Science Craft – Water Color Tie Dye Pillows

Are you looking for a last minute crafty Christmas present? Or something to do over the long holiday break? How about making tie dye pillows that use a little science to create a beautiful masterpiece.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

Materials

 

We used pillows from IKEA for $3.99 each. You can also do this technique on pillow cases, towels, t-shirts, or any material that is 100% cotton. This activity won’t work on synthetic fabrics.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

ACTIVITY

Warning: Rubbing alcohol is very flammable and must be kept away from any open flames or heat. This experiment must be conducted in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors or in a room with open windows.  

You may want to start by practicing on a piece of scrap fabric or old t-shirt to experiment with color mixing and spreading.

1. Using the Sharpie markers, draw a design on your pillow. We drew our design straight onto the pillow and didn’t use a pillow case.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

2. Experiment with wider lines, dots, or abstracts. If you want a section to be one color, color it in closely or color more sparingly for a different result.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

This is a good step for an adult helper. Kids about 5 and up can drop the alcohol (and will want to) but they may need a little guidance to make sure they don’t drown the pillow. They may also pick up some of the ink if they place their hand or fingers on the wet fabric. Sharpie pen will come off skin using a cotton ball and a little rubbing alcohol.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

 

3. Sparingly drop the rubbing alcohol on the fabric. The alcohol will spread the ink and mix the colors. Go slowly and don’t use much at first. Watch the alcohol spread the ink. It may take several minutes before the ink has stopped spreading. Don’t over saturate your fabric.

4. Experiment with drops of the rubbing alcohol – what happens when you drop it sparingly around your pillow and what happens when you place the drops close together?

5. Let air dry if it’s really wet and then place damp pillow in the dryer to set the colors.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

TAKE IT FURTHER!

Enjoy experimenting with various patterns, dot sizes, and color combinations. Instead of using dots, try drawing a small square with each side being a different color, or use primary colors to draw a geometric shape and accent it with dots of secondary colors. Half circles, wavy lines, and polygons all make unique patterns when rubbing alcohol travels across the ink. Your designs are only limited by your imagination. Try as many different patterns as you like.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

HOW DOES IT WORK?

This is really a lesson in the concepts of solubility, color mixing, and the movement of molecules. The Sharpie markers contain permanent ink, which will not wash away with water. Permanent ink is hydrophobic, meaning it is not soluble in water. However, the molecules of ink are soluble in another solvent called rubbing alcohol. This solvent carries the different colors of ink with it as it spreads in a circular pattern from the center of the shirt.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

ADDITIONAL INFO

Reference: The original Sharpie Pen activity is the creation of Bob Becker, a chemistry teacher in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Create tie dye water color pillows and fabrics with Sharpie Pen Science | Steve Spangler Science

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