Where to find quality tie-dye shirts?
September 26, 2005 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Naturally, all of the tie-dye shirts that I have bought at concerts or made myself over the past few years have faded to a white-pinkish mess after the first wash or two. Do you know of a good place, online or off, that sells quality tie-dye shirts? Preferably, I would like shirts sporting the usual designs - The Dead, Phish, The Allman Brothers, etc... Google turns up plenty of vendors; the hard part is figuring out who actually makes the quality goods.
posted by tomorama to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Liquid Blue has been around for a long time. I've owned a few of their shirts and they've stood up extremely well.
posted by Roach at 9:45 PM on September 26, 2005

You might try setting the dye in the shirts while they're still new and unfaded. You do this by washing them with salt. I can get you instructions if you're interested.
posted by Clay201 at 12:02 AM on September 27, 2005

Tie Dye Mary.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:12 AM on September 27, 2005

I was given a red-dirt tee that said on the tag to soak it in vinegar before washing. You won't do this, but according to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and the Martha spin-off Little House books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother, the Scots used pee to set the dye in the plaid.
posted by brujita at 7:18 AM on September 27, 2005

Brujita, Indigo requires bacterial fermentation to cause the dyes to become soluble in an alkali solution. Lye proved too harsh for the delicate wool, linen and cotton fibers. Industrial revolution age textile manufacturers needed a large and ready source of massive quantities of ammonia.

Urine proved to be the solution. Though acidic at first, the bacteria in the fermentation vats, fueled and fertilized by urea and waste sugars in the pee, go wild, soon breaking down the urine into ammonia (alcoholic and diabetic piss is supposed to be the best). Instant bacterial fermentation followed by alkali solution with a very little effort by the industrialist.

There are stories from the 1800's of cottage industries holding "piddle parties" (I wish I could make this up) in which large quantities of beer were served into the wee hours in hopes of providing plenty of wee. unknown to the industries of the day, pee contains generally the same waste sugars and urea whether it is diluted with liquids or not.

The more you know!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:46 AM on September 27, 2005

IIRC, the urine thing is somewhat specific to indigo. An interesting few pages on the chemistry and historical development of dyes.

Salt or alum are popular fixatives/mordants. You could try them. I have friends who've been tie-dyeing things for years and years and don't seem to have this problem with colors washing out, so it's definitely not an inevitable result of tie-dye.
posted by hattifattener at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2005

Something I left out of the above post, that you might also find amusing is that there was a guy who's job in the factory was to make sure that the indigo did not over ferment. This was done by taste.

Sorry. Just thought you should know.

Oh, and just to make sure that this is actually an answer: tie dyes made with aniline dyes won't fade like those made with your ordinary Rit, etc.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM on September 27, 2005

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