How to Make an Adire T-shirt

Tie-dye and Adire have become widely popular in Nigeria’s pop culture scene. Young people are embracing their cultural heritage with modern twists and Adire shirts are a must have in your wardrobe. This article takes you through the basic terms in dye art, from tie dye to stamps and other resistance methods used in dyeing clothes. You will also learn how to make your own t-shirt using these dyeing techniques.

TIE-DYE is a resistance technique where threads or raffia strands are used to strategically tie your fabric to prevent those spots from being dyed, producing beautiful patterns. ADIRE on the other hand is a collective name for Yoruba traditional dye methods used to produce intricate repeat pattern designs for prints.

Adire will often use candle wax or bee’s wax as resistance for dye, and the best part about using wax is that you can create all sorts of intricate patterns. Stamps, djanting pens and all sorts of other tools can be used for this purpose. Below, we have highlighted steps to make a very cool looking, super low effort adire t-shirt you can wear this summer whether you are going to the beach, or on a casual stroll through your neighborhood!

What you’ll need:

  • Dye
  • Caustic soda
  • Hydrosulfide
  • Table salt (optional)
  • Stamps
  • Candle wax or bee’s wax
  • Drip bottles
  • Plastic measuring spoons
  • Bowls
  • Stove top

Instructions

  • Firstly, melt your wax over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to further melt clumps of wax. Kindly note that you should not bring the wax to a boil, only a simmer. Keep wax on low heat until you are ready to make use of it.
  • MIXING YOUR DYE SOLUTION: The convention for a good dye solution is to mix your dye with hydrosulfide and caustic soda at a 2 to 1 ratio. Meaning for every one tablespoon of caustic soda, you have 2 tablespoons of hydrosulfide. These should be added with two tablespoons of dye of your preferred colour(s). If you want to work with more than one colour, this technique is especially great for that. Caustic soda and hydrosulfide are two key chemicals needed for creating an effective dye solution. Caustic soda opens up the fabric and allows for dye penetration. Hydrosulfide promoted the setting of colour into the fabric.
  • STAMPING YOUR PATTERN: Take your stamp with your container of melted wax near you, make sure it is just warm enough to handle without burning your skin. Gently place your stamp, patterned side down into the wax and pick it up, allowing the excess wax to drip back into the bowl. Gently press your stamp down just enough so the pattern transfers to your fabric without obscuring it. Repeat as many times as you want and in the design you want.

Set your shirt aside to let the wax dry for an hour.

  • DYEING YOUR SHIRT:  To create a short marbling effect, crumple up your t-shirt  by scrunching it into a ball and loosely (very loosely) securing it with thread. Transfer your dye solution (or solutions if you have more than one) into your drip bottles which you will apply to your shirt. Once that is done…go to town! Your design will turn out great no matter what, just make sure your colours complement each other on the colour wheel.
  • Leave your shirt to allow the dye to set and dry into the fabric for two hours or more if you feel it’s appropriate. Snip of the threads and unveil your new adire shirt! All that is left is to rinse your shirt in clean water a total of three times to remove excess dye, let dry and finally iron.

Do you need inspiration for your own adire t-shirt design? African Things has several adire clothing options for you on our online store. Click here to start scrolling (https://africanthings.org/product-category/)!

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