No matter how you like to spend your summer, tie-dye should be a part of it. It’s a magical process that can revamp any of your ratty, old clothes into fun, new favorites — not to mention it’s incredibly nostalgic. (You're lying if you didn't own a million tie-dye camp shirts when you were a kid.) If you want to reach back to your ‘90s summer camp roots, grab one of these super affordable tie-dye kits, an old t-shirt, and get to work.
In case you forgot how the tie-dye process works, it’s very easy. First, you have to decide how you want your tie-dye pattern to look. Two classic styles are the crumple and spiral methods. To achieve the crumpled look, you just scrunch a wet shirt together until it’s in one mound. Then, use rubber bands to hold the shirt in place; the tighter you make it, the more dramatic patterns you’ll get. If you prefer the spiral method to the randomness of the crumple, you’ll need a tool to spin your fabric around. A paper towel roll or a fork works perfectly for this. All you do is place that item in the center of your laid-out fabric, and twist it until the shirt is tightly wound up. For this look, you’ll need at least three rubber bands. Dye each section between the rubber bands a different color for the brightest effect.
If you want a monochromatic style, go with the bath-dyeing method. For this look, all you need to do is fill up a bath (or bucket) with water, add however much dye you want, and dunk your tied-up item into it. If you prefer the multi-colored look, begin by wetting the fabric, tying it up, and then apply the colors directly to the cloth however you want – this method is best done outside.
Once dyed, put your item in a plastic bag and leave it overnight. Then, unwrap your creation – wearing gloves so you don’t stain your hands – and run it under cold water until the water runs clear. After, wash the item alone before you wear it the first time. But before you start the process, be sure to read your kit’s directions carefully to see if there are any specifications for your dye. With the lesson out of the way, check out some affordable tie-dye kits to get you started below.
Swirl & Style Tie Dye Studio Activity Kit ($20, Target) includes six bright colors to bring to your backyard (or roof or bathtub). It also comes with an “orb” to put your item in, so you don’t have to worry about dye going everywhere. By using Swirl & Style’s tie-dye orb, you can get the perfect swirl on anything you want.
If you and your crew are looking to tie-dye within the same color story, Tulip’s One-Step Tie-Dye Kit ($21, Michael’s) includes five colors. You can choose the Rainbow kit for the brightest colors or Mermaid for an ocean theme. There are six different kits, so you’ll be able to find the best aesthetic for you.
The classic squirt dye bottles can be messy, so if you want to avoid liquid dye dripping everywhere, Sei’s Tumble Dye Tie Dye Kit ($20, Joann Fabrics and Crafts) uses spray bottles instead. Basically, the spray bottles eliminate the excess dye that regular, squeeze bottles leak everywhere. The colors also come pre-mixed, so you don’t have to worry about making your own shades.
For the most color choices possible, Tulip One-Step, Tie-Dye Party Supplies Kit ($30, Amazon) has 18 different colors. It even has eight different tie-dye patterns you can try out. Each bottle already has the pigment inside, so you just have to add water and get started.
If you just want one color, Made Kits Indigo Dye Kit ($32, Amazon) is great for dyeing items all around your home in the timeless indigo shade. The pre-mixed vat is good for up to 15 yards of fabric and lasts for up to a month, so you can tie-dye whenever you feel like it.
To embrace tie-dye’s psychedelic past, Jacquard’s Funky Groovy Tie-Dye Kit ($12, Amazon) looks like it was taken from a ‘90s store shelf. If you want to time travel back to your childhood, this box has all the nostalgia you need.
If you want to tie-dye, can’t leave the house, and don’t want to make a mess, Tidy Dye Jewel String Kit ($10, Barnes and Noble) has the tools you need. All you have to do is wet your fabric, place it around the barrel of the Dye Station (included), and then, you wrap the dyed strings around the fabric to color your item. It won’t even stain your hands.
FAO Schwarz’s DIY Ultimate Tie Dye Kit ($20, Bealls Florida) comes with 10 bottles of dye, two sheets of iron-on glitter designs, glitter spray, a white tote bag for you to style, and more. If you want to spruce up your classic tie-dye look with some glitter, this case has the tools you need.
Before you sell tie-dye short, even your black t-shirts can get in on this. Tulip’s Reverse Tie-Dye Kit ($10, Michael’s) works on your darker-colored fabric. However, since it uses bleach, be careful to avoid touching the color changer as much as possible, so you don’t irritate your skin.
A simple tie-dyeing kit is Color Splash’s Easy Tie-Dye Kit ($25, S&S). With fuchsia, orange, yellow, lime, turquoise, and violet, this kit’s vibrant colors will give you a radical look that will make your old camp friends jealous.