This rainbow mermaid shirt is a fun twist on the traditional tie dye method and was made using a marbling kit to create the unique mermaid scale pattern. Such a cute way to celebrate the mermaid lover in your life!
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For the past three years, my kids and I have been making tie dye shirts each summer. It’s become a fun tradition and one we look forward to doing together. This year I’ve been seeing the marbling kits that help create a slightly more controlled design on clothing items and accessories and thought it would be fun to see if I could make a mermaid shirt for my daughter. The kit I got gave instructions for both the tabletop method and the water method. Since I was going to be dying a shirt, I decided to go with the table top method. Having never tried a marbling kit, I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how easy it would be to use compared to traditional tie dye. (I did run into a few issues, but I’m going to share with you what I did so you can avoid making the same mistakes.)
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tulip brand Marbling Kit (I used the Classic color combo: turquoise, yellow and fuchsia)
- disposable table cloth
- white shirt
- wooden skewer
- paper towel
- masking tape
First, prep your area. I used a small folding table and covered it with a disposable table cloth from the dollar store. Then I taped down the sides so it wouldn’t slide around. As a note, I did this in the garage since the instructions say you have to let it sit for 6-8 hours and it’s easier to keep my kids out of the garage than if I’d done it in the house or the backyard.
Next, grab your shirt and lay it down flat on the table. Use the sharpie to trace around the shirt directly onto the table cloth, leaving about 1/2″ gap between the shirt and the outline. Take your shirt off the table and set it aside.
Get out the marbling medium and cut the top off. Turn the bottle over and start squirting the marbling medium all over inside the outline of the shirt. It is very runny so be careful as you squirt it around that you don’t get it outside the outline you’ve made.
Once you’ve done this, put on a plastic glove (included in the kit) and start spreading the marbling medium around in a thin layer. A mistake I made was using too much marbling medium. You basically just need to make sure that you’ve spread a fairly even layer of it around but it doesn’t need to be very thick. It also doesn’t need to go all the way out to the edge of the outline you made.
After you’ve done this, get your bottles of dye and snip off the end of each one (but don’t do it over the top of the shirt). I did my lines of dye on a diagonal but you could also do it straight across. Squeeze the bottle gently but maintain pressure, otherwise you may end up with places where the dye stops and starts and you’ll have to go back and fill it in. I started by doing about 5 -6 lines of one color before moving onto the next color.
When I reached the end of the shirt, I went back and started adding an additional color to the lines were next to each other in different colors (pictured above). This is so that when I made the mermaid scale pattern, the colors would mix a little and create the rainbow effect I wanted. A little bit of dye goes a lot way and I still had some left over.
Once you have your colors the way you want, grab your skewer and paper towel. Starting at the top of the shirt, make connecting half circles. Since I put my dye on the diagonal, I moved across the shirt horizontally to make the mermaid scale pattern. Continue making this half circle pattern all the way down the shirt, making sure to wipe off your skewer on the paper towel at the end of each row. This will help keep the colors from mixing too much and creating muddy colors. After going all the way down the shirt, I actually went back over my pattern again to make it a little more defined, remembering to wipe the skewer at the end of each row.
For the next part, I recommend getting a second person. Starting at one end, you need to lay the shirt on top of the marbling medium and dyes, paying careful attention to keeping the shirt flat. After you have the shirt down, press the shirt into the dye.
Now, here is the difference between what I did and what I would suggest you do:
What I did: The instructions say to put plastic or cardboard in between the shirt to prevent the dye bleeding through to the back. I did this and it did prevent the dye from going onto the back of the shirt while it was soaking up the colors. BUT when it came time to rinse the shirt, it was difficult to keep the plastic in place and stop the colors from getting onto the back of the shirt so I ended up with a muddied version of what was on the front.
What you should do: Based on what I learned, I would recommend just letting the color soak through to the back of the shirt. The color may not be as vibrant but you will have a more defined pattern. The other option, as suggested in the included instructions, is to keep the plastic inside the shirt and then rinse the shirt off on the sidewalk or driveway with a hose, spraying in the same direction. This might be easier than rinsing in the tub (like I did) and you might be able to prevent the color from bleeding onto the back of the shirt.
After the shirt has been sitting for 6-8 hours, it’s time to rinse. The marbling medium is thick and slimy and takes a while to rinse out of the shirt. Start by rinsing it out as flat as you can. Be careful not to wring or twist the shirt as you’re rinsing it as this can also cause the colors to bleed together. When the shirt is no longer slimy feeling, you can wash it according to the included instructions.
My daughter loved her new mermaid shirt! Even though I could see the places where I wished I done things a little differently (as explained above), I thought it turned out pretty well and the mermaid pattern is a fun and unique way to use the marbling kit.