Graphic courtesy of Dharma Trading Co.
Lesson Plan written by:
Dave Crowther & Lou Loftin

Objective: By the end of this lesson students will know the process of tie dying shirts and understand the covalent bonding that takes place in the permanent coloring of cotton with Procion dyes.

1. Have a general understanding of the 3 major steps of tie dying by going through the process.
2. Demonstrate that different folding patterns produce different dye patterns.
3. Discuss and communicate the basic chemical process of covalent bonding.

Note: 100% cotton clothing works best with this particular dye - there are different dyes for different fabrics.

Safety: Long rubber / latex gloves for hand protection, filter mask for mixing dyes and soda ash, safety glasses for lab.  Although dye is non toxic, it is always good to caution against consumption of liquids and powders and wearing eye protection at all times.

 6 gallon (24 liter) bucket
 long latex gloves
 1 cup (200 ml) measuring device
 1 gallon (4 liters) measuring device
 small funnel
 cold water
 Procion MX Reactive Dyes on Cotton (Variety of Colors)
  (Preferably Dharma Trading Co. 1-800-542-5227)
 Urea (organic nitrogen) - 1/4 cup per quart of dye solution
 Soda Ash (Washing soda = sodium carbonate) mix to a 10.5 pH solution
  (about 200 ml soda ash to 4 liter hot water)
 Synthapol Soap (from Dharma Trading Co.) 10 ml to add to soak basin
 1 teaspoon (5ml) measuring device
 Flat stir rod (plastic knife works well)
 2 liter bottles (1 per color to dye) for mixing and storage
 Assorted squirt lid bottles (1/2 liter bottle) for application of the dye
 Many paper towels
 Plastic table and floor covering.

To Mix the Dye:
(For a 2 liter bottle of dye - enough of 1 color for a class of 50-70 depending on size of clothing that is being dyed)

1. 1/3 cup of powdered dye (when using a regular strength dye - no *).
  Note:  Dyes with one * require double the amount of powdered dye.
   Dyes with two ** require four times the amount of powdered dye.

  2.  Pour a small amount of cold water into a 500 ml container with the powdered dye - mix thoroughly to a thick paste slowly adding cold water to make a syrup consistancy. Note: Cold water must be used in order to maintain color integrity.

 3. Pour syrup mixture into a 2 liter bottle using funnel.

  4. Add 250 ml warm water to ½ cup (120 ml)  of urea pellets in a container - mix thoroughly.  This will not completely dissolve the urea.  Add solution to 2 liter bottle of syrup solution.  Shake well.

 5. Top off  2 liter urea/syrup dye solution using cold water.

To prepare the clothing for dying:
Note: Pre wash cotton clothing to eliminate shrinking later. Buy larger sizes than you normally wear.

  1. Pour 1000 ml soda ash (4 cups)  into 6 gallon bucket.  Add 20 liters (5 gallons) of hot water - stir well.  Water temp initially for the mixing of soda ash - the temp thereafter does not matter.
  2. Put clothing to be dyed into soda ash solution until completely saturated.  Wring out clothing until no more liquid can be extracted.  Clothing is now ready to tie for dying.
  3. For actual tying methods and different designs consult Tie Dye, Back by popular Demand, 1995 by Virginia Gleser.  Harmony Enterprises, Modesto CA. (209) 571-2767. (See attached)

Dying the clothing:
(After selecting tying method)
Note: It is best to cover tables (and floor) with a disposable plastic covering.  Also note that an extreme overabundance of paper towels is needed for this activity.

  1. It is important to know that you need to stick the "yorker" spout (long and pointy) deep into the clothing folds to eliminate excessive white undyed areas.

  2. When dying there should be no white areas showing on any of the material unless so desired.

  3. Start with lighter colors first (then go easier on the darker colors thereafter).  This method eliminates the overabundance and migration of dark colors onto the lighter colors and avoids the "brown" mass look.

  4. After dying place clothing in a large plastic bag with paper towels on both sides of the clothing. Store bag in room temperature for 24 hours before continuing to rinse stage.

Rinsing the Clothing:
Note: Dye must set for 24 hours before doing this stage - see # 4 above.

  1. Place clothing in a large sink under running cool water.  While rinsing remove rubber bands (and or ties) and rinse until no more dye runs from material.

 2. Continue rinsing using hot water until water runs clear from the fabric.

  3. Fill sink (or 6 gallon bucket) with ½ full with hot water and add 10 ml of Synthrapol soap and mix well.  Add clothing and let soak for 30-45 minutes.  You may do more than 1 article of clothing per synthrapol bath up to as many that will fit in your sink or bucket that can stay submersed.  Every 15 minutes agitate the soak making sure that all material gets soaked.

  4. Drain sink or bucket.  Rinse under cold running water until water runs clear.  Ring out.  Then put clothing into washing machine using a laundry detergent unsing a medium (warm) cycle.  Dry - Note that 100% cotton will shrink under hot temperatures.

Wear and show off your science project as often as possible.

Links to some very infomrational Pages:

Paula Burch has done exceptional research on both techniques and the science of Tie Dyeing - visit her home page and also explore her Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) link.:   http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

Dharma Trading Company - A great place to get your dye and materials from: