Tie-Dye DIY: Ideas for costumes and props

The Bradford University Society of Operettas and Musicals (affectionately known as BUSOM) is currently in the process of rehearsals for our main 2016 production, Back to the 80s, which will be in the Studio@ space at the Bradford Playhouse in Little Germany from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th March 2016.

As the producer for the show, I’ve been trying in the past few weeks to organise costumes and props.

Bright colours are the order of the day, so I thought tie-dye patterned T-shirts could be good for some characters (especially the misfits).

In July 2015, I went to Disney World, Florida for 12 days, and our hotel – Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa – had tie-dyeing as an activity available for visitors.  My top two television and film experiences of tie-dyeing are Tie-Dye Girl/Nicole from The Parent Trap (my favourite film) and when Lizzie and Gordo tie-dyed the sheets in the Lizzie McGuire episode Pool Party, so I was definitely going to try to tie-dye a T-shirt.

tie-dye-shirtI ended up with a rainbow-coloured T-shirt, a pink and white one, a turquoise and yellow one, and a turquoise and white one (My mum made the latter two).  As a result, I suggested tie-dyeing as a way to both raise money for the show and to make costumes, so in the next few weeks, BUSOM will be holding a fundraiser in Student Central where we will be tie-dyeing T-shirts, and this will be an event open to everyone!  This is the DIY on how to tie-dye a T-shirt that I wrote for my blog, Rainbow Sunshine Blogs, for a series on my time in the USA last year!


    • Put on some rubber or plastic gloves and prepare the tie-dye solutions according to manufacturer’s instructions, and a pot of water mixed with a cup of table salt (this can be used instead of soda ash as a solution to make the dyes “stick” to the fabric being tie-dyed).
    • From the middle of the shirt (make sure it is plain and white), make the T-shirt into a sausage-like shape using elastic to separate the shirt into about 10 different sections (depending on the size of the shirt).
    • Soak the shirt in the salt-water solution before starting to tie-dye.
    • Squirt the dye onto each section of the shirt.  For this shirt, I made each section a different colour and put the colours in rainbow order, starting with purple in the middle.  I then had a few sections left at the end which I dyed pink, purple and light blue.  However, you can also use just one colour and alternate between that colour and just leaving a section white.

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  • Make sure that the dye reaches as much of the material in that section as possible.  You’ll have to separate the folds a little bit to reach some areas.  This will avoid an excess of white space on the finished shirt.
  • Roll the shirt in clingfilm and wrap tightly.  Let it set for at least 24 hours, longer for more intense colours (we left it for nearly 72 hours).
  • Once the appropriate time as elapsed, remove your shirt from the clingfilm, remove the elastic bands, and place it in the sink.  Run water over it to remove the excess dye until the water runs clear (or almost clear).
  • Wash your shirt in the washing machine.  Make sure to wash it ALONE (or with similarly coloured tie-dyed items).  Place a small amount of laundry detergent into the washing machine and set it to the hottest water setting possible (this seems awful for the environment though).
  • It is also a good idea to run and empty load or something non-critical (such as a load of old rags) after you have washed your tie-dyed shirt.
  • After the shirts have been washed, they can be put out to dry (washing line or dryer).
  • Once shirts (or other tie-dyed items have been washed and dried once, they can be washed with any article of clothing and the dye will not come out.
My finished Mickey Mouse tie-dye T-shirt.

My finished Mickey Mouse tie-dye T-shirt.

For updates on BUSOM’s production of Back to the 80s, visit our event page, and also follow us on social media at www.facebook.com/BUSOMdrama on Facebook or @BUSOMdrama on Instagram and Twitter.

Katie Beadle is a 3rd year Web Design and Technology student.  In her spare time, she is a member of BUSOM (Bradford University Society of Operettas and Musicals), a presenter and studio manager at RamAir, goes to UBU Archery, and writes her own blog.

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