Any symmetrical design can be incorporated in a tie-dye project. Ideally. A smiley face is vertically symmetrical, so I figured it would be a great thing to put on a tie-dye onesie for my friends’ child. The finished tie-dye smiley face is not what I had in mind. 


smiley2 So I had a onesie ready to go. I folded it in half length-wise, then drew half a smiley on it with a washable marker. Crayola washable markers are pretty good to use for this sort of thing, but when using anything like this on damp fabric, it does not give crips lines. If you want crips lines, tie-dye is not for you. I did the eye first. Eye placement is important. Too far apart and you have Igor, too close and you have that soccer player that Adriana Lima dated… or married… or still dates. Whatever, just google him and you’ll see what I mean.  You can see here where my initial smile was not quite right, but no worries- I just did another one! Doesn’t it look like a happy little guy? The last part was the outline of the smiley. It needs to be big enough that you can pleat it, but going to the edge of the onesie ended up being a pain in the ass to work with.





The first part I sectioned off was the eye. Using small zip ties instead of rubber bands makes fine details like this easier and way less tedious. Cutting it off when rinsing, on the other hand, has the potential to be dangerous, but at least I warned you.




The next part to work with was the outline. I started at the bottom and just folded in little pleats, keeping the marked line as straight as possible. As tedious as this is, it’s important to work slowly and try to maintain a straight line. Unless you don’t want a circle. Do whatever you want. I’m not here to judge.






Once the outline was pleated and straight, I used another zip tie to cinch the onesie directly at the line. It’s easier to do if you have someone to help.






Here is the folded product ready to dye! I did two more zip ties outside of the outline just to give extra color rings around the smiley. These didn’t require any special folding or pleating, I just worked with the folds that were already in place from the outline.



I didn’t get any pictures of the dying process because that shit is super messy. Mistakes were made. I figured it would be easiest to do the yellow of the smiley first. Why did I think that? No clue. So I saturated the eff out of the smiley with yellow, then attempted to carefully lay the black down. I was using little squirt bottles of dye, but these can be unpredictable and shoot dye out all willy nilly. First I soaked the eye with the black dye, then the outline as close to the zip tie as possible. I just had to use the black dye and follow the line for the smile. As you can see from the two different purple lines, this got a little tricky. Then I just saturated the outside sections each with a different color, one of which was red. The red squirt bottle got all crazy on me and I accidentally squirted a bit of red somewhere onto the smiley face. This made me sad, but then I got hopeful that it would somehow look like a zombie instead of a smiley. What one year old doesn’t love zombies?!


No such luck. It just turned out like a really shitty smiley face. I mean, look at it. Look at it. It has damn googly eyes. Incidentally the random red squirt kind of came out like a tongue, but that’s just a fluke. I can’t decide whether or not it makes it more ridiculous. It reminds me of this guy’s arms: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So what went wrong? smiley

  1. I used yellow first. That made it difficult to see where the black was going, and I feel like that made the black even less crisp and more blown out.
  2. I took the outline all the way to the edge. This just turned out shitty.
  3. The zip tie around the eye was entirely too tight. Instead of a nice little circle, the area that was zip tied didn’t allow any dye to penetrate. Oops. It also made one eye gigantic compared to the other one. I swear I saturated the bejeebus out of it to prevent this, but obviously not enough.
  4. I used a onesie. Something like this is better suited on a bigger shirt. A bigger item is easier to work with when doing designs like this, and I wouldn’t have run into the edge with the outline.
  5. That smile? What the eff. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯




The good news is my friends that I’m giving this to probably won’t give a shit that it looks so terrible, and I’m fairly certain that it won’t give their child nightmares. I love making tie dye for babies because they’re so damned messy. Tie dye isn’t supposed to be perfect; stains suit it well. But man, seeing baby wearing this in a dark room on the baby monitor might be kind of creepy.