Sunday, April 1, 2012

DIY: Tie-dye Mickey Mouse t-shirt

For my sister's Sweet Sixteen, my husband and I decided to surprise her with a trip to Disney World, because I'm clearly the coolest big sister in the universe. I'm also a college student. That being said, I'm pretty frugal. A trip to Disney is expensive enough, but I just couldn't let go of the idea of letting her in on the surprise by giving her a Disney-themed t-shirt. It doesn't end there, of course. Because then I start thinking, if she is going to have a Disney-themed t-shirt, how cute and ridiculously cliche would it be for us all to have the same shirt? At this point I'm sold and immediately begin a pretty intense internet search for the perfect custom t-shirt vendor, because, you know, personalized t-shirts for group vacations are such a novel idea...

Okay, so I hopped on the bandwagon. What can I say? They're cute.

I spent hours talking to different companies; some too afraid to even print the word "Disney" on a shirt (which is perfectly FINE, by the way), and others who would do it, but for an outrageous price. I'm not joking when I say the most expensive website I stumbled upon quoted me $95 for ONE shirt! Uh, no thanks.

Finally, I started to see a few blogs about tie-dye "Mickey" head shirts and became pretty intrigued. One particular blog I noticed actually sent me to an Etsy shop where someone sells them for about $20 each. Not unreasonable at all, and honestly, it looks like she does a beautiful job. (Here's the link if you don't like to get your hands dirty: Pixiecrafts).

But I'm a creative gal, at least I used to be, and I really had to give this tie-dye thing a shot. So like the good college student I am, I pushed aside my heap of textbooks and firmly decided that this was my newest priority. Keep in mind, this is the first creative task I have taken on in about 5 years, so bear with me.

These are the materials I used and the exact steps I took. There are several other colors, materials, and methods that will allow you to achieve different results. Have fun with it!

1 Tulip One-Step Tie Dye Kit - Moody Blues
2 Adult Medium 50/50 cotton polyester blend WHITE t-shirts
1 Adult Large 50/50 cotton polyester blend WHITE t-shirt
Mickey head template
Clorox bleach pen
Plastic wrap
Plain wax dental floss
Sewing needle

Step 1:

Print and cut out a Mickey head silhouette. Make sure the size is how you'd like it to be on your t-shirt.

Lay your shirt down on a flat surface and choose a spot for your Mickey head.

Outline the head with a pencil. (Don't worry. The lead will wash off later).

Tip: It's much easier to trace when using a sturdy template. Try printing the Mickey head onto card stock or cutting the template out of a piece of cardboard before tracing.

Step 2:

Hand stitch the plain wax floss around the Mickey head, leaving a few inches in excess of starting and finishing "thread".

For those of you who have never sewn in their life (like me), start from the base of the Mickey head and stitch in an up-down-up-down pattern until you reach the base of the head again.

*Here's the stitching up close. I wouldn't make the stitches much further apart than this.

Step 3:

This is what it should look like once you're done stitching.

Pull on both ends of the floss so that the Mickey head pops up. Make sure his ears are popped out as well!

Make sure to tie a tight knot.

Careful with this part. I accidentally snapped the floss on my first try and had to start over.

Step 4:

Using 2-3 of the rubber bands that came with the Tulip Tie Dye Kit, tightly secure the bands just after the floss knot. When you do this, only tie the front of the shirt or you'll have a giant blob on the back when you're done.

Do not cover the floss with the rubber band. I made the mistake of doing this and it resulted in the border around the Mickey head being poorly defined.

Another thing worth mentioning is to make sure the rubber bands fill about an inch of the shirt. Don't leave a space between bands like I did! Again, this contributed to poorly defined borders.

Step 5:

Drench the shirts in cold water. It makes the shirts easier to handle. Wring out the water and lay the shirt on a flat surface.

(I did this on my kitchen countertop.)

Tightly twirl each shirt until your t-shirt looks like a danish.


Step 6:

Wrap 3-4 rubber bands around the "danish" to create wedges.

Make sure they are even on top and bottom and that no rubber bands are hidden underneath any folds.

If there are loose pieces of the shirt hanging out, tuck them under the rubber bands.

Step 7:

Now comes the fun stuff.

Get all the contents of your kit and set them on the counter. Knowing exactly what you're going to be doing before you do it will help make this messy project virtually mess-less.

Don your gloves now. If you don't, your transformation into Violet Beauregarde will come swift and certain.

Count the wedges in your shirt and decide which colors you want to use for each wedge. If you decide you want to just dye your shirt in thirds, rather than dye each individual wedge, choose the order of colors you want to use.

Most importantly, choose the color for your Mickey head.

Step 8:

Obviously things get a little messy here and I couldn't take pictures, but here's the break down:

Pre-cut plastic wrap so that once your shirts are dyed, you can wrap them up tightly. You'll need a large piece for each shirt and a small piece for the Mickey head. I used 2 large pieces per shirt, plus 1 small piece per shirt.

Fill the bottles up to the marked line with water. Replace the cap and shake until the pre-measured dye is completely dissolved. 

*You'll want to work carefully, but quickly. The dye begins to lose its potency after about 45 minutes.

The Mickey head gets dyed first. Holding the shirt over the sink, carefully saturate the Mickey head without letting dye get
onto any other part of the shirt.

Quickly wrap the Mickey head with the small piece of plastic wrap and tightly secure it with a rubber band.

Dye the rest of your shirt as you wish. (Don't forget the bottom of the shirt!) And don't be shy. Soak that baby. Just make sure there's enough dye for all the other babies too.

*I found that this kit had the perfect amount of dye for the 3 Adult Unisex shirts I used. One large, two medium. The kit says it can dye up to 8 shirts, and you could. If you were tie dying onesies.

Let the shirts sit for at least 8 hours. I let mine sit for 14 hours. The longer they sit, the better the dye sticks. No poem intended.

Step 9:

Don another pair of gloves. Breathe.

Unwrap the shirts and let them sit in the sink with water running down them. Cut off the rubber bands and unveil your masterpiece.

Let the water run down the shirt until all of the dye is out. This is a lengthy process, but you don't care. You just made an awesome shirt.

*Don't wring out the shirt before the dye is out or your white spots will become blue spots.

Toss the shirts in the washer machine by themselves and wash in cold water. Do not use anything. No detergent, fabric softener, nothing. Hang dry or dry on low, skip the dryer sheet.

*Run the washer machine by itself afterward to make sure all the dye is out.

Remember when I said not to make a space between the rubber bands when tying the Mickey head? This is reason 1. Reasons 2 and 3 are the other shirts I made, which came out worse than this.

Don't worry. It's fixable.

Step 10:

*Flatten a trash bag and place it inside the shirt to protect the bleach from seeping through the other side.

Grab your handy dandy Clorox bleach pen. This thing is a miracle worker.

Use the fat tip to draw around your Mickey head. If it's so bad that you can't even make out where the Mickey head was in the first place, just trace it over again with the template.

I have never used a bleach pen before. Note how the bleach is beginning to spread like the plague.

Yeah. Nearly gave me a heart attack.

It looks really great once it's done- thank God. Let the bleach sit for 15-20 minutes.

Rinse the bleach off with cold water and run through the wash again.

*It's good to run the shirts through the wash a second time whether or not you decide to use a bleach pen. There will still be dye left in the shirt. Oh and use gloves for this. My hands still hate me for it.

Voilà! The finished product. Not too shabby, eh? I think I'll make a few more.

Step 11: (Optional)

Eat an actual danish.

A few things to note before you set off on your tie-dying journey.

I used t-shirts that were 50% cotton, 50% polyester. This is typically a no-no. Polyester, which is essentially plastic, won't absorb the dye. If you look closely, you can see small white dots in the shirt. That's the polyester.

This leaves you with a faded look instead of the vibrant look you might be going for. If you like the faded look, then you won't be disappointed.

The reason I ended up with the cotton/poly blend shirts is because the craft store I went to didn't have my husband's size in 100% cotton. For vibrant colors, 100% cotton is the way to go.


  1. WOW! Amazing trick... It can be possible with the help of plastic dyes.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You soooooo are a nursing said DON GLOVES

    1. Hehe. Just a huge Grey's Anatomy fan ;). So sorry for the horribly late response... "Late" being the understatement of the year. Just seeing this!

  4. Thank you for the bleach pen tip! It definitely saved my Mickey heads that looked like hearts!

  5. Isn't that thing a lifesaver? Glad it helped!

  6. Very good tips on what/what not to do!

  7. Just tried to make one yesterday. Got a bleach pen today. Not myb first time with tie dye but first time doing a Mickey one. Ended up with a lot of white around the front of shirt. Hoping after the second wash that a Mickey head will look much better thanks to bleach pen. If it all works out I have to do 2 more kids and 5 adults 😲.