Jun 25, 2012 - Crafts, YW Camp    86 Comments

Girls Camp Tie Dyes

Whenever I go to a city fair or carnival I am always drawn in by the bright crisp tie dyes that hang from the canopies and are usually sold by some funky hippies.  A slight tinge on jealousy always lingers knowing how many times I have tried to make awesome tie dyes but failed miserably.  You see in high school, my friend Nicole and I had a great plan to make some rad t-shirts for ourselves.  We bought loads of R.I.T. dye and started making awesome designs in a bunch of t’s.  After the dye set for a few minutes, we unwrapped them and exposed our awesomeness.  Unfortunately those awesome designs turned into faded muddy messes every time we rinsed or washed our creations.  Well, never again.  I found a kit (thanks to our regional YW camp meeting) that does all it promises and then some.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

The Tie Dye Kit

There are a lot of kits on the market that promise fabulousness, but when it comes down to it, the only one that I have found that delivers is from Dharma Trading Co.  (NOTE: I am not getting any kick back from Dharma, I just LOVED their products)  I ordered their “Tie Dye Little Group Kit” for around 50 shirts (for 36 shirts, we only used 1/2 the kit, so it over delivers!).  It runs about $50 but does go on sale every once in a while.  Here is what is included in the kit (the kit actually contained 6 16 oz. bottles).

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Besides the supplies listed above, you will also need MORE gloves,

and the following items.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Dye Mixing Instructions

The following instructions is for a large group and the measurements are to fill one of the 16 oz bottles that came with the kit.  I filled each of the 16 oz bottles with a different color and had extra made up for a total of 9 bottles of dye for 36 shirts.  The kit came with about 5 different sets of instructions that all seemed to contradict each other at least once.

I’ve tried to simplify things by giving you a photographic instruction manual.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

The kit comes with turquoise, yellow, and fuchsia as the primary colors.  There was so much math involved the way the manual presented it, I’ve tried to simplify some of it for you below.  I hope it helps.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

(NOTE: To make fuchsia or yellow dye, follow the instructions above, but only add 2 teaspoons of fuchsia for one bottle or 2 teaspoons of yellow for one bottle)

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for CampBright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Pre Wash

Now that the dyes are all mixed up, it’s time to get dying, wait that doesn’t sound quite right.  Anyway, start by washing anything that you want to dye.  I collected all of our YW’s clothing items the week before our Wednesday night activity.  I washed them all in my washing machine with Tide, and NO fabric softner.  This removes all of the extra dirt, or films that may be on new OR used clothing (the kit came with a special detergent, but I didn’t want to waste it in this step, and everything turned out fab with out it…but do not skip the washing).


Then we all met for our activity at our building’s park where I brought the pre-washed shirts, the pre-mixed dyes, and three 5 gallon buckets.  I pre-mixed the Soda Ash Fixative:  1 cup of Soda Ash and one gallon of water in each bucket and brought them to the activity.  We set up a large banquet table and let the girls find their shirts (they all were initialed on the tags with permanent marker) and then they chose their design.  We folded their shirts for their designs and set them immersed in the Soda Ash buckets for 15 min.  The shirts were wrung out over the buckets, so we could re-use the soda ash fixative for other shirts.  Then on the grass they poured dye how ever and where ever they wanted.  Each shirt was then placed in it’s own grocery sack with the handles tied in a knot.  This keeps them wet so that the dye continues to absorb for the next 24 hours.


We divided the shirts into groups of 8 and dispersed them to the leaders.  Each was given a 1/4 cup of the profesional laundry detergent that came with the kit.  As we opened each bag, we rinsed it with cold water until just a little dye was running off.  Then after all eight were rinsed, they were all thrown into a washing machine with HOT water and the detergent.  After one cycle we dried them in the drier and they were complete.

A few important Notes:

I mixed the dyes in my cream Corian sink and nothing stained Yipee!

I did not need to run a “clean up” cycle through my washer, there were no residues left behind

A front load washer uses 1/4 cup detergent, and a top loader uses 1/2, so use front loaders where possible

The dye comes off your hands in about 2 days

Here are 9 of my favorite t’s that our YW made.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

A lot of the girls chose the spiral tie dye design because it looks complicated but is actually very simple.

Click HERE for instructions.

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

Check out those white jeans now turned into stripes and then the really simple bulls eye designs.

Click HERE for Bulls Eye instructions.

