Level of difficulty: A bit involved but totally worth it
Age range: 5+
Safety first: Wear a safety mask and gloves when dealing with dye products. Even if labelled non-toxic, they can still be caustic and will definitely stain.
The takeaway: This is a great weekend project that comes with a side lesson of colour theory. Plus, you get a really cool shirt after and it’s a great way to give a second life to dingy old T-shirts.
gloves, smock and mask
red and green dye, mixed according to package instructions
four buckets: One large and three small, as shown above
a white T-shirt (old or new)
black fabric marker
Step 1: Prep
1. Wash your T-shirt, but don’t dry it. Next, soak it in a dye fixative, which will keep the dye from fading in the washing machine. (You can skip this step if your dye doesn’t specify it in the instructions.)
2. Put on a smock and gloves, and tie back your hair. If you’re mixing powdered dyes, wear a face mask (even if the dye is non-toxic).
3. Set up your buckets as shown above. Pour the green dye into one small container and the red dye into the other. Place the third small container upside down; you’ll be resting your wet T-shirt on it later.
Apply tape to the wet T-shirt where you want separation between the two colours. Use an elastic band to secure the tape. The dye will still bleed through, but the space will be protected from obvious splashes or messy fingers.
Dip each end of the shirt in one small bucket. Kids will love watching the colour slowly climb up the fabric. Tip: Wearing two differently coloured gloves reminds you not to move your hands between colours, which will muddy the dyes.
Carefully remove each end, squeezing out the excess dye. Place the taped section on the overturned container. Put a lid on the bucket if you have one, or loosely cover the shirt in plastic to keep it moist. Leave it to dry for 24 hours.
Rinse the T-shirt under the tap until the water runs clear, then machine wash and dry. Add watermelon seeds with a black fabric marker. The shirt is now ready to wear—but don’t launder it again for another 24 hours to allow the marker to set.
The only thing cuter than a watermelon t-shirt might be a watermelon onesie! You’ll have dye leftover, so go ahead and dye those grungy old dish towels or stained baby clothes. If you had fun with this project, you can start experimenting with other tie-dye techniques. Groovy!