Sharpie Tie-Dye

This week our library hosted Sharpie Tie Dye, a craft program for 3rd-5th graders. It was a huge hit! The appeal of the craft would also would for younger or older kids, providing a parent stay to assist the younger children.

For this craft, you will need the following:

  • Sharpies (as many colors as possible)
  • Rubbing alcohol (buy more than you think is necessary; kids use a lot! We probably could have used 1 16-oz bottle for every three kids.
  • Plastic cups
  • Eye droppers & spray bottles
  • Rubber bands
  • White t-shirts, bandanas, or other type of fabric

Place several sheets of newspaper on each table to protect the table from the marker colors as the rubbing alcohol may run off the fabric before it dries. The first step is to have kids color and design their piece of cloth with the Sharpie markers. They should completely finish this step before moving on to the rubbing alcohol, because you can’t re-use the markers on the cloth once it’s even mildly wet.

Once the shirts/cloth have been colored and designed, have the kids put the designed part of the shirt on top of the cup, with a rubber band holding the shirt in place. Depending on the size of their design, they may have to do this more than once.

After the shirt/cloth has been rubber banded onto the cup, they can begin to put a few drops of rubbing alcohol onto the design. We provided spray bottles and eye droppers for this. Eye droppers will allow for a more precise application, and spray bottles can be effective for larger designs. Our group was split down the middle on which one they preferred to use. Encourage the kids to use a little bit of rubbing alcohol at a time, so that they can see the design change over time. The more rubbing alcohol that is used, the more distorted the design becomes.

Once the rubbing alcohol has been used and the child is finished, remove the tshirt/cloth from the cup and allow it to dry. We didn’t have the time or space to allow the kids cloth/t-shirt to dry at the library, so we wrapped the damp cloth/shirt in newspaper and put it inside a plastic trash bag.

The kids were advised to allow the cloth/shirt to dry completely, and then to either use an iron (with parent’s help) or the hottest setting on their clothes dryer at home. This will set the design and limit the amount of bleeding that will happen. We did tell the parents to wash it separately the first few times so that it wouldn’t bleed onto other clothes.

And there you have it! This was one of the few crafts that I’ve done where the boys enjoyed it just as much as the girls. It could also be a perfect Fourth of July program if you use just red and blue Sharpies.