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Friday, August 14, 2009

Black Tie or Purple Dye? (Aug. 14, 2009)

Today I had a Tie-Dye Extravaganza!

I dyed seven pieces of clothing (three for me and four for my daughter) and some ankle socks. All purple. Some people aren’t attracted to purple and would never want so many reminders of Barney the Dinosaur in their closet. But I’m not those people! Tie-dye, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. You’re colorful!
2. You’re expressive!
3. You’re fun and cheerful!
4. You’re vibrant!
5. You’re not too serious-looking.

Tie-dying personalizes your clothes, making them wearable art. One of the best parts about tie-dye is the randomness of the effect. There’s only so much control you have over the outcome and for me, this is half the magic. If you want lines, you’ll need to tie string or rubber bands around your garment to block the dye from covering these areas. You choose the direction of your lines but you can’t completely control the way the fabric bunches as you roll it. The amount of dye that reaches the innermost roll of fabric is left somewhat to chance, so there is an element of surprise when you finally untie your dyed fabric.

The first time I tie-dyed was after eighth grade graduation. Since I was starting a new school a few months later, I decided to dye the white shirt that had been my PE uniform. The effect wasn’t as dramatic as I get now, because back then we didn’t know to use hot water with the dye. The hot water seems to activate the colors better. But still, it was fun and I had my first one-of-a-kind tie-dyed creation.

These days, I still dye things I no longer plan to wear in their original incarnation. Since most of my clothes are colorful and I can’t bleach out the inevitable stains, I sometimes dye my clothes other colors. About once a year I collect the clothes that are too stained to wear, and I either fling fabric paint at them or dye them. Since dye is only a few dollars per color, this is not only an imaginative way to personalize your look, it’s actually a very economical way to bring new life to your wardrobe. If someone gives you something as a gift but it’s not your color, consider dying it to make it more YOU. But not everyone wants a wardrobe of fluorescent spiral patterns. If the white lines that tie-dying produce are too much for you, how about dip-dying? It produces a much more subtle gradation of color.

A few years ago I took to the internet to research how to make clothing keep its brilliant dyed colors. There is evidence of societies using dye in prehistoric times, and across various continents. So it’s nothing new, although many associate tie-dye with 1960s America, when the technique became popular as an anti-establishment movement. Since it is impossible to tie-dye two pieces exactly the same, this technique expressed individualism. It was the embodiment of the growing movement toward freedom in all forms and a response to the conformity of the 1950s. For me, tie-dye is not about being anti-establishment. I am an artist and am attracted to color, pattern and creativity with clothes. So I say: live long, tie-dye!

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