"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble."

—Shakespeare's Macbeth

Halloween Tie-Dye

If there's two things I love it's an excuse to break out the craft supplies and pretty much any holiday....especially one where you get to dress up! In the past my boys have enjoyed tie-dying, and randomly last week I had an idea; what if they made a Halloween tie dye shirt? I figured there was no reason they couldn't draw some Halloween pictures on a shirt first before tie-dying some halloween colors over top of it afterwards! Of course I was't positive it would be a success, but what art experiment is ever guaranteed?

So off we went to Michaels with a mission to get spooky and funky all at the same time :) Read on for the how to! (And and here's a little preview of the results!)

1. Supplies

So, you'll need some stuff, right? While it might seem like a tie-dye project might require you to cart home half of the craft store with you, luckily you won't actually need too much! I found a great (almost) all inclusive kit at my local Michaels craft store, however if you want to stay firmly planted on your couch throughout the prep process, the same kit is linked for you below on Amazon. It comes complete with a table cover, gloves, rubber bands, and more colors than you can use in one sitting, as well as directions and a guide on how to do several different tie-dye designs! The other two items you'll need are a black fabric marker (again, linked for you on Amazon below) and some white tees. The other items like some sort of bucket, larger bowl or large food storage container and a rack or cookie cooling rack you likely have in your kitchen already, and that's it!

Tulip Tie-Dye Kit

Gildan Pre-Shrunk Tees

Marvy Fabric Marker

1. Prep!

Before you get started, make sure your space is ready. Tie-dye can easily stain, (your counter, table, your clothes, your floor & your hands) so be sure to cover your work surface with a waterproof table cover, and have gloves for everyone ready to go. Also a great idea to wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty or art smocks or aprons.

2. Get Drawing!

This is the artsy-fartsy spooky part. Get talking to your kids and ask them to think of all the spooky Halloween things they can think of! Ghosts and witches and bats and pumpkins and gravestones and more. Have them draw their designs with the marker on their tee, and as they draw you may want to help hold the tee flat and taught for them because drawing on the fabric can be more challenging than drawing on paper. I had my kids sketch their ideas on paper first for practice, so they wouldn't be frustrated if they felt like they made a 'mistake' (there are no mistakes!) on their tee!

The spooky drawings begin

Adding some bats

Working on some ghosts

A haunted castle on a hill

Spooky drawing complete!

My drawing of Jack Skellington!

3. Soak your shirts

Once you are done, you'll want to soak your tees in water. I learned that a damp shirt will accept dye MUCH better than a dry one, so before you wrap up your shirt and dye it, get it thoroughly wet and then wring it out (it shouldn't be dripping wet.) Lay it back out flat on your work surface.

Twisting into a swirl from the center

Ready for dye!

Center of the tee separated, the rest is in a 'crumple' design

4. Time to Fold, Wrap, & Dye!

If you've bought a tie-dye kit like I did, it's likely that it came with instructions for several ways to fold, wrap and dye a design of your choice, and how to apply the colors to achieve the effect you are going for. But if not, or if you are looking for more unique tie-dye designs, check out this website!

But to break it down:

First mix the colors in the bottle. Directions will be on the bottle or in your kit but in general you'll want to fill up to the fill line on the bottle. If you over fill your colors will be more diluted (more pastel) if you under fill they will be strong and darker. But before you start- make sure everyone is wearing gloves, of you'll have very colorful hand for the next few days!In my opinion, great Halloween color combos are:

  • orange, yellow & black
  • purple, orange & black
  • purple, blue & black
  • orange, yellow & red
  • But ultimately I leave it up to the kids to decide, it's their artwork after all!

Second, fold/Wrap your tees into your desired design. Whether it's a spiral, marble, stripe or crumple...this is where you will choose what pattern your shirt will have in the end, and wrap with rubber bands.

Third apply the dye, following the pattern and directions for your chosen design. When dying, it's best to have some sort of rack (a cookie cooling rack worked well for us) that sits up above the bottom of container you are using to catch the excess dye, or else your tee will end up sitting in that excess and the bottom half your tee will turn brown as all the colors mix together. When you have applied the dye to the top of your tee, you'll need to flip it over and do the same to the bottom. Be generous with the dye to ensure it is soaking through to the inside folds that are wrapped up, or you'll open your tee later and find the inside is all still white!

For Henry's we were trying to get a burst of orange in the center so we pulled up the tee in the center and tied it with a rubber band and dyed with orange, then crumpled the rest, tied with rubber bands and added yellow, green and purple. For Silas' he wanted a swirl of red, purple and black. so we started twisting from the center and put rubber bands around. I also made my own shirt and later one for Stefan. For Stefan I attempted to leave a white ghost shape by pulling up a rough outlined shape of a ghost, then swirled the rest of the tee (I think- I can't even remember!) For mine I simply marbled/crumpled the whole thing and added two shades of purple, plus dark blue and black.

Adding Purple!

Applying the dye

Ready to soak for 6-8 hours

5. Wait it Out

Grab some grocery bags, put a tee in each bag, and let the shirts soak the dye in for the next 6-8 hours while you go enjoy your day! The longer the tee sits, the more intense your colors will be.

6. Rinse, Wash & Dry

After you've patiently waited all day long, it's time to see the fruits of your labor! Head over to the kitchen or laundry sink, get the gloves back on and rinse those shirts out under warm to hot water. Ring them back out so they aren't dripping wet, and then toss them in the washer (with nothing else- lest you want a whole wardrobe of tie-dyed clothes) and wash with hot water and a small amount of laundry detergent. Tumble dry and viola! You have some awesome Halloween Tie-Dye Tees!

*Note: You might need to go back over the drawings once more with the marker to darken the black lines a bit, but then your are good to go!

Check out our results below! I love how they did their own unique drawings, chose their own colors and tie-dye patterns and can now wear their artwork!

My finished tee with Jack Skellington!

Stefan's finished tee- Ghost drawn in after the fact with the fabric pen

7. Show off & Share!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this project, and if you attempt this yourself I really want to see your tees! Please share your results on facebook or Instagram! Tag me on Instagram at @erinlassahnphoto or on Facebook at Erin Lassahn Photography. Happy Tie-Dying & Happy Halloween!