How to nearly destroy your house…all in the name of creativity

It was sometime early Monday when the thought came to me: why not try to make tie dyed shirts for my family for Independence Day? It wasn’t the first time this bee somehow had gotten into my bonnet, but it had been a while. For example, here’s a shot of one of the last times I made shirts for us, back in 2001–a very professional picture taken from a picture in the frame hanging in our hallway. That’s Brendan as a six-week-old newborn (onesies are a LOT easier to handle!) and Hannah and Patrick as little ones. How cute!

Actually, if you look closely, the shirts aren’t tie dyed, but decorated with fabric spray paint. I can still remember the afternoon I temporarily lost my mind and set up a table outside for Hannah, Patrick, and me to paint. If you check out my shirt and Patrick’s sleeve, you’ll see that he was content to pick one spot and just “Pssssshhhhhhhh” with the sprayer. Good memories…. Several years (and a few kids) later, we tried our hand at shirts modeled after (gasp!) Jon and Kate + 8. (Don’t worry; that’s about ALL we’ve modeled after them, thankfully!) Here’s a picture of the kids showing off those shirts:

And one of just Hannah and Patrick, looking cool (and much older than the first picture!)…

Then, as if that weren’t enough torture, somehow Todd agreed to help me with yet another shirt project, this time a design around the Six Pack. You can’t really see a close-up on any of these, but each child’s shirt says Proud Member of the Six Pack while Todd’s reads “Dad to the Six Pack” and I imagine you could figure out what mine read.

While these were a great idea and cool design, they did not hold up well to washes and sadly, quickly moved from prominent shirt to sleeping attire. Too bad. Fast forward a few years until this past week when, like I mentioned earlier, I got the “bright idea” to try again. Why!? I don’t know. I’ve got a stack of books that I should be reading. My parents just left from a nice visit, but I’d let my house go in favor of completing a landscaping project in 100 degree heat. The laundry had backed up into the chute.  And the list goes on.  Nevermind all those things, though! The prospect of matching shirts was too overwhelming to pass up.  Besides, I had a “free” evening so what was stopping me?  I collected coupons online for Hobby Lobby and Michael’s, made a list of the sizes of shirts I’d need to clothe the herd, and ventured out into the heat. Telling myself I wouldn’t chase all over town to find t-shirts if they weren’t avaiable at either of those two stores, I rationalized in my mind that this wouldn’t become an huge undertaking. Hobby Lobby had cute girl’s t-shirts with cap sleeves, so I quickly took care of Hannah and me. No primary colored tie dye kits, though, so that was an in and out trip. My next stop was Michael’s, where I successfully got shirts for every boy in the family as well as the kits I’d need to color them. I was doing well, but still hadn’t found something for Chloe. I rationalized again that Kmart was on my way home, so I ducked in there and found the perfect all-white t-shirt in her size. Things were coming together. I had everyone try on their shirts when I got home and was dismayed to find that Brendan and Ben’s shirts did not fit. Boo. My quick project just added an extra errand. After we dropped Hannah and Patrick off at the church for musical practice, we rushed over to Michael’s. I reminded the kids that we weren’t there to look at every. little. thing. but to run in (preferrably with blinders on), go directly to the t-shirts, and get out! Running into two of my friends did not help that plan materialize, however, and the kids were able to check out the acres of candy that Michael’s sells. (WHY!?!?) Nevertheless, we made it. As soon as we got home, I threw the shirts in the washing machine. One thing I learned the hard way in years’ past in the tie dye world is that if you don’t wash your shirts before you dye them, the color will just run off and not take to the shirt at all. It was a deeply frustrating realization that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. While the shirts ran through the wash, I prepped the table for the mess I was most assuredly to soon be making all over my kitchen. Here’s a picture in case you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask what a kitchen table covered with plastic garbage bags looked like:

Once the wash was completed, the shirts were ready to be activated like four sets of Wonder Twins. I mixed up the packets of Soda Ash with warm water and stirred all 8 shirts into the mix to completely soak them for a few minutes.

Yep. That’d be a bunch of shirts right there….indeedy…. The next step was to lay each shirt out flat and draw the desired design on the front with a washable marker. In this completely useless picture of a white shirt on a white plastic bag on a tan table, you can absolutely imagine the design I drew: an American flag. You have to imagine, because it’s awfully difficult to make it out.

Earlier in the evening (while the shirts were washing), I did a search on You Tube to watch different tie dye techniques and came across exactly what I was looking for: the fan fold technique. Thanks to the couple tutorials I viewed, I felt fairly sure I could replicate it on my shirts. Spreading out roughly 46,291 rubber bands, I set to work. (Oh goody! More white on white!)

Of course it wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined and took four times as long, but in a couple hours the tying phase of shirt design was complete and it was now time to begin phase dying. This is when Todd joined me and I’m so glad he did! Because I wanted my shirts to be mostly red and white with blue on one shoulder (to look like a flag…), I really needed to keep the red parts away from the blue parts. I hadn’t given even a fleeting thought, however, to how I was going to actually accomplish that. Enter Todd, who had the bright idea to wrap up the part of each shirt that was going to be blue with a plastic grocery bag. This worked perfectly to keep the red dye off that shoulder part. While I colored the main part of the shirt, Todd prepared the other shirts ahead of me. I will say that we used every bit of the red dye and I watered it down here and there, trying not to make it pink. Eight shirts took a LOT of red dye, but we made it. Here’s the product we used:

It comes with bottles designed for easy directive dying, already filled with powder. All you have to do is fill them with water and shake well (AFTER replacing the top….tightly). The bottles look like this and really do make the project easier than dipping the shirt into a bucket.

I bet you were all distracted by my bodacious apron in this picture. Aprons are a very important part of life and should be respected at all times. This one is one of my favorites! OK, so after the red dye was correctly applied (with only a wee bit squirted here and there on the table and maybe even along the floor), Todd wrapped the red part up and passed it to me so I could unwrap the remaining part of each shirt and dye it blue. I forgot to mention that he also wanted to have some circles on the blue, so he spent time wrapping rubber bands around that before he had wrapped them up. The blue went considerably faster, mostly because it was so much smaller than the red, so it didn’t take long before we had the last shirt done. Once I completed the blue, Todd wrapped it up again and then put the entire drippy mess into yet another bag, wrapped so it could safely sit overnight and set properly. I had a couple extra shirts that were prepped, so I quickly used the last of the blue dye on them, like so:

Our island countertop was quite overrun with bags, as you could imagine:

It was after midnight when we got everything cleaned up enough to go to bed. I was so thankful that Todd had helped with the coloring stage, or I would have still been fumbling through at midnight! Fast forward to the next morning and I gathered my stuff to get the shirts ready to rinse and wash. Hoping that they would turn out, but wondering WHAT I was going to find when I unwrapped them all, I had no choice but to dig in and get started. Since we don’t have washtubs in the house, I went to the next best thing and took my bucket o’ bags to the bath tub. Protected with yet another apron, I sat down on the edge and gingerly unwrapped the first shirt. What I noticed right away is WOW, did the dye take! The shirts were very dark and it looked like it was mostly colored with not a lot of white (unlike my earlier pictures!). *Sigh* Not stopping now….I told myself. Just keep rinsing.

It quickly turned into a bloodbath in my tub, despite my best efforts to keep the coloring to a minimum. There was red and blue and purple everywhere.  I started out trying to keep each shirt separate from each other, but that didn’t work too well. By the end they were all piled in a heap in the bucket I’d brought them in with, along with a pile of rubber bands and another pile of plastic bags.  After quickly moving them to the basement utility room, my intention was to wash two shirts at a time to cut down on bleeding. I had a flash of panic when I pulled the top shirts off the heap and saw that blue dye had gotten onto red sections of the shirt. Had we done all that work just to ruin it at the second-to-last step?! I certainly hoped not and threw them in the washer to find out. Happily, when they came out of the wash cycle, more white sections had appeared and they looked pretty sharp! These are some of the end products:

 

 

The next day, we proudly donned our new shirts while getting ready to head to Wilmore’s parade. A few were eager to be models…

We arrived at the parade unsurprisingly a few minutes late and had to walk down Main St. to meet up with our friends. As we pranced down the street with our wagon and matching shirts, the thought occurred to me that we may have looked like we were supposed to be *in* the parade.  Perhaps we should have started waving!  In any case, our shirts were a huge success for the day.   It was an incredibly hot morning and afternoon, but at least we looked OK.   Happy Independence Day from the Tie Dyed Tighes!

 

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