying the Shirts
Follow these steps to dye the shirts in a washing machine.
1. Fill up a washer with very hot water and add 1 cup of salt.
2. Carefully tear open the dye packets or open the bottles of dye, and then pour the dye into the washer. Stir gently to mix.
3. Quickly but gently add the shirts to the hot dye bath and stir them to make sure they are submerged in the dye.
4. Set the washer on a very gentle cycle for about 1 minute and then turn it off to let the shirts soak for no more than 5 to 10 minutes. Too much time will turn the white areas muddy-looking.
5. Drain the dye from the washer and run the shirts through several cold rinse cycles.
6. Remove the shirts from the washer and put them in the dryer for an hour or so. Leave the rubber bands on the shirts. The shirts won’t be dry all the way through, so put them in a large plastic bag to bring back to school.
Untying and Revealing Shirts
The day after you dye the shirts, make sure you let the kids untie them to reveal their creations. Even if you don’t let them take their shirts home that day, the shirts need to be untied to air out and dry. I like to have the students sit in a circle and have just a few students at a time open their shirts to show the class.
You can also create a class logo using a Word processing program and print it on iron-on paper from a craft store to transfer to the shirts. Parent volunteers can help with this step. But with or without a logo, your students are sure to enjoy their custom-design shirts!
Share your fun class projects in the comments section!
Submitted by Laura Candler. Laura has 29 years experience teaching elementary and middle school. She is a workshop consultant and the author of more than a dozen books for teachers, including Empowering Readers: A Quick Start Guide to Reading Workshop. Laura is also the creator of the Teaching Resources website, and offers hundreds of free materials in her online File Cabinet. She is currently taking a year off from the classroom to create additional resources for teachers. Visit Laura's Teaching Resources website for classroom activities, strategies, newsletter sign-up, and to purchase her ebooks.