Dye Hard: Beet and Turmeric Tie Dye at Home

Get in on the tie dye trend while you're at home. Manager of Seasonal and Festival Programs, Erin Kilhefner, shares her tie dye recipe and pro tips. Please note, we used beet and tumeric because they stain. Be careful of dyeing your clothes in a bathtub or easily stained surface as they will take on the color of dye. We recommend dyeing, rinsing, and drying your items outside, in the grass on a sunny day!

Materials 

  • 1 lb beets - I used three large beets
  • Turmeric
  • Water
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife 
  • Tablespoon 
  • 2 medium pots
  • Tongs
  • Blender
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Paper Towels 
  • 2 large bowls
  • Gloves
  • Cotton t-shirts and socks
  • Rubber bands
  • Gallon sized zip lock bags
  • Squeeze bottles OR a soup ladle

Instructions

For the Beet Dye 

Chop the beets into 1 inch pieces (no need to peel unless they are extremely dirty). Place the beets in a pot and cover with enough water to cover the beets by two inches. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, simmer 'til the beets have turned a lighter shade of red and are easily pierced with a fork. Let cool to room temperature and place the liquid and beets into a blender. Blend on high until the beets are fully processed. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the beet slurry into the strainer. Press down on the beets to extract as much liquid as possible. You can discard the beets or save them for another purpose—we made a spicy beet & yogurt dip with pita and it was delicious. Pour the dye into squeeze bottles if you have them or just set the bowl to the side.

For the Turmeric Dye

Bring four cups of water to a boil and add four tablespoons of turmeric. Simmer for five minutes and then let cool until it is room temperature. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with a paper towel. Pour the turmeric mixture into the strainer, allowing the paper towel to catch the powder that has not dissolved. This is not an exact process—your dye should still look a little cloudy and that is totally okay! Pour the dye into squeeze bottles if you have them or just set the bowl to the side.

Instructions

  1. The night before fully wash and dry all clothes that you intend to dye the next day—this will rid them of any impurities or fabric enhancers and allow the cotton to absorb more dye.
  2. Fold your t-shirts and socks depending on the design you want to achieve—there are some very cool templates online to help guide you with this. Secure your folds with rubber bands placed at five inch intervals or however many layers of color you would like to apply.
  3. Put on protective gloves unless you want your hands to stain! In a location that is safe to dye in apply the dye either with the squeeze bottles or using a soup ladle to fully saturate the fabric on one side. Flip the shirts and socks over and then apply the same color to the same section on the other side.
  4. Place each individual shirt and pair of socks into a gallon size zip bag and let sit at room temperature overnight and up to 24 hours.
  5. After your 24 hours is up cut the rubber bands from your garment taking care to not cut through the fabric and unroll to see your design!
  6. Rinse your shirt out until the water comes clear, we used a garden hose in the grass for this. Hang you garments to fully air dry in a safe location. After they are dry place them in the dryer on high heat for a full cycle to set the dye.

Pro Tips 

  • Remember with tie dye—LESS IS ALWAYS MORE. The more dye you add the more it will bleed overnight and turn into one color as opposed to two separate colors. Your garment will pop much more if you deliberately leave sections of cloth undyed.
  • Your dye will fade when you rinse it out and that is okay! Because your dye doesn’t include any synthetic setting agents it won’t be as bold as commercially prepared dye.
  • After the first test round we would suggest using one color on one garment—it ensures that you have less bleed in the fabric between the two colors during the resting and rinsing process.
  • After drying your garments in the dryer we strongly recommend running a damp towel that can get stained through the dryer. Your next load of laundry will thank you!
  • Use 100% cotton garments as they absorb dye the best.
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