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Add Color and Funds to Your Group: Host a Tie-DyeParty!

Heather Ruch
Centennial CO USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2008, pp. 8-9

Looking for an energetic, fun-filled way to bring your Group together and raise money? Host a colorful tie-dye party for children of all ages! Spruce up your wardrobe, spend time together, and support La Leche League with this one event that can easily become an annual tradition.

Our first party was held six years ago as a mother's get-together. The following year we held the same party but with the purpose of raising funds for our LLL Group. For five years running, mothers and children have taken over my yard for a day of creativity and community. Families pay based on the number of items dyed -- we suggest $5 (US) for two items. We've raised $40 to $120 (US) depending on the number of participants and items.

"My daughter has fond memories of doing the tie-dye and playing with the kids," said Tammie Sawicki, Leader with the Northglenn, Colorado Group. Beth Anne Gillier, who attends the Aurora South East, Colorodo morning Group, was surprised by how quickly her daughter took to it. "I never expected Liliane would know the words tie-dye at age two! She loves wearing tie-dyed t-shirts and always tells everyone she made them!"

Organize Early for Success!

Pick a Day and Time: Our parties have been held in the summer when we can have more outside activities for the children. Since you're working with water outside, warm weather is a must. School breaks allow for higher attendance. Avoid school and family picture time if you can, as skin can be stained by the dye. Allow at least three hours for the event, more if you have a large crowd.

Location: A back or front yard, utilizing driveway and garage, are best. We take over my backyard, which has a cement sidewalk -- perfect for setting out projects -- and an area of rocks near the faucet. Keep the following in mind when choosing a space: the number of people, access to water, and that the area will get dirty!

Supplies: Fiber reactive dye that is high-quality is easy to use for tie-dying. Fiber reactive dye becomes part of the fiber, making it permanent. After the dying process, the loose dye is rinsed out and the remaining color will not bleed or fade. Most dyes available at craft and fabric stores sit between the fibers and will eventually fade after repeated washings. Here in Denver we are fortunate to have an excellent wholesale dye company where supplies can be ordered on the Internet. The owner has been a fantastic resource for supplies and has happily answered all our how-to questions. We have purchased from other sources wonderful books, play silks, and cotton clothing of all shapes and sizes. Check the phone book for a local dye company or search online for "tie-dye supplies" and contact them. Decide if you want to place an order of "tie-dye-able" items for your Group through the supplier.

Get the Word Out: Two months of advertising is ideal so you can mention the event at at least two Group meetings. Provide a date to respond by with the number of attendees and items. Use this information to calculate the amount of dye you will need to order. Invite neighboring Groups to participate. List your event on your Group email list with your LLL Chapter, La Leche League International Web site, and in your Area Leaders' Letter.

Let Attendees Know: Let everyone know what they're getting into in advance so they can prepare and help bring supplies.

  • Wear old clothes that can (and will be!) stained.
  • Rubber/latex gloves to protect skin from staining (or purchase a box of gloves for everyone from a supplier).
  • Plastic bags to take projects home.
  • Cardboard trays to work on (soda trays work well; ask Leaders and Group members to collect or ask local grocery stores to save them for you).
  • Food and/or snacks for a potluck lunch.
  • Put initials on all items to be dyed.
  • Parents need to supervise children closely as tie-dye is a chemical-based process and can be harmful if swallowed or used improperly. We've never had an issue with this even with over 40 adults and children running around. If attendees are clear on the need to be careful with all the supplies right from the start, then everyone will be safe.

Items to Tie-Dye: Anything! Fabric made of 100 percent cotton accepts dye the best. A lower percentage of cotton creates a more pastel look. Loelle Poneleit, a Leader with the West Littleton, Colorodo Group, buys shirts and other items on sale or at thrift stores. She looks for white or "mostly white and light/pastel colors, even if they have logos or designs on them," she says. "Most designs will not take dye, so it makes it interesting! Shirts that are colors other than white can make some very colorful tie-dyes, with no white spaces."

Some of the more interesting items dyed at our parties include: socks, underwear, nursing bras, pillow cases, canvas bags, dresses, skirts, pants, shorts, cloth napkins, cloth diapers, and play silks.

A Time-Line to Cover It All!

A Few Weeks to a Couple of Months Before:

  • Determine date, time and location.
  • Find and contact supplier.
  • Send out promotional information to Groups, Chapter, and Area.
  • Get examples of tie-dye to show at Group meetings and have available at the party: pictures online, books from the library or supplier, and if possible a sample of a tie-dyed item.

Day Before:

  • Mix dyes.
  • Clean yard area: put out toys to use, put away toys not to use, and get hose ready.

Morning Of:

  • Bring out supplies: dyes, gloves, rubber bands, cardboard, and permanent marker to put initials on items.
  • Set out potluck wares: plates, utensils, cups, napkins.
  • Set out books and ideas of what to make with instructions.

During Party:

  • Help participants find supplies and assist with their designs (as much as you can).
  • Help attendees navigate your home.

After five years of hosting parties, nearly every surface in my yard and my house has had some contact with dye with no ill effects. Dye has faded over time from cement, wood deck, plastic chairs, grass, carpet, skin, hair, and linoleum. The best feedback from mothers is that two or three items per person is the ideal number for a manageable day. More than that can become overwhelming. That said, I've seen mothers bring over 20 items for a family of four and dye them all in one tiring day! Some would rather jump in and complete many projects in one sweep to satisfy the color-needy for an entire year.

Loelle, who's also a mother of two, felt the hardest time for her was when her children were between 18 months and five years. At this age, children need a lot of supervision tie-dyeing and tend to want to saturate everything, turning the fabric brown. From newborn to 18 months, Loelle found that her children enjoyed riding in a baby-carrier or playing in the grass. Children five years and above can better understand the "less is more" concept and do well tie-dying with just a little supervision.

You can lower your cost of dye supplies by ordering fewer colors and making dilutions and/or mixing a range of colors. Instead of buying dyes in all the colors of the rainbow, three or four well-chosen colors can be mixed to provide an entire spectrum. Ask your suppliers for dye recipes.

There are a lot of steps for this event, but the payoff is huge. It has the potential to raise a decent amount of money, and you're guaranteed to take home something colorful and unique. This project is reasonable for one person to organize, but better with at least one other helping with the details, especially the day before and during. Tammie summed it up, "The best part was seeing all the mothers and children. It was fun and chaotic, productive and we learned a lot about how to tie-dye!" Good luck with your party!

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