Last weekend, I went to Los Angeles for Worldfest: LA’s Green, Compassionate Living, Music Festival. My reuse apparel brand, STAY VOCAL, had a booth at the event, but as I have done in years past, I also made ReUse T-Shirts for the volunteers. This year, though, I took them up a notch. I made Tie Dye ReUse T-Shirts, using eco friendly dyes like beets, grape juice, and my personal favorite, coffee.
For a long time, I’ve been wanting to dye shirts with coffee, as I drink A LOT of it and having so many accidentally coffee stained shirts, I figured I could stain them on purpose too. So, the first thing I did was look up some methods for eco friendly tie dying. And since its been about 20 years since the last time I tie dyed a shirt, I took a refresher course on making the designs by watching a lot of this guy’s videos.
Knowing what I needed to do and have, I went out a bought a bunch of grape juice and beets and collected brewed grinds from various local coffee shops. I also needed some squirt bottles for the various colors. Fortunately, I happened to have a bottle of Ecover dish soap, which is already eco-friendly, as it’s a plant based bottle. I simply poured the dish soap into a glass bottle and used the squirt bottle for the grape juice and beet juice. For the coffee, I found another plastic bottle and used a nail to put a small hole in the cap. Squirt bottle made easy.
The grape juice was the easiest color to deal with, as I didn’t have to do anything. As for the coffee, I simply rebrewed the grinds. The more grinds with the water, the darker the color. For the beets, I cut them up into small pieces and pureed them in a blender with some water. To get the desired consistency, I just added more and more water. When the beets were blended enough, I poured the juice into a strainer to filter any bits out.
I have to say, one of the best parts about tie dying with natural dyes like these is that I could do it right in the kitchen AND drink the dye. Yep! I totally was squirting grape juice in my mouth as I was working. HA! Oh, another bonus? If you’ve ever wanted your house to smell like a cross between Starbucks and Jamba Juice, this is how you do it.
Now for the shirts that I used. Almost any tie dying instructions I’ve seen recommend using plain white T-Shirts for tie dying, but I figured if the shirt is already another color, that just adds one more color to the design, right? Well, sort of. Lesson learned: white IS definitely the best option, but, colors like light blue, tan, and yellow work really well too. Heather Grey, on the other hand, does NOT work at all.
As far as the actual dying of the shirts goes, that’s a bit different than the normal tie dying technique. Since the natural dyes are not as chemically strong as typical ones, the shirts need to soak a lot longer. So, I laid out my really ugly pumpkin painting mat and let the various sopping wet tied shirts soak for around six hours. After that, I gave them a quick rinse in the sink, untied them, smiled or frowned, hung them to dry, and finally gave them a gentle touch up in the dryer. Next step: bring them to WorldFest.
Since this was my first time making tie dye shirts, I was a bit nervous at how WorldFest organizers and volunteers would react. But I was more than pleasantly surprised, as everyone I talked to who was wearing one at the event, loved them. Worldfest team member, Arlene Kole, even admitted sneaking a second one because she liked them so much. Rad! Fortunately, there were extras, so that was OK. But yeah, when all was said and done, mission accomplished! And don’t be surprised if there’s a STAY VOCAL tie dye shirt in the near future.