(NOTE: this kit came with a handy book with several different design instructions.  The girls loved flipping through it and figuring out how they could make it their own)

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

We are passing these out the Sunday before camp.  The girls are going to wear them on the buses the first day.  I think it will show great unity, don’t you think?

Bright Crisp DIY Tie Dyes for Camp

I loved the way these turned out so much, I am making them with my kids and their cousins this year on our annual pilgrimage to the beach and my brothers house.  Look out white T’s, I’m commin’ after ya!

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  • One reason why Dharma’s dyes work so well is because they have salt in them. If you look at the dried dyes closely, you’ll see little specks of white. When you put salt in the dyes, it forces the color to absorb into the cotton better than dyes without salt. So, if you want even brighter tie dyes, throw some more salt into the mix!

    Have fun,
    -Katie Bush

    • how much salt do you need to add to each 16 oz bottle of dye?
      And can I add it to the RIT dye? or the Tulip dye?
      Im having lots of trouble keeping the colors bright with the Tulip Dye Kit..

      • Yes you can totally add salt to RIT or Tulip. I use 1/2 cup salt for one box of RIT, dissolve them all in steaming (NOT boiling) water on the stove (open a window or wear a mask!) and then pour it all in a big bucket of warm water. Salt helps dye fibers made of plant fibers (cotton, hemp, etc) but try 1 cup of vinegar for protein fibers (silk, wool).

        • I knew I had heard of the vinegar before but I didn’t realize it was dependent on the type of fiber. That’s so interesting.

  • love it!!!

  • I too love Dharma. Awesome products

  • How long do the bottles of dye last after they are initially mixed? I’ve used a tie-dye kit where the dyes could only be used within a few hours of the mixing, but you used yours the next day?

  • IMPORTANT information I did not read in your directions: Do NOT use dye cups, utensils, etc. for food! Once used for dye, save them for dye use only. there are all kinds of chemicals the utensils could absorb and later release into food. I got a set of measuring cups/spoons and funnelsat the dollar store for dye only. Wear a dust mask when mixing powdered dyes. You don’t want those fine, tiny particles in your lungs. Once the powder is wet, you can remove the mask. Spilled dyes (and soda ash solution) can dry back out to a powder, so clean up all spills.

    The secret to using dyes later on is to NOT add soda ash fixer to them. The “one step” dyes have it already mixed in and are not useable the next day. You can refrigerate unused dyes and use weeks later. I have a cube fridge in a storage area for dyes only.

    Your RIT tie dyes turned into muddy messes because you need to let the dye set for several hours, not minutes. I usually leave my dyed items overnight or even longer before rinsing. I think Dharma’s dyes are much better. No connection, just a satisfied repeat customer.

    For everything you might ever want to know about dyeing, go to http://www.pburch.net/ Paula Burch knows it all!

    • Thanks Wendy. I made these again for our family reunion and used disposable spoons and cups for measuring, then threw them all away.

      • thank you for this advice…very much needed. xoxo

    • This sounds awsome i cant wait to try it when inget the money does it work good on sheets as well?? I want to make a set of tye dye sheets

  • I work at a summer camp and all of our supplies come from Dharma. They always turn out so great. We store left over dye in the refrigerator, btw.

  • Whenever I load this page, I hear a video of some lady making a hydrangea bouquet…. I can’t get it to STOP! And it’s most definitely coming from this particular page. (http://burlapanddenim.com/2012/06/girls-camp-tie-dyes/)

  • This is great! Just a tip— COMIT kitchen sink cleaner + a little scrubbing with a wash cloth gets the stains right off your skin! works like a charm every time :)

  • You do realize that Urea is the main component in urine….I personally find that gross. Just thought I might share that little detail

    • Oh Sam, you must not have any kids. After having four boys, a little urine doesn’t phase me. Especially when it produces these results :)

    • While urea is found in urine, it doesn’t come from urine. It’s synthesized in a lab and is found in many everyday items, including lotions, makeups and shampoos ; in teeth whitening products; in bar soaps; pretzels; in Nair; and in the manufacture of plastics among other uses like cigarette flavoring. Yum!
      I thought so too when I saw it on one of my mom’s lotions many years ago!

      • Lol… I didn’t realize it was produced in a lab.

    • Good heaven’s, Sam. You really believe there is animal urin in urea?! LOL!!!

  • I’ve always found it helpful to rinse the extra dye out of tie dyed clothes before washing them. This keeps the extra dye from dying any white areas – it keeps the white looking whiter!

