Crafts don't have to be complicated. With the holiday season ahead, an easy, enjoyable craft can cover many gifting bases. What could be more fun than experimenting with a simple tie-dye?
A few do-it-yourself sources have taken tie-dye up a notch, away from the explosions of primary colors seen on camp T-shirts into a more elegant realm that's perfect for gift giving.
One such project -- tie-dying tights -- appears in "The Bust DIY Guide to Life" (STC Craft, 2011), edited by Laurie Henzel and Debbie Stoller. And the idea transcends tights. Besides making gifts, it works for "anything that you have that either you didn't like the original color or you think needs sprucing up," says Callie Watts of Bust magazine, which aims its pop-culture content at young women.
In the book, a pair of white tights is folded accordion-style from toe to top and secured with rubber bands. It's boiled in a pot of black fabric dye, such as Rit, for about 15 minutes, stirred constantly, then removed and rinsed. The bands are removed and the tights laid flat to dry. Another option adds a second color.
A DIYer can get a lot of variety out of this project without much work, says Watts. From socks to shirts, she recommends experimenting with folding or bunching the fabric before it hits the dye bath. Another option: Dip an item partially into the dye bath, allowing the color to bleed upward into the fabric.
"It'll fade dark to light," Watts says.
Any fabric that can soak up dye color will do, but Watts says knits will "come out as a blurry splotch.
A similar craft, using white scarves, appears in the October pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Inspired by "shibori," an intricate Japanese technique in which textiles are folded, twisted or bound with thread before dyeing, this craft requires little besides a plastic, shoebox-size bin and a bottle of fabric dye.
"We saw it taking off in the blog world," says Blake Ramsey, a holiday and crafts editor at Martha Stewart Living. "It's so accessible to people and with such satisfying results."
Change the simple accordion fold -- this craft's defining step -- to vary a scarf's outcome. Fold the fabric wide for large stripes or narrower for thinner stripes. Try a silk or rayon scarf, or use cotton for different dyeing effects.
"I have great respect for the people who do (shibori)," says Ramsey. "For me, honestly, I'd prefer to whip out 10 scarves and enjoy looking at the results I get, the happy accidents, and learning from my experimenting."
This is a great craft for people who don't want to spend a lot of time or money. "If you think you've messed up, it's $4 down the drain and you learn from your mistake and start over," says Ramsey. "I think that's the beauty of dyeing. You can always dye over it again."
As with the earlier craft, this one can be adapted for nearly any fabric or clothing. The magazine used inexpensive, white scarves because they're easy to fold. (Ramsey bought her samples for a few dollars apiece online at Dharma Trading Co.)
"I'd encourage people if they feel comfortable with it to try other things," Ramsey says.
Cotton gives the dye job a more graphic appearance, while silk and rayon absorb dye in a softer manner.
Incorporate a second color by allowing the fabric to dry completely between dip-dyeing. It could take several days. For a second dyeing, fold the fabric differently, such as diagonally, to further enhance the results.
Don't limit yourself to white fabric and clothing either. Ramsey says a blue chambray scarf she dyed in blue turned out beautifully.
Besides the indigo dye traditionally used in shibori, Ramsey recommends trying a burgundy or oxblood shade, which are trendy colors this fall, she says.