Billed as a “hot quarantine fashion trend”, tie-dye is having a major moment. Gayle experiments with her own DIY creations…
Fashion has been far from my mind since lockdown kicked in.
Since the middle of March, my go-to attire has consisted largely of unflattering, baggy jogging bottoms, ancient hooded tops and manky old T-shirts. Make-up has been long forgotten, too.
Wearing such dull, boring outfits and looking worn-out and haggard doesn’t do much for your mood, or your self-esteem.
But having spent three months in the wilderness, I haven’t felt the need to make any effort whatsoever.
However, while clearing out an old cupboard and discovering a box of green fabric dye, I had a flash of inspiration.
As a teenager, I went through a phase of tie-dyeing everything I could get my hands on – T-shirts, pillowcases, trousers and even toys.
A quick Google search told me that the psychedelic print is making a major comeback and is indeed billed as a “hot quarantine fashion trend”.
All I needed was some fabric to tie-dye and, as luck would have it, I had two old white T-shirts languishing at the back of my wardrobe, just waiting to be transformed.
The advice is to use natural fibres like cotton, and while one of my T-shirts was 90% cotton and 10% viscose, the other was 70% polyester.
I reasoned that if one design went horribly wrong, the other – if successful – might save the day.
The first step was to choose a tie-dye effect. There are loads of options – you can create swirls, spirals, spots, stripes, and even a marble effect.
Following a YouTube video (there are loads), I laid one T-shirt on to the kitchen table and pinched the middle before twirling it in one direction so that the material gathered in a spiral.
Once the item was bunched up in a pseudo-sausage shape, I bound it up with rubber bands. This, I hoped, would produce a spiral.
I decided that the other T-shirt, the 70% polyester one, would take on a marble effect.
To achieve this, I roughly screwed the item into a ball and secured it with a load of bands.
In an ideal world, I would’ve had more than just one dye, perhaps a selection of pink, purple, yellow and red, and I probably wouldn’t have chosen a green one. But beggars can’t be choosers and so I had to make do with my single shade of green.
Online instructions told me to “squirt on your dye as you please”, but seeing as the dye I had was in powder form, activated with six litres of water that’s 60 degrees (that’s four litres of boiling water and two litres of cold water), I simply plonked my T-shirts into a bucket for an hour, stirring occasionally.
I could’ve left them in longer, but I was stupidly excited to see how my designs had turned out and couldn’t be bothered waiting all day.
Once the hour was up, I rinsed both items in detergent until the water was running clear.
Then it was time for the big reveal…and what a fantastic surprise I got.
The 90% cotton item had come up brilliantly, the spiralling colours more akin to blue than green, which was just fine with me.
There was even a kind of funky bull’s eye effect in the centre, which was an unexpected but welcome embellishment.
The other T-shirt was rather less of a success, the colours melting into each other – probably due to the material – but it still looked more joyful and bright than it had done in its former guise.
I hung them out to dry on the washing line… until the rain came on… and then finished them off in the tumble dryer.
Trying them on, I remembered why I’d consigned them to the clothing cemetery. One was much too tight and the other rode up at the back.
But fit aside, they were a big improvement on the dismal garb I’d been sporting of late.
Part of the fun of tie-dyeing is the fact that no two prints look entirely alike.
It’s all about trial and error and having no expectations. If you mess up, the chances are you’ll still create something pretty cool.
My tie-dyed T-shirts are colourful, happy and bright and my way of inspiring a wee bit of joy into life during these uncertain times.
I’ve yet to wear them in public but, when that day comes, I will be sure to wear them with pride.
Tie-dyeing is a cheap and easy way to get the creative juices flowing and it’s addictive; I’ve already dug out another couple of old white T-shirts ready for the tie-dye treatment.
I’m even toying with the idea of using natural dyes such as beetroot, rhubarb and turmeric, so we’ll see how that pans out.
Ultimately, tie-dyeing is the perfect opportunity to ditch fast fashion, avoid the shops, breathe new life into tired-looking tops, and create something unique.
You can pick up a box of fabric dye online for as little as £3 but it’s worth doing a wee bit of research about how best to tie-dye your garments.
Certainly, the way you tie your clothes before dying them will determine the type of design you come out with – and there are dozens of different techniques.
Some designs will require folding or shaping your piece of clothing and securing it with rubber bands, while others may require wrapping string around sections.
There are loads of YouTube videos to inspire your tie-dye journey. Happy dyeing!