    For a cute baby shower gift, tie dyed onesies are the best. You’ll get so many compliments, and they’re easy because they’re so small!

  • where did u get the urea?

  • We used Tulip brand Tie-Dye kits for 4H projects during the summer and then again at a fall camporee with girl scouts, both times we had WONDERFUL results!! And they seem much easier than the kit you have! The bigger kits we bought came with big bottles, the powder dye was already in the bottles, all we had to do was add water.

    • That’s great news Sarah. How did they do after they were washed? To me, that is the true test. If those work as well as the Dharma kit, then that would surely be easier. I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the Tulip kit too.

      • We love the Tulip kits, I do always pre-wash and I find cotton blends tshirts work best I do wrap in seperate bags for a day or two even. We used the large Tulip kit for a 70 th birthday party to make table clothes and I had put the half full bottles of die in my laundry room to use with the kids later and forgot about them . The following summer I came across them and we gave it a try and WOW same bright colours and still look good !

        Aunt T

    • I did the same thing and the kits are at Wal Mart now for $15. I just had to buy soda ash. The designs came out beautifully!

      • Great Kendra! What brand were the kits at Walmart and what did they include? And where did you buy your soda ash?

    • yea i use tulip but ive tyedyed useing this type of dye at campsunshine the tye dye lady was awsome and she taught me how to do it and ive compaired the two and this is worth the extra money spent i love tyedyeing

  • Hi all,
    I have also used the Tulip kits, they are sold at Wal Mart. Had great luck with them, but they are a bit expensive ($10 for three colors, dyes about 5 shirts). RIT dye is not bad but it needs to sit for quite awhile. I just dyed a hoodie that I was sooo excited about and it turned muddy… I was impatient and only let it sit about 6 hours. The fabric was dry to the touch but apparently had not set in fully. =[

  • Urea is not necessary and really doesn’t make much difference. It’s mainly to keep your dyes moist while they batch (which can be done by wrapping in a plastic grocery bag – I put mine on some newspaper first to absorb any excess dye so it doesn’t soak back onto your cotton). Many long-time dyers swear it makes no difference in the amount of dye that is absorbed into your cotton. The biggest action that keeps dye from entering the cotton is hand wringing it out after soaking in soda ash water. You leave way too much soda ash water in there when you only wring it out by hand and then you end up with a lot of white in your dyes because the dye can’t get into where the soda ash water is. I throw my hand wrung cotton into my washing machine and put it on the last section of the spin cycle (so it doesn’t spit water in there and dilute the soda ash water). If you can, take your drain hose end and stick it in your soda ash water bucket so the spun out soda ash runs back into your bucket for later use.
    The one big issue with having bright colors is the ph of your cotton. I went from dull to bright just by using distilled water to mix my dyes with. If you have hard water it will keep your dye and cotton from achieving the proper ph for the chemical reaction to happen where the dye bonds to the cotton.
    Let your bagged up dyes sit for at least 24 to 48 hours – some colors like the blues take that long just to complete their bonding process – and don’t let them dry out while batching.
    Be careful of what laundry detergent you use to prewash and wash after dyeing (ALWAYS prewash every piece of cotton you are going to dye). If you use a detergent with bleach or whiteners in it it will dull your dyes a lot and you’ll lose the color. I, and many others, use blue dawn dish detergent – SMALL amount or it’ll foam right up out of your washer – just a squirt is needed.
    Like Wendy said, ALWAYS use a mask when mixing dyes, gloves when handling soda ashed or dyed stuff and NEVER reuse ANYTHING for food again. Her link to Paula Burch’s site is the best place you can find for everything tie dye!

    • Wow Lorraine! Thanks for all the helpful tips!

      • Hi ! Found your website thru Pinterest and I just place an order with Dharma for the tye dye kit . My question is that I ordered the kit for 20 T-shirts would the measurements for mixing the dye be different? Thanks so much!

        • Amanda, Nope it should all be the same. I didn’t mix very much dye at a time so you should be great! Have fun, and I hope you love your shirts as much as we have!

  • Just saw this on Pinterest… I’ve used the Tulip tie-dye kits for years & had great results. The colors stay vibrant after constant washing & wearing. I have some shirts I probably did 10 years ago and the colors really haven’t faded. Lots cheaper & easier!

