[the DIY Files] the tie dyed matrix t-shirt.

Like many of the 20-something American women out there, I have a disease called ‘I Can Make That’-tis. Even though my skill sets may be nowhere in the same ballpark as what’s needed to make something I can more-easily buy… I would much rather make it. It REALLY becomes a problem when I see a high-end item, or a runway trend, and the wheels begin turning in my head. That’s where The DIY Files come to the rescue.

Hot Glue crisis… AVERTED!


Tie dye may have been easy and SUPER FUN when you were in the fourth grade, but do you recall how much of a mess it would become? Dye all over your fingers, as if you’ve just returned victorious from pillaging the Smurf world; or, staining from the freshly dampened tshirt all over your neck and shoulders because you didn’t know you were supposed to wash the tshirt by itself first!

So using a loose version of the concept of shibori — manipulating dyeing patterns through folding and restricting the fabric — I’m going to attempt to create a tie-dyed version of a grid pattern. Instead of a white ‘canvas,’ I opted to use a heather grey tshirt instead; I shy away from white as is, and I think the dark, inky indigo color will look different gradating against a grey background.

collage tshirt 1

loose fit tshirt / cardboard flaps / 2 plastic bags


tshirt dye kit, or something like it

Materials and such:

  • plain cotton t-shirt
  • four cardboard box flaps
  • 2 plastic bags to wrap the dyed shirt
  • a tie dye ‘kit’ which should include plastic gloves, a packet of dye powder in a contrasting color (dark blue in this case), and a squeeze bottle to use for ‘painting’ the dye.
  • rubber bands
  • scissors

Time to hit the dye!

1. Lay out the t-shirt, making sure it’s completely flattened and without wrinkles. Any additional folds in the fabric will alter the grid pattern you’re attempting.

2. Fold the t-shirt vertically into four panels, then horizontally into four panels as well. You should have an accordion of fabric.

collage tshirt 2

folding vertically, sleeve too

collage tshirt 3

folds set number two

3. Taking one of the cardboard panels, place it on the folded shirt and measure to a size smaller than the perimeter of the shirt. You want the dye to color the visible edges, so the more fabric visible around the cardboard the more of it will be dyed.




4. Cut the other three panels to the same size.

5. Place one panel of cardboard between the larger folds of the shirt, and one on each side of the fabric stack.

collage folds

6. Holding the panels together, wrap two to three rubber bands in one direction around the stack of fabric.



7. Add additional two or three rubber bands around the stack of fabric in the perpendicular direction, so the rubber bands themselves create a grid on the cardboard.



8. Taking one of the plastic bags, lay it out on a flat surface and smooth out the plastic.

9. With the scissors, cut open the bag so you end up with a single sheet of plastic.

collage  bag


10. Following the directions for the dyeing kit and/or dye packet, mix together the color powder and water.

11. Get to painting! *Put gloves on first!* Since the bottle I used came with a pointed tip, I had better control of the dye and where it was going.

collage dying

12. Let the fabric REALLY soak up the dye! Go over the edges multiple times so the liquid is absorbed through the layers of fabric.


cover that grey

13. When you’re finished applying the dye, place the stack in the center of the plastic bag.


14. Fold over the section of plastic on the right side.


15. Fold over the section of plastic on the left side and wrap around.


16. Tape down the excess after folding around the stack of fabric.


17. Place this bulk inside the second plastic bag and knot the top after removing any excess air. This will allow the fabric to fully absorb the dye without drying out.


18. Leave wrapped overnight, or at least 8 hours of drying time.


19. The next day, rinse the excess dye out of the shirt in the bathtub or sink under hot water.

20. Making sure your washing machine is empty, run a cold cycle with the t-shirt ONLY to have any further remnants of the dye’s particles removed.

21. Allow the shirt to air dry.

22. Oh, yeah, now you can wear it!







I have an idea of styling this t-shirt for work, might as well be adventurous!

I’ve got two more colors hanging out in my DIY box… I wonder what I could dye next…



2 thoughts on “[the DIY Files] the tie dyed matrix t-shirt.

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