How can I get or make a tie-dyed graduation gown?
Message: Hello, my name is Nate and I am a high school senior. I am hoping to find a tie dye graduation gown to spark some attention. I would be willing to tie dye it myself, but all the gowns I can find are made from polyester which I hear is quite difficult to dye. My question is if you know of anyone with pre-made tie dye gowns or any who make them in cotton? Any help you could give would be very appreciated. Thank you.
You're quite right that polyester is difficult to dye. I can't recommend it, except for iron-ons, which you can make yourself using disperse dye crayons or paints. I don't know of a source for dyeable gowns or gowns that are already tie-dyed, but don't lose hope....
An alternative that would probably be just right for you is *pigment* tie-dyeing. Pigment "dye" is actually a fabric paint, not a dye at all. (See "Fabric Paints: a different way to color fibers".) There are several different brands of high quality fabric paints that you can consider. Dilute the paints, tie your gown just as for tie-dyeing, and pour on the diluted paints. Untie and allow to dry thoroughly, heat setting if the manufacturer recommends doing so, before washing. Allowing extra time before the first washing is probably wise. Start with a white gown, and prewash it thoroughly before you begin.
It is fairly likely that you will be unable to find the fabric paints you want at your local crafts store. If you cannot find one of the brands listed below, you should order by mail. Try the companies listed on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies page, or a general art supply company such as Dick Blick online. The type of fabric paints you use may be called airbrush ink, textile paints, or screenprinting ink. One good brand is Setacolor; dilute the paint with four times as much water as you have paint. Dye-Na-Flow is another very good fabric paint to use for this purpose. Versatex Air Brush Ink is sometimes used for pigment tie-dyeing. Liquitex Soft Body acrylic paint can be used; dilute it with an equal quantity of water or up to eight times as much water, depending on what turns out to be necessary to get the paint to penetrate the fabric. Liquitex may produce a harsher feel on the fabric than the more expensive Setacolor and Dye-na-flow, but it does not require heat setting. Avoid the Golden brand of acrylic paints, as it does not work well when diluted. Another brand of fabric paints that is recommended for use in tie-dyeing is Dharma Trading Company's Dharma Pigment "Dye" System.
Renowned tie-dye artist Michael Fowler likes to use Liquitex Soft Body acrylic paints (formerly known as Liquitex Medium Viscosity acrylic paints) for his tie-dye tapestries, diluting with eight times as much water. He demonstrates his techniques very clearly in an excellent DVD called "The Art of Tie Dye". (Here's a link to buy this DVD at Amazon.) He says that the colors he likes to work with are: Naphthol Crimson, Brilliant Orange (Cadmium Orange Hue), Yellow Medium Azo, Phthalocyanine Green, Phthalocyanine Blue, Dioxazine Purple, and Mars Black. (He prefers to use Procion MX dye for tie-dyeing cotton clothing.)
In some cases you can get away without heat-setting if you do not wash the garment for at least one full month before washing it, even if the fabric paint's manufacturer recommends heat-setting. The curing takes longer at room temperature, but occurs anyway. Setacolor is the brand I have heard this about. You *should* go ahead and heat set, though, after the garment is thoroughly dry, by ironing on hot or in a very hot dryer unless this is likely to harm the fabric. If the fabric care label says "use cool iron only", heat setting could damage it and should be avoided.
When you next have a dye project that involves cotton, I strongly recommend that you avoid fabric paints, and instead acquire some Procion MX dye, which gives the very best results for tie-dye, but for tie-dyeing polyester, I recommend pigment dyeing with fabric paints instead.
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Posted: Tuesday - January 24, 2006 at 11:53 AM