    • Just read again how many shirts the Dharma kit does and It is cheaper… but the Tulip kits are easier & convenient to pick up for those sudden tie dye urges! :)

  • I have developed a rinsing shortcut, as I have some physical problems that make it difficult for me to stand for long periods of time. Can’t kneel, either. :)
    I take three or four tie dyed items (same color groups) and toss them into the washer on a warm cycle, leaving the rubber bands on and run it for a few minutes and then spin. After that I take off the rubber bands and wash that same batch. Works great, no hand rinsing.

    I use Dharma trading, too. Love that when you call them you get a human on the line who knows about their products.

    I have used dyes that sat in my refrigerator for more than two months with stellar results. Good when you want to do more dyeing but don’t have time and don’t want to waste the dyes you mixed.

    My understanding is that the dyes start to break down if they’re left out and start to get warm, but I once used some that had been left out on the counter for about three weeks without any difference in quality of finished products.

    I just finished tie dyeing with a bunch of kids where I work.
    We do it every year. It’s a huge undertaking, every year I ask myself ‘what was I thinking’ and every year I decide that the kids love it so we will do it.

    Here’s a shot a few years ago of some of ‘my’ kids wearing their creations.


    I also teach it during summer camp.

    • Your shirts turned out great! Thanks for sharing your tips, especially about using the refrigerated dyes!

  • I also recommend Dharma. Our camp does tie-dye for 100+ tshirts and the kids love it. Dharma is economical if you buy for a group. Plan to have leftover supplies, send a flyer to a school, church or scout group and charge $5 per item (they BYO item) and you’ll make $. For my 100 camp tshirts, I prewash and then soak in soda ash in using my washing machine. For the BYO event, we have a bucket with soda ash for them to use and a big box of disposable gloves. A super activity for 2-102 year olds! Our camp counselors bring camis, boxers, towels even ked sneakers!

    • Great ideas Michelle! I love the suggestion of soaking in soda ash in the washer! And then charging others $5 to use up your leftovers, brilliant.

  • We used Dharma to tie dye some shirts and had some left over. Not one to waste I kept the left overs. Now it is 1 YEAR LATER and I just used the what was left over with perfect results with NO refrigeration was used to store the dye. Just keep the lids on and store someplace safe.

  • Did you fold or swirl the shirts before you soaked them in the soda ash? Or did you soak them first and then fold them?

    • Stephanie, if you are doing a fold or swirl, soak them AFTER you fold them. If you are doing a random design or a fade, soak them without folding them and then just lay them down in a plastic bag in the shape that you want them. Ether way, do your best to wring out the extra water before you add the dye.

    • I have to ask why You fold before you soak. We have always soaked first and then wrung before folding. It seems to me that wringing after folding would not keep your folds nice and crisp. It is easier to get more soda ash wrung out of an unfolded shirt. We also think they are easier to fold if they are wet. Of course that could just be be years of habit doing it that way.

      We are also big fans of Dharma trading company. To those who think it seems complicated, Tulip is easier, but using the Procian dyes from Dharma has always produced much richer colors and worth the effort.
      We actually tried a side by side test once. We LOVE the array of colors that the Procian dyes come in. I will admit when we started dying there were no such things as dying kits, so we learned the complicated way first, but once you do it a few times, it is really not all that complicated or hard to do. There is also a certain satisfaction to being more involved in all the prep work.

      One final thought, We do our final wash with a bit of synthropol, which can also be ordered from Dharma. We have shirts that are YEARS old and while the shirts are worn and beat up, the colors are marvelous.

      Thank you for your post, its great

  • what ingredient does the bright crisp color?

  • I’m new to dying, and I haven’t seen the instructions for when to remove the rubber bands. Where in the process is the right time?

    • Jennifer, I removed the rubber bands after the colors set for 24 hours, right before rinsing and washing.

  • Hey! I love the info provided! I did purchased from Dharma but I bought the larger kit which comes with the extra colors of cobalt blue, fire red and black. Any suggestions on color mixing?

    • Gosh Jennifer, I might just use them as they are! You could mix a little cobalt and black to get navy. I hope they turn out awesome.

      • Your post could have come from me. I do exactly what you have said, with close to 1000 campers, staff and faculty over the course of a summer at camp and each piece that the campers, staff and faculty make is as amazing as the next!

  • I’m trying to decide if tie-dye is right for a work fun day with about 60 adults! Thanks for the post, it was so helpful!

  • does the kit includes the color dye?

  • Hello! If I soak my fabric in a mixture of only water and dye first, then add soda ash in once I’m nearly good with the shade, how long should I leave the fabric in the dye-with-soda-as mixture?

  • Ive used the Tulip brand from Walmart and didn’t think it worked well. It was easy, but the colors didn’t seem to make to the bottom layers of shirt that was rubber-banded. The box said it would do 24 projects. We were able to make 10 shirts. (5 youth sized and 5 adult large and XL).

    In my opinion the best tie dye kit was one I bought from Target 2 years ago from the dollar spot section. It was $3 for 2 colors. I wish I knew what brand because it was awesome. I didn’t know about soda Ashe and my kit didn’t come with it. But I used vinegar and it worked great. After setting overnight in plastic, and rinsing in cold water, I soaked shirts for a few minutes in vinegar. This was my hippy mom’s tip that she used in the 70′s :)
    Then I let the shirts dry in the sun. And washed in cold water. The shirts are still very bright and have not bleed in the laundry.

  • One tip for fiber reactive dye. It starts to set at 70°, at that temp a shirt sould sit for 48 hours. However, for every 15° warmer you can take 3 hours off of setting time. So what I do is after dye is on and shirt is in a plastic bag to keep moister in I microwave it for 2 minutes flip over and repeat another 2 minutes then let shirt sit for about 12 hours. Shirt must stay wet or it will burn so make sure it is wrapped in plastic and damp.

  • […] you have the basics covered, it’s time to tie-dye like a pro! There are several techniques that you can use to create different patterns and shapes. It really […]

  • I loved this site and got a lot of ideas for future projects.
    I plan to have children (1st Graders) paint a King Size White bedspread. I picked up a packet of “Runway” dyes that included a soda packet. My idea was to hang it over a line, give a variety of paint brushes for each child to choose from and then use full arm movements to paint the fabric any way they chose. I don’t know if I should use these dyes or wait to try another kind.

    Interested in hearing feedback. We initially planned the individual tie dye shirts, but it didn’t happen. This kind of group painting was done with adults in Mt Shasta years ago; the lead artist took the method from Europe. I saw it as a stretching creative activity for using their whole bodies with as little structure or directions as possible. General guidelines of safety and cleanliness and as much dye on the fabric ( and not anywhere else) as possible.
    Tell me what you think.

  • Is there a way to tie dye shirts WITHOUT putting them in a washing machine right away? We are tie dying at a camp that has no laundry facility but would still like to wear the shirts by the last few days of camp. Please let me know any tips for this.

  • I don’t agree, look at http://www.swellmayde.com/2012/03/diy-tie-dye-denim-part-1.html Friendly, Rolanda

  • Cam I throw all the shirts in the washer together if they are made from different color combinations?

  • I do not agree:

    Friendly, Joella

  • Work campers perform in exchange for an RV internet site with full hook-ups.

  • My friend and I have been dying for a few years now and we love Dharma. Have not had as much luck with the tulip kits, the colors don’t seem to be as vibrent. Dharma is definitely worth every penny! I use YouTube to find most of my tutorials on new folds.

  • My friend and I have been dying for a few years now and we love Dharma. Have not had as much luck with the tulip kits, the colors don’t seem to be as vibrent. Dharma is definitely worth every penny! I use YouTube to find most of my tutorials on new folds.

  • My friend and I have been dying for a few years now and we love Dharma. Have not had as much luck with the tulip kits, the colors don’t seem to be as vibrent. Dharma is definitely worth every penny! I use YouTube to find most of my tutorials on new folds.

  • If I need more of one color (Say…16 shirts all purple) are there enough supplies in the kit to do this?

  • looking good

  • nice post

  • Nice blog! You shared such a great instruction for customize tie dye. Its very helpful for me and got a lot of ideas for future projects. Thanks for sharing.

  • Greyhaven, Your post could have come from me. I do exactly what you have said, with close to 1000 campers, staff and faculty over the course of a summer at camp and each piece that the campers, staff and faculty make is as amazing as the next!

  • Thank you for this valuable information. You have given me a fun project to do when my grandchildren come to visit. I am going to order the tie dye kit today. Thanks to all the comments too. I learned from so many that have already tie dyed before. This is my first time. Thanks everyone.

  • Does anyone have experience working with Procion dyes (versus Dharma)? I’d so, what did you think?
    Thank you.

    • Nevermind….after research I learned Procion comes from Dharma… sheesh.

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