Funsies with Onesies

Want a fun and easy homemade baby gift? Try dyeing onesies!

Christina Garton Mar 11, 2021 - 5 min read

Funsies with Onesies Primary Image

A selection of hand-dyed onesies. Christina dyed these using a combination of mud dyes and indigo. Photo credit: Christina Garton

When I found out that one of my best friends from college was due with her first baby not long after I was due with my second, I knew I had to make her something. The only problem? I now had 2 young kids, one of them brand-spanking new, and therefore very little time or energy to spare. I needed something that was easy, fast, and, ideally, could involve my older child. A targeted ad featuring a very expensive faux-indigo baby onesie was my inspiration: I would dye a batch of onesies for my baby E and my dear friend’s baby.

My dye of choice was, of course, Bengala mud dyes, which I originally read about in Handwoven March/April 2020 and tried out for myself later that same year. They’re quick, easy, and safe enough for my big kid to help out. I also purchased some Aijozome indigo dye from Loop of the Loom which, similarly to the mud dyes, required no special mordants, extra chemicals, or hot water. You just mix it with cold water in a tub and you’re ready to dye—which is to say, it was perfect for my needs.

Henry Dyeing with mud dyes

Mud dyeing is an easy, fun activity for even young children, with proper adult supervision, of course. H had fun dyeing his own shirts until distracted by toy excavators. Photo credit: Christina Garton

I bought a set of white cotton onesies and treated them with dye prefixer. Then I spent one of baby’s extra-long morning naps in the backyard dyeing while my husband stood watch inside in case of an earlier-than-expected wake up. The mud dyes and Aijozome indigo were perfect for my needs. It was so easy to get all my dye baths set up using plastic tubs and water from the garden hose. I tied up the onesies with string and rubber bands and experimented with different techniques. The indigo was just as easy and fun to use as the mud dyes. It was a total blast and, best of all, I was able to do all the dyeing during the duration of one naptime.

Mud and Indigo dyed t-shirts

H’s mud- and indigo-dyed shirts, some with matching masks.

The next day I let the Big Kid help and dye some of his own shirts. We dyed plain white T-shirts and a shirt covered in sea turtles that was, for some reason, a rather boring shade of off-white. Big Kid carefully dyed one shirt, haphazardly dyed a second, barked orders at me for a third, and then ran off to play construction site. I happily dyed the rest for him, making sure to have at least a couple of shirts match some of the onesies, so he and the baby could have coordinating brother shirts. (Do I have photos of them in their matching shirts? Of course not. The baby, sensing potential photo opportunities, would spit up on his as soon as we dressed them alike.)

Baby E in his indigo onesie

Baby E in his indigo onesie.

For my friend, I picked one of the indigo-dyed onesies with a