Whether you’re looking for a fun family project, or simply want to salvage something with a stain you can’t remove, tie dye is an affordable strategy that brings a ton of fun to the activity table. Well-suited for an outdoor summer decorating session, you can use natural dyes or the store-bought variety to create numerous colorful projects. Here are just some of the finished products I’ve seen used successfully. Bonus? They are also great green gift ideas for your favorite tree hugger.

Mandvi - tie dye work
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrea Kirkby


Children and sixties-era enthusiasts love these. You’ll definitely need a larger bucket to tackle a project this size. One of the larger farm-style galvanized steel tubs from the feed and seed store should do the trick. Tie dye sheets are especially fun in beach cottages or children’s rooms. A friend of mine on Guam used to do this, and they looked great in her waterfront studio apartment.


Whether you are doing an entire bedroom in a tie dye theme, or are looking for an inexpensive way to spruce up those dingy cabana curtains, tie dyeing is an extremely affordable way to go. Use plain, frugal fabric from the dry goods store that costs as little per yard as possible. You can even use older cotton curtains in a solid color to be extra green and save a few scones as well. Choose a dye color that suits you, twist on some rubber bands, and start dipping. You’ll have them completed in no time.

Medical scrubs.

Nurses, doctors and other medical professionals are always in need of a constant supply of scrubs and lab coats. As you can imagine, these get stained quite easily. The answer? Tie dye. Hey, med students are usually broke in case you haven’t heard. So taking a box of their scrubs and dyeing them in fun colors is a great solution that’s particularly appropriate for the pediatric crowd.

Tee shirts.

Great for class projects, family reunions, or any time you have a plain tee shirt in need of sprucing up. Choose two or three colors that go well together and set up a few buckets for dyeing and dipping. If multiple colors is too much stress, choose one color and simply submerge the tee shirts once they’ve been property twisted and banded. This is actually a great way to go for classrooms or even a frugal physical education program. If each class has a different color, then field trips and team games are a snap. Teachers and referees will be able to identify the proper groups at a glance.

Cabana cushions.

Looking to spruce up your outdoor pool or beachside spot? Make your own cabana cushions with fabric that you tie dye yourself. Choose colors appropriate to your locations, such as a woodsy green for a forest getaway, and bright Caribbean colors for an island oasis.

Peasant skirt.

These are popular with frugal travelers and backpackers, and as such tend to get stained from life on the road. One way to extend the life of the clothing item is to tie dye it in fun colors. It will still look presentable, and be perfectly appropriate for that one-bag flight to Goa Beach.

Beach towel.

These are cheap to pick up in solid white, and another fun thing to tie dye with the kids. Choose the color(s) together as a family and do a new set each summer as a yearly tradition. There’s also a practical reason for this. It can be tough to find your spot again if you’re the one designated to go on a beverage or snack run to the pier. Having an easily-identifiable group of beach towels will make finding the fam a piece of cake.


You definitely need the thinner, gauzier type of scarves for this tie dye project. But the teen girls in your life will be thrilled to participate. These are fun to wear with jean jackets and plain tee shirts. So the next time you’re having a multi-generational girls gathering, consider going Bohemian and dipping some scarves in the dye bucket.

Fabric bags.

Whether you are wanting to spruce up your reusable lunch bag or add some pizzazz to your shopping sacks, fabric bags look super fun when dyed in bright colors. You’ll definitely want slightly thinner fabric in order to be able to twist and band properly, but in my opinion tie dye shopping bags work the green angle in a way no screen-printed store bag can.

Tie dye projects aren’t necessarily the way most people would want to decorate their home, but an occasional project or annual tee shirt session is a fun family tradition. These projects are also a superb way to reuse older fabric items that are still serviceable, if stained or dingy. A brightly-colored makeover will help them go the distance and provide additional years of functionality. The secret to having fun with this? Start small. If after a successful tee shirt or sheet dyeing session you feel this is something you would like to explore further, there are a number of detailed books on the subject to help you out.

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.