T'shirt Upcycling with Tie Dye Effects

T'shirt Upcycling with Tie Dye Effects

Children's Pen Dye Upcycling!

A relatively un messy tie dye effect for youngsters to have fun, upcycle and personalise a piece of clothing, duvet pillowcase, bag or hat. As seen at Westfield Stratford, London!

This is an excellent way of bringing a faded T'shirt or piece of clothing back to life and can cover stains that has spoilt the item. We've added an extra part of a T'Shirt Upcycle to do at home where you can add more personalisation to your shirt,

By using felt tip pens and sanitizing gel you can create a colourful tie dye effect on fabric. A great introduction for kids to learn and play with colour in a relatively un messy way!.

By using traditional tie dye methods you can create different patterns. I've used elastic bands but you could tie with a soft string.

Spiral effect.

Starting in the middle of the T’shirt, twist the centre point and pivot it around so it folds in a spiral like a Catherine wheel.


Now add your colour using the felt tip pens. Try to colour the internal folds to create the maximum effects. You can mix the colours so when you add the sanitizer gel it will create a “bleeding” colour effect similar to tie dye.

When you are happy with the amount of colour it's time to add your sanitizer gel. To do this you need to put a pair of gloves on to protect your fingers from the pen colour.

Pour a little gel in a clean 20ml pot. With a large artist brush start by brushing on the alcohol gel making sure it penetrates as far into the Tshirt ball as possible.

You should start to see the colours start to blend. Once you have covered the area you now must wait for a few minutes. The alcohol gel will evaporate and you can then take off the bands. If necessary use a hair dryer to speed up the process.

You can then open it up and allow to dry. For stronger effects repeat the process.


Flower Or Explosion Design

To create a Flower or explosion design use a darker colour on the end of the fabric and then a different colour below for the leaves or petals. You can repeat this application to create more and more flowers.

Striped effect

Create a striped effect by folding your T'shirt like a fan. Fold it one way then the opposite so you cover all the fabric.


Go It alone! Create your own design

You can use stencils or hand draw designs to create your own designs, Use the gel with a brush at the end to blend. If you are designing this way then we recommend that you put a piece of card or plastic between the layers of the T'shirt so it doesn't go through to the back.

Finished blended design T'shirt 

After Care.

Hand wash first separately. Please note before its washed it may release some of the dyes.

What you need

A waterproof cloth to protect your work area.

A piece of clothing to upcycle.

Sanitizing hand gel containing alcohol.

A large artist brush

Sustainable protective gloves.

A 50ml pot to put the gel in

Felt tip pens (similar to Sharpies)

Elastic bands

Any stencils

Something to protect getting the dye on both sides of the T'shirt

Health & Safety at Westfield Stratford City.

1/Felt tip pens (similar to Sharpies) Lids of the pens must be replaced after every use. Harmful if swallowed and can cause skin irritation and can cause serious eye damage. If using for a prolonged period of time they may cause respiratory irritation.

2/Hand Sanitizer Gel. Care should be taken when using alcohol hand sanitizer since swallowing can cause poisoning. it is important that this doesn’t get into your eyes. Only pour a small amount, approximately 20ml into a small plastic container then refilled as needed.

3/Elastic bands. please take care and don't use for anything other than creating your tie dye effect.

4/When applying the gel and using the Paint Brushes, gloves are available to protect against a small amount of colour transfer to fingers.

Furthering your design using reused fabrics & scissors at home.

Children should ask an adult to help if using sharp scissors for this part of the design.

Side slashes

To create side slashes on top only similar to the "TV Girl T'shirt" fold the bottom corners of the T'shirt in to get a matching line on each side. Draw lines with a pencil approximately 1/2 " up towards the arm of the T'shirt. Cut through so they match both sides as below.

Shoulder Slashes

Measure down in a straight line across the T'shirt and mark approximately 1/2" with a pencil. Cut through with scissors. On this design I also cut the hem and the neckline off too.

Add reuse fabric tie's from discarded T'shirts. These can also bee dyed. Cut approximately 34 cm long and 1/4" wide.

Make slits approximately 1 1/4" apart depending what finish you would like. Take each tie and insert into the holes. Tie and make a bow.

You can create this finish to the bottom of the T'shirt or stop half way. The bottom of the T'shirt then could be cut into fringing with possible embellishment added! Just get creative! There are no rules!

Want to further your upcycling journey?

I'm running a number of workshops in 2024 with limited spaces left.

You will find more information about my Update A Lamp & Shade, Paint & Fabric Decoupage, Paint & Paper Decoupage and  Paper Mache Angel Wing workshops and for many more see our workshop page

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