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After discovering that I'll be having a little boy in the reasonably near future, I decided to celebrate by personalising some sleepsuits and vests, by tie dyeing them myself (which works out much cheaper than buying similar). After a little research online, I came to the conclusion that the easiest method for a beginner was to buy a one-step kit and a look on Amazon led me to this Tulip One Step Tie Dye Kit in Vibrant, that was selling for around the £10 mark and claimed to contain everything you need to tie dye up to eight items.
Within a fairly small box you are supplied with three dye bottles (each containing a small amount of powdered dye), two pairs of gloves, twenty rubber bands and a basic multi-language instruction/inspiration leaflet. While I guess it is technically possible to start creating works of art by simply reading the enclosed leaflet, I did find it rather basic and not as detailed as it could have been. To solve this I went online to the manufacturer's website http://www.tiedyeyoursummer.com/ get-inspired.html (remove the space), where there are a number of short instructional videos covering various tie dye techniques.
After having read the leaflet and watched some videos I was ready to begin and the first step in the process is to wash any clothing that you will be dyeing to remove the "sizing". The best materials to use (according to the instructions and everything else I've read) are those made from natural fibres, with the very best results being produced when using cotton. The sleepsuits and vests that I planned to dye are 100% cotton (as is the baby hat), but I also decided to dye a white maternity top, which is 95% cotton and 5% Lycra.
After washing the clothing, it's time to start getting a little creative by using the supplied bands to "tie" the material in different ways. Or it would have been if the supplied bands were any good. I found the supplied rubber bands to not be very elastic and to be rather brittle. From what I can tell it's quite important to tie the bands quite tightly and as soon as I put any pressure on the bands they snapped. Even if the bands had not snapped so easily, twenty isn't really very many, especially if I were really to try and dye eight items. To solve these problems I purchased a cheap bag of elastic bands, which worked very well.
How you tie the bands depends greatly on what sort of results you are looking for, but I found the easiest technique to master was the bullseye, where you end up with concentric circles. To do this you decide where you want the centre of your design to be, pinch the material at this point, lift it up in a tube shape and tie a bands a few centimetres from the point. Continue lifting up and tying bands for as many circles as you want in your bullseye. If you want your circles closer together then obviously place the bands nearer each other, if you want them further apart then spread the bands along. Another easy technique is stripes, where you pleat the material and then tie bands along the length.
Once your garments are all prepared and tied up, it's time to start getting really messy and the first very important step is to ensure that your work surface is covered with plastic and that you are wearing old clothes. I, personally used black bags to cover my work surface, which worked very well. Once the work surface is covered you need to don a pair of the supplied gloves, which is where I hit another difficulty. While the gloves were plenty big enough, they feel very flimsy and it doesn't take much for them to tear (think the gloves you get in super cheap home hair dye kits), so you may want to invest in some better quality disposable gloves to protect your hands.
With gloves in place it is time to add water to each of the bottles and then shake well to ensure all the dye powder is fully dissolved. The three colours included in this set are pink, lime and turquoise, although I will say the box is misleading as it gives the impression that the set contains yellow rather than lime. I found that the turquoise and pink mixed easily, the lime was a little more problematic and took a long time to fully mix. Once the dyes are mixed they can be applied to the fabrics, with the nozzles giving a reasonable level of control. Some care does need to be taken when applying the dye to make sure that you keep between the bands and don't muddy the colours too much, but at the same time it adds to the design if you are not quite perfect. Once the dyes have been mixed they do need to be used within 45 minutes, which is why I would suggest preparing your garments before mixing. The reason that the dye needs to be used so quickly is that being a one step system the lye that the material would otherwise need to be soaked in before adding the dye is included in the mix and after 45 minutes the dye begins to lose vibrancy.
Once the dye is added to the fabric to your satisfaction each garment needs to be wrapped in plastic to keep it damp and then left for at least 6-8 hours to develop. I found the best way to wrap the garments was to place them separately in carrier bags, which made them easy to move around. As for how many garments I managed to dye, well I didn't manage eight, and would suggest that the only way that this kit would manage that many is that very little actual colour was added to each item. What I did manage to dye, was two newborn sleepsuits, two newborn vests, a newborn hat and a size 20 maternity vest, so six items, five of which were tiny.
After the developing time (I left it 8 hours), it's time to rinse the excess dye out and I found this the most time consuming part of the whole process. I would say that it took me a good hour to rinse the worst of the dye out, cutting the elastic bands as I went. Once the worst of the excess dye was out I placed the garments in the washing machine and ran them on a 40 degree cycle with a small amount of washing liquid (as per the instructions) to remove the rest of the excess dye. Once this cycle had finished it was time to admire the results and I have to say I was very impressed. While I would say that the supposed turquoise was actually blue the combination of colours was gorgeous and each colour was vivid. With the baby clothes I only used the lime green and turquoise and I have to say they work really well together, producing some very cute and one of a kind baby clothes. With the maternity top I used all three colours in a bullseye design and love wearing the result, it really does make a difference to wearing the normal frumpy maternity clothes.
Immediately after dyeing the colours are extremely bright and vivid, with little fading in subsequent washes. It is recommended to wash the dyed items separately for the first few washes as a little dye does come out, but I found this was minimal and after a second wash no further fading occurred (I washed the baby clothes a few times for obvious reasons).
As far as age suitability goes, due to the fact that the dyes will stain any surface they come into contact with (whether it be hands, clothing or work surfaces), while I cannot find a recommended age range, I would suggest that this is an activity to share with your child rather than allow them to work independently. I did allow my three year old to join in applying the dye and he thoroughly enjoyed himself, but obviously there wasn't much that he could do for himself. An older child of six or seven should be able to add the bands to the clothing and apply the dye, while a teenager would probably be able to follow all the steps themselves with minimal guidance and supervision. No matter what age though, I'm sure that they would be as proud of the results as both myself and my three year old are.
Tie dyeing is a great way of refreshing old clothes or personalising new and with this kit it is a relatively easy and pain-free process. While not perfect (the rubber bands and gloves), I did enjoy using this kit and am very pleased with the results, my maternity top gets a lot of comments on how good it looks. In fact I was so pleased that I have bought another, larger kit in the same range. Should the colours in this kit not be to your liking there are a number of other kits available with different colour schemes for around the same price. I am giving the Tulip One Step Tie Dye Kit in Vibrant four stars out of five and recommending it to anyone who is looking for a fun and satisfying craft activity either for themselves or to share with their child. I