Tie Dye Fun

Tie Dyeing is a fun, creative art project you can do at home.  This activity shows you how to do it. Can you predict what kind of pattern your tie dye will make?  Try it out with the help of an adult and see if your predictions are correct!


Suggested Age Group: Ages 10-14

Activity Time: 60-90 min total

Prep Time:  30 min


Dyeing is the process of coloring fiber, yarns, or fabrics using a colored liquid to transmit that color onto the material.  Natural dyes can be divided into two categories: substantive dyes (dyes that do not need a bonding agent) and adjective dyes (dyes that do need a bonding agent).

Most natural dyes are adjective and use metal salt to fix the color onto the fabric. When it comes to using natural or synthetic dyes, the way the fibers being dyed are treated have to be handled differently.

Synthetic dyes that are used commonly today work best and produce the most vibrant colors when used on 100% cotton. These synthetic dyes are called fiber reactive dyes, and before these dyes will bond to the cotton fibers, they must first come in contact with an alkaline substance like soda ash to activate the reactive properties dye. Cotton is soaked in an alkaline water mixture so the dye will easily bond and hold onto the cotton fibers, even long after many washes.

In this activity, you'll learn how to make a tie dye t-shirt or bandana.  You'll need a few specific supplies and it's helpful to have the assistance of an adult.


  • 2-3 Buckets to soak bandanas
  • 100% cotton bandanas or t-shirts (dye can be used for several items)
  • 4-5 rubber bands per person
  • Racks and pans for drying
  • Fiber reactive dye (as many colors as you choose)
  • Squeeze bottles (for each color)
  • Gloves
  • Ziplock bag
  • Newspaper        

Fiber reactive dye can be ordered online or you can check larger stores such as Walmart.

After care instructions: 

Bandanas should sit in their dye for at least a couple of hours. Carefully remove the bandana from the plastic bag with gloves, and rinse the bandana with ties/rubber bands attached in cold water.

When the water runs clean, then remove the ties (can be cut) and rinse the bandana again. Then wash the tie dyed bandana alone in the machine (or with anything you may not mind getting dyed!) in hot water.

Regular detergent can be used in the washing machine and the bandana can be dried normally.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this activity you should be able to:

  1. TEST the process of making a tie dye bandana or t-shirt
  2. PREDICT the pattern your tie dye will make and see how that compares to the final results.
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