Posted by: keepingthemistakes | September 28, 2012

Peace, Love, Art and Tie-Dying . . .

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We, as a staff, decided to do tie-dye shirts as a community building activity for our school.  Our whole school theme is The Wizard of Oz, so the rainbow tie-dye theme fits well.  We decided to do one color for each grade level and a color for support staff, so we’ll have a full rainbow.

We’ll all wear them on the same day each week, Tie-Dye Tuesday!  I’m hoping we can all line up outdoors and do a rainbow picture with everyone standing in rainbow formation.

It was a huge, time consuming, tiring project.  I had lots of support and help from others in our building.  I couldn’t have done it without them.

My classes are in no order, really.  They hop around: 4th grade, 1st grade, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, etc.  I do have both of my 2nd grade classes one following the other.  That added a challenge, and my counter had vats of each color dye on it for four days.  The dyes that had been there since Monday were getting a liiiiiittle bit rank.

We used RIT dyes.  They worked well, but I didn’t have access to boiling water, so I’m not sure the dyes were as intense as they might have been otherwise.  Also, I noticed that the first shirts that went in got very intense color, and the last ones were pretty pale (sometimes).  The RIT dyes were easy to use, though, and I’m mostly happy with the colors.  We’ll see how I feel after they’ve been washed a few more times!

Here’s the process:

I divided each class into three groups — one group was at the tie-dye table.  I had a poster with three options for rubber band placement.  For the younger classes, my helpers and I would ask what they wanted to do and where they wanted the bands, and we would put them on their shirts.  Older students could do it themselves and then just have tightness checked by an adult.  They then carried them over to me to put into the vat (big Sterlite tub) of dye for their grade level.

Group two was doing coffee filter tie dye — folding their coffee filter in half three times and then adding dot marker in three colors to both top and bottom and then unfolding.  They’re very cool, but I didn’t get any pictures!

The third center was a worksheet with a t-shirt outline which they could color and decorate any way they wanted.

After the shirts were dyed, they had to be rinsed in cold water till the water ran clear (well . . . maybe not clear, but we tried), then the rubber bands snipped, and the shirts washed and dried.  I did get vinegar to add to the wash cycle, hoping it would set the color a bit.  I wonder if adding salt to the dye bath might have helped too.

After about 8 or 9 loads of laundry (much of them done by my faithful helpers, who, once again I will say, I can’t thank ENOUGH), all are done and ready to be distributed to classrooms next week!

Fun project, intense, but not as bad as I thought it might be, honestly!



  1. Great project…maybe I could do it with my first graders?

    Mrs. Bartel’s School Family

    • I’m sure you could, Alyce! I can give you more details if you want.

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