Beat Summer Boredom: Reverse Tie Dye


My Grandma’s parents both passed away very early. The many kids that survived them were split among relatives. Grandma was sent to live with her Grandmother who was a pretty tough- she ran a maternity hospital in the Detroit area which was no small feat for a woman back in her day. My Grandma spent most of her childhood in that hospital helping out, and as a result she was a pretty spunky lady. She lived with us when I was growing up, and many colorful times were painted on the canvas of my life as a result of her colorful personality.

One of the things that sticks out most in my mind about our wonder years is that boredom was simply not allowed. “Sarah,” she would say, “only stupid people get bored.” (This was one of her many signature quotes. She really had a way with words, no?)

Now considering all of this, I have been wondering lately just WHY the summertime makes me feel so stupid. Read: BORED! I guess it’s because our homeschool group doesn’t do much during the summer, everyone is on vacation, and we don’t have family in town. Really, here it’s so hot and muggy that one doesn’t feel like doing much at all- but that’s so…boring!

Fortunately, there was a second half to her saying: “Smart people find something to do.” Now if you ask my husband, he will tell you that this is a driving force behind my everyday life. I don’t sit around for too long before I’ll find something to do. I’ve always got a project going.

Also fortunately (for you!), I’m going to try to share some of the kinds of boredom killers we’ve tried so you’ll have some things to do to finish out your summer with a bang!

One thing we’ve had a lot of fun with is reverse tie dying. The thought hit me awhile back after doing some “traditional” tie dye that it may be able to be done in reverse with bleach. So what did I do first? The same thing you would do! A quick search on Pinterest proved that I wasn’t the first one to imagine the possibilities here. Since then, we’ve tried it many different ways. While one can get contact paper and cut out a design to stick on and spray around, it seems that the more traditional tie dye looking shirts are a bigger hit with the younger folks.

Fan foldFor the yellow example shown above, we put the shirt down flat on a table, grabbed it in the middle and started twisting until we got a flat sort of ball. Rubber bands were wrapped just snugly around the sides to spray. For the one with diagonal stripes, just use a fan fold on the shirt starting at one sleeve. This one was harder and took a couple of tries to get it folded right. It was then secured by putting rubber bands around it all along the length. It helps to have more than one set of hands for this.

Put some full strength bleach in a spray bottle and go to town!


  • Use a 100% cotton if possible.
  • Make sure you get enough bleach on the exposed parts. It doesn’t spread as much as traditional dye. However, sometimes as with the fan fold, you can try it, let it sit a few minutes unfold and fold again to reapply if needed. (This does not apply to doing shirts with contact paper designs as mentioned above. Less is more with that method.)
  • When you are finished letting the bleach do it’s job, just hose it out well and then wash, or throw it right into the washer (alone).

This is a fun project and it’s really neat to see how the colors change. The yellow shirt turned to a white and the bluish green turned into a peachy cream (although it’s hard to tell in the pic). We’ve also tried black which lightens to a rusty sort of color and some red just turns lighter red.


*PS I apologize for using a potty word which may or may not be allowed in your house. I sincerely hope your little ones were not reading over your shoulder. Keepin’ it real 🙂