July 2, 2012

Marker-Dyed Tees for Fourth of July

When I was in fifth or sixth grade, my mother let me choose tie-dyeing as an activity to enjoy with friends at my backyard birthday party. Not until recently have I been able to really appreciate how ambitious that was.

I like tie-dyed T-shirts for Independence Day - they're festive and summery. But I wasn't ready to commit to the whole tie-dyeing process. (If you're ready to go all out, you should read the how-to guide published in The Record last year).

Luckily, you can get a similar effect with permanent markers and rubbing alcohol.

And, bonus: If you're kids are a bit older, you can treat this as an at-home science experiment. Read up on chromatography and solubility before you begin.

You'll need: T-shirts (I used a cheap three-pack of girls undershirts. You're going to scribble on them with permanent ink- no need to splurge); permanent markers, such as Sharpies or Bic Mark-Its; rubbing alcohol; an eyedropper; a rubber band; and a cup.

Step 1: Stretch your shirt over the mouth of the cup and secure with a rubber band. This will give you a sturdier surface to write on and will prevent the ink from bleeding through to the other side of the shirt.

Step 2: Draw! For a starburst design that, I think, looks a little like fireworks, draw concentric circles in three or four colors.

Step 3: Drip three or four drops of rubbing alcohol onto the center of your design. Add more - a couple of drops at a time - as needed. The more you saturate the shirt, the more the ink will bleed.

Step 4: Let the area dry for a few minutes before continuing.

Step 5: When you're finished dyeing, put the shirt in the dryer for 30 or so minutes to set. (I say "set," but I definitely would wash these guys separately and, unfortunately, prepare for them to fade).

Stripes look pretty neat too, but my favorite were these red and blue dots I placed along the border of Alice's shirt. They were about the size of a half-dollar to start, and I used only three drops of alcohol in the center of each to keep the circles from warping too much.

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