From Plants to Tie-Dye

Earlier this month, I (Martha) collaborated with both Wisconsin Hoofers and the Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee to host a natural plant-based tie-dye event open to all UW-Madison students. ACG was excited to take part in this collaboration and hoped to give students the opportunity to make wearable art in a fun, creative, and sustainable way.

There were several steps that we followed in preparing for and executing the tie-dye event.

First, we gathered the vegetables and spices that we needed (most of which can be found in a home vegetable garden). We made pink dye from beets, yellow dye from turmeric, green dye from spinach, and surprisingly, blue dye from red cabbage! To make the dyes, we simply blended the vegetables and spices with boiling water and strained the mixtures to isolate the liquid dyes.

Because the dyes we prepared lacked the chemicals that help keep traditional dyes vibrant over time, we had to do some pre-event preparation with the shirts. To do this, we boiled the shirts in saltwater for about an hour to help the plant-based dye adhere to the shirts and create a long-lasting color.

After the shirts were dry, we tied them up with rubber bands and applied the dye using squeeze bottles. Finally, we microwaved the shirts before washing them to help the dye fully set.

The resulting t-shirts were vibrantly tie-dyed and uniquely colored. This event was a hit! It was fun for both us and the students involved, and it was a great break from the stress of the semester. The tie-dying process allowed us to spend time with friends and be present with the art.

If you would like to try out this project, you can find instructions here: Enjoy!