I used to really enjoy making things. In my early 20s, most of my evenings and weekends were spent knitting, sewing, quilting and making jewellery (I like to party). I baked, made jams and chutneys, fudges and sweets. I even had a small business, together with my friend, selling homemade things on Ebay. I don’t know what changed but, over time, I found myself less and less inclined to craft. My sewing machine sat ignored under its dust cover, my craft cupboard drawers stuck shut from lack of use, surplus tomatoes went wasted.
I gave up on making.
The joy of trying something new! Of having an item that you created! Of surprising yourself when it doesn’t look rubbish! Of answering the question ‘Where did you buy that?’ with a smug self-satisfied, ‘Actually I made it!’. I decided – M would be for Making. And, to Make up for lost time, M would also be for Multiple – a Making Marathon.
More than that, M is also for Mentor because, for each of the tasks I’m undertaking, one of my Mates has offered to either teach me something, learn something with me or provide moral support. Marvellous. And what better place to start than with the oft-ignored art of tie-dye…
As the name suggests, tie-dye involves tying fabric with elastic bands or string before dying it. The ties prevent the entire item being dyed – with the inner layers staying their original colour. Although evidence has been found dating its practice back to 500AD, tie-dye is most commonly associated with the Hippie movement in the 1960s (about time for a comeback, I reckon).
- an item of clothing to dye
- hand dye (this is funny because we did manage to dye our hands – oops!)
- rubber gloves
- dyeing salt
- elastic bands
- buttons / marbles.
My crafternoon of tying and dying was ably supported by the lovely Genna (major cat fan, alphabettering virgin) whose enthusiasm more than made up for her lack of tie-dye experience. Together we assembled the equipment, had a look at some internet sites for inspiration, drank tea and planned. And planned. And drank tea… It turns out there’s something quite daunting about a blank white t-shirt, as we both struggled to know where to start. The internet is full of sites explaining patterns and processes but these were almost all confusing or overly complicated. After several anxious minutes, we decided to embrace the Hippie spirit by doing our own thing and hoping for the best.
We both started with a simple pattern – tying buttons into the t-shirts using elastic bands (this is supposed to leave circular shapes all over the fabric). We each then attempted to make a pattern of concentric circles – so far so good. Emboldened by our success, we moved onto more exciting things. Genna folded her last shirt into a shape she hoped would produce stripes and I fashioned mine into something that looked like it might make a spiral. Tying complete, we were ready to start dyeing.
Rubber gloves on, we started mixing dye and salt into appropriate quantities and, when it was ready, immersed our creations. And then we got nervous again. I was anxious that the dye wouldn’t take and, after all our hard work, we would rinse out the t-shirts at the end to find they were plain white. Genna thought exactly the opposite would be true – that the dye would have penetrated to the inner layers and we’d just have purple t-shirts. We spent the next 45 minutes worried we were stirring the t-shirts too much or far too little (the instructions just said ‘stir regularly’ – useless!!).
As we started to rinse the t-shirts the signs didn’t look good. It soon became clear that my concerns were unfounded as the shirts were definitely purple. Too purple. We couldn’t see even a flash of white from beneath the ties. Still we kept rinsing and then, when most of the dye was gone, we set to the business of untying… Lo and behold! parts of the t-shirts were white!! We did a celebratory leap and finished the ceremonial unravelling.
The overall results were infinitely better than either of us had expected. Genna’s striped t-shirt, in particular, was a marvel. ‘I can almost imagine someone wearing that’ she said, beaming with pride.
And the really big news?? Tie-dye features pretty heavily in the Summer ’12 collections for Miss Selfridge and Urban Outfitters, and was shown on the runway during New York Fashion week - so we’re trendsetters to boot. Awesome.
Here are our results so you can judge for yourselves:
So.. you would think that I would be less anxious the second time round. That knowing it worked before would mean I wouldn’t worry about it working again. Same type of dye, same method, same elastic bands, same bucket even! .. and same anxiety that the dye would seep all the way through and our T-shirts would be dyed but not tied.
My friend Aimee (smarter than the average bear) and I embarked on our tie dye adventure with a few changes in mind. We planned to try New colours (purple AND blue)! New patterns (stripes)! and New types of clothes (leggings! baby gros)! And, braver still, we planned to actually wear our creations out of the house. We achieved all of this and more.
I won’t go through the whole process, I’ve done that before, but here are the edited highlights:
- Aimee (slightly hungover after celebrating finishing Uni yesterday) accidentally mixed up her piles of clothes and dyed purple the things she wanted blue. Noticing her mistake we swapped a couple of items (purple into blue) and the result was a lovely indigo colour. Win!
- While we were hanging our clothes on the washing line, one of my cats decided it was time for a change of style and dyed one of her feet purple. Ace!
- Tie-dye baby clothes make me squeal. Cute!
- I went out for a run in my new leggings (see below) and someone rushed up to me to ask me where I had bought them. Amazeballs!
Here are the pictures:
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