I originally designed this project back in August and love how it turned out. This project uses cut up t-shirts, which naturally curl in on the ends like dried leaves. While this is a tie-dye project, it ends up looking much more elegant and less hippie-ish than many tie-dye projects. The colors vary leaf to leaf on the tablecloth, also like real drying leaves. I really enjoyed watching the tablecloth come together each step of the way!
several clean, white t-shirts
fabric & regular scissors
9×13 baking pan (optional)
washer & dryer
Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit
iron & ironing board
canvas fabric in desired tablecloth size
Draw the silhouette of one or more leaves onto a piece of tag board in the size you desire. I went exclusively with maple leaves that are about a foot long each. Since each leaf will be tie-dyed, going with a decent size will really show off your tie-dye prowess.
Cut out your tag board. Pin it to a t-shirt with straight pins, all the way through both layers of the shirt. Cut out your leaves two at a time using your stencil(s) as a guide.
I created a total of 16 leaves in this first step. My finished tablecloth only needed 12, but the extras gave me some wiggle room to select the best leaves for the finished product. If you’re not sure how many to create, use your table as a guide.
Next, grab your Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit and prep your workspace. Follow the directions for mixing the red and yellow dyes from the kit, and read all directions provided with the kit.
Get all of your leaves damp. I found it easiest to pile them all into a 9×13 pan with some water – no need for a huge mess or to leave my workspace.
Grab a leaf and ring out excess water. Lay leaf out on your waxed paper. I used the swirl method as described in the kit, which I’ll demo here. There are other methods that could be super fun to play with too – just check out the instructions included in the kit!
Pinch the center of your leaf and begin twisting it into a spiral. Secure with two rubber bands in a plus sign, as shown. You can twist and secure two t-shirt leaves at a time to speed up the process, but you’ll have a little less variety in your dyed leaves.
When they’re all wrapped, grab your dyes and put on a pair of gloves. Apply dye using the ketchup and mustard-style bottles, which are so nice for reducing mess.
Apply colors however you want. I made sure that no two bundles were dyed the same. I even played with squirting the red and yellow onto some bundles simultaneously to get some more orange in the mix.
If the dye doesn’t soak all the way to the other side, remember to flip the bundle and apply more dye. The kit’s instructions warn against using too much dye, but since I wanted my colors to mix (and become orange in some places), I applied a lot of dye.
When all of your bundles are dyed, let sit for 6-8 hours. Like the kit says, the longer they soak, the more vibrant your colors will be. Remember to wrap the wet bundles in plastic wrap (or the waxed paper from your work surface) to keep them from drying out during the 6-8 hours.
When they’ve sat long enough, rinse out excess dye in the sink and remove the rubber bands. Wash and dry all of the leaves in laundry machine according to the kit’s instructions (separately, hottest water possible, use detergent, etc.).
They look something like this when they’re done…
Mine came out super wrinkly, looking more like cleaning rags than beautiful fall leaves. Ironing time! Iron each leaf on a steam setting, being careful not to burn yourself. Pinning the leaves’ ends directly into your ironing board is a great safety tip here.
I wanted to use t-shirts for this leaf project because the ends of t-shirt fabric curl when the edges are raw. So even with ironing, you get cool autumnal leaf curls on the edges of each leaf. Lay out your leaves on your tablecloth canvas, ironing the canvas ahead of time if necessary. This is the time to decide exactly how you want the layout of the finished product to be.
Once you’re satisfied with the layout, use a dot of Liquid Stitch on the tips of each leaf to secure. I really still wanted my leafy curls, so I placed my dots slightly in from the very tip of each leaf point. I also included some extra Liquid Stitch on particularly curled edges that changed the leafy look of some of the leaves.
Let the whole thing dry, and you’re ready to set the table for a fall or Thanksgiving dinner!