In this guide, we will take a look at a case study of a tie-dyed shirt that turned out really ugly, and we will discuss some solutions for avoiding ugly tie-dyes.
Background Information on Tie Dye:
If you don’t already have a basic knowledge of how to create tie dye and you haven’t already read my earlier guides on tie dye, please take a look at at least one of my previous tie-dye guides so that you will know the basics.
Or, you could just get a good tie dye book or DVD instead.
The Ugly Tie-Dyed T-Shirt
EEEEeeeek!! That is really, truly, hideously ugly!
The Story of How This T-Shirt Came To Be So Ugly
It all started out innocently enough. I had a plain white t-shirt, and I wanted to tie dye it into something cute, unique and original. I had some vintage rusty keys, some large metal ring shapes, and some coins. I thought it would make an interesting design if I tied them into a design and then dyed it. I knew there was a good possibility that the rust would get all over the shirt when the metal got wet, and I was prepared for that. In fact I was planning on trying to make it a design element. With that in mind, I decided to try to choose colors that would coordinate well with rust- I decided on orange. I also decided to try to tie the elements as close together as possible so that the resulting tie-dyed shapes would be close together.
Here are some pics of the shirt in the beginning stages of the design.
Here are some more pictures showing the next step: I died the shirt with various different shades of orange.
And here’s how it looked on the inside:
In hindsight, I’d already made quite a few mistakes by this point. The first mistake: all those tied-up coins and keys produced ambiguous amoeba-type shapes that aren’t stylish at all. I should have planned more carefully. A little visualization goes a long way. In order to avoid a mistake like this, ask yourself before you start tying: “What is this going to look like when it is untied?”
The second mistake: using sooooo much orange. When I initially untied the t-shirt and took a look at it, my first thought was “LOOK! I JUST FOUND NEMO!” (Remember the movie “Finding Nemo “? I had just seen it right before I did this shirt…hm…maybe it inspired me subconsciously? haha.)
The third mistake: not only did I use too much orange, I also used the wrong shades of orange. The oranges that I picked are very warm, with too much red. They didn’t complement the rust at all.
At this point I remembered that I don’t even wear orange. Does anyone?
Lesson learned: choose wearable colors for your tie dyes. If you do use orange, use it in moderation. In my experience working for the textile industry, oranges and yellows are a couple of the more difficult colors to sell, because few people have the ability to look good in them. If you are one of those few, that’s fantastic! I envy you. If not, you’re not alone. Colors that are generally easier to wear are blues, pinks, purples, browns, khakis, neutrals and greens. Keep that in mind when you are designing tie-dyes.
Now, I am a professional textile designer, and in the past I have worked with many commercial dye houses. In my experience, dye houses will often overdye a fabric if they don’t hit the color they want the first time. So, I decided to overdye this t-shirt to make it not-so-miserably-orange. I thought it would benefit from a bit of green, with a stripe of red to liven things up.
Hahahahahahaha!! Boy was I wrong about that!
When one is painting and one mixes orange and green together, usually a muted sort of brown or gray will result. However, when one is tie-dyeing, one should never underestimate the vibrant power of the dyes. If brown is desired, it is often advantageous to just use a brown dye to start with…looking back, that is what I should have done. I should have overdyed this with a warm golden brown, not the green that I chose.
I also decided that it would be a good idea to overdye a stripe overtop of all the amoebas, in order to distract from the drunken-polka-dotted effect. I still think this was a reasonably good idea under the circumstances. In the end this shirt might have come out OK if only I hadn’t made such poor color choices throughout. You can see an example of a similar striped tie-dyed T-shirt that turned out much prettier if you check out this page.
So that’s the story of this butt ugly tie-dyed shirt! I hope you will learn from these mistakes and never repeat them…
Best wishes for nothing but beautiful tie dyes, always! 🙂
Posted By: Amy Solovay
This page was last updated on 5-25-2023.