First thing's first, pick out your shorts or pants you want to dye. It is important that they are MOSTLY cotton, or another natural fiber. About 95-100% is the range you want to stick in for best results. For experimental dying and inconsistent coloring (best with dip-dying), the 85-95% range of natural materials is better. The non-organic materials to pull out other colors beneath the dye and create strange, uneven coloration. This is not a desired effect for most dying, but is fun for dip dying. There will be more on this below!
Also always use gloves and an apron, unless you want your hands to be dyed funny colors for days, up to you, hahah.
After you pick your chosen pair, either cut from pants or already shorts, you may need to bleach. I recommend Clorox which I always use, or something similar. In any given bucket or container, I do water it down, but only by half and half or slightly less water (three quarters dye to one quarter water). some folks on youtube like to spray on bleach, though I don't have a spray bottle so I've never tried this. Here's examples of things you can use to bleach:
If you have a pair that's already white - awesome, you don't need to bleach! If you have a pair that is a very light wash blue, you may also not need to bleach them, but will have to account for the slight color. However, that option often leaves your final product with a more interesting texture:
If you have cut them from pants however, there is a benefit. You get to test colors! When you bleach, simply take some squares cut from the pant legs that you can test. Here are a couple of example swatches I created once:
The dyes I use are from PRO Chemical & Dye, and are a powder you concoct. You can also mix powders to create a different color.
However, to use this kind of dye, you will need a few other things first. Measuring tools, a measuring cup, and Urea are amongst these. If you are making rainbow shorts or using more than one color, we have these tools which apparently are actually used to pull out baby's boogers. I've never used one, but plan on it soon, and can probably be found in baby isles.
For every ONE cup of Urea water:
Pale - .5 tsp. dye powder
Medium - 1 tsp. dye powder
Dark - 2 3/4 tsp. dye powder
Remember, you made 4 cups of Urea water, so be sure to multiply. Because I dye shorts, I often end up using 6-8 cups of water (to make sure the shorts can soak). Then I multiply the dye powder I need accordingly.
Make sure you stir the powder in well, it can be kind of frustrating. When you are done mixing, you have three choices: full immersions for one colored shorts, dip dying, or using the baby snot tool for galaxy/rainbow shorts.
Option one will look something like below. Agitate and massage the shorts in the bath for about 10 minutes when immersing.
I often let mine soak for several hours, or overnight if I start later in the day/evening. After this, I will come back and make a dye activator solution (covered below after all the dying options) and cover the shorts in this. Then, I let it sit in a bag for several more hours before washing. Placing the shorts in the bag with the activator solution on will help it set. Wash whenever you feel comfortable or impatient! Though the longer you let it sit, the more permanent the colors will be.
Option two will look more like this. Rig some sort of contraption to keep them suspended, whatever the angle you are going for may be. Remember to account for bleed. If you wet the fabric before dying, it will create more of a gradient. If you keep the fabric dry, as I often do, the change will be more abrupt. (The second shot is after washing.)
You will need to leave them like this for some time to let the dye spread. Be sure to hang them accordingly once you have finished dying them, to make sure they don't disturb the white parts.
I have not tried the third option, though I'm sure it is rather fun, and I plan on trying soon!
Another optional dying is more experimental. I discovered a white pair of shorts in Walmart I wanted to dye, and noticed they were made mostly of a material called "Ramie." After having a friend look it up on her phone, we discovered this was in fact a natural material, and I decided to go for it. I chose to dip dye from the top. Because of the mix of materials, the dye underneath is often exposed better when dip dying (either dry or wet shorts). Here is the color powder I chose, next to the shorts I made:
Thanks to color test strips from my college studio, choosing has been made easy. Often dyes have other colors beneath that you can expose when dip dying. Purples of course have blue, and oranges tend to have bright yellows and some ochres beneath. Oddly enough, my next try may be brown - which for some reason I can't figure out, has blue beneath it:
After this, be sure to spot-bleach any areas you are unhappy with (using q-tips or small brushes). Since taking this photo below, I have removed the red speckles along the bottom hem:
Once don dying, you need to make an Activator solution to set the dye. This will help it stay through future washes. For this, you take 1 cup of water and place 1.5 tsp. of Dye Activator powder or Soda Ash into the water, and stir well. You can make more of this solution if you feel you need. For extra coverage in immersion dying, you can pour this right into the dye bath (though if you do this, the dye bath cannot be stored and used again. In absence of activator solution, you can store and use again, saving you money, powder, and water!
WHEN WASHING - I always recommend either hand washing, or washing alone. They tend to always still bleed, even a little, and may dye other clothes. To help rinse the dye out on the end, I always throw them in the washer and dryer separately. Use colder water (delicate wash) to keep the dye longer.
After the dying process, I often stud or sew on fabrics. Below is a sample of shorts I am currently working on, freshly dyed and sill sew soon. And below that is a pair I finished and sold this week, already white, then dip dyed, drawn on with sharpie (iron after to set), and splattered with white opaque pigment.
Studs are often easy to find on Etsy, Ebay, or popular spike and stud stores online. I have always bought online because of location, and am unsure where to find them in person. Non-sew, pronged studs are the best for short-making, since all you have to do is poke them through the fabric and fold the prongs in to keep them in place. I recommend getting small jewelers tools to help with this, it hurts your fingers after a while. For spikes, power drills with appropriate bits, or spiking tools (things that will poke holes, or punch harder thicker fabric) are needed for spiking (which I have yet to try).
For a complete guide to all of this and a chart for measuring, check my professor's handy sheet I snapped shots of for you guys below. Not all of these steps are really necessary, such as scouring the fabric (just make sure it's not dirty or anything), etc. Pick and choose what you will:
I hope that was helpful for all of you! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at SocialPizzaEater@gmail.com any time, or comment here!