Tie-dye instructions often focus on the body of the T-shirt--a spiral or bull's-eye design in the center of the chest, for example. On short-sleeved T-shirts, the sleeves easily can be ignored. But long sleeves give you a whole new area to work on. Instead of treating long-sleeved shirts just like short-sleeved shirts and leaving the sleeves as an afterthought, you can give them special attention and create intricate patterns on the long sleeves.
There are two main methods for making tie-dye: first, by tying the items up and then applying dye with squirt bottles, and second, by tying them up and dunking them into a vat of dye. You can experiment with alternate methods, like putting a tied item into a plastic bag, squirting several colors into the bag and then mashing it up with your hands, so the colors blend partially (but not all the way). The key elements are using fiber-reactive (Procion) dyes with soda ash to set them, saturating the cloth fully with dye and allowing it to sit in a warm place for at least two hours, but 24 is ideal.
To create clear designs on your long-sleeved tie-dye shirt, draw outlines of the desired patterns on the sleeves with a disappearing marker or chalk, then sew the design loosely and pull the thread tight. Fasten a rubber band around the threaded area to make the edges of the design sharper. Simple designs work best--complicated lines will often be blurred in dyeing. Circles, diamonds, hearts and crosses are all good choices. Make small designs on the sleeves that duplicate a larger design on the body of the shirt. For dip-dyeing, make sure the thread is pulled tight and a rubber band is tightly fastened around it. This will result in a white pattern in the shape of the design. For squirt-dyeing, fasten more loosely and apply a different color on each side of the band.
Another option for long sleeves is to use a standard design for the body of a shirt--like a spiral--but instead of including the sleeves in the main design, do a miniature version of the main design on each sleeve. You can tie each sleeve into its own spiral, for example.
Hold the shirt up by the shoulders, then grab hold of the sleeves and the body of the shirt, all together, about 3 inches from the ends of the sleeves. Tie rubber bands tightly around the section you have grabbed, then apply a different color to each side.
Hold the shirt up by the ends of each sleeve, like a cross. Twist each end in a different direction, until the entire shirt is tightly twisted. Slowly bring your hands together, so the shirt twists in on itself and forms a tight bundle. Place one or two rubber bands around the ends to hold it together.
Alternately, you can hold the shirt up by the sleeves in the same way, but instead of twisting, use the sleeves to tie a series of knots, starting at the middle of the shirt and working your way to the ends of the sleeves, until the entire shirt is knotted.
These last two ties work best using a dye method that involves different colors; if you dunk them in a solid-color vat, you may end up with a solid color shirt unless they are twisted and knotted very tightly.
After applying dye and letting it set, rinse tie-dyed items in cold water until the water runs nearly clear before untying them. Rinse again, then wash in a cold load with Synthrapol or other textile detergent. Regular dish detergent may be substituted. Wash again in a hot load, again using detergent, and run an extra rinse cycle. Your shirt will be colorfast once all the excess dye has been washed out, but it's best to wash it in a dark load the first few times to be sure all the dye is gone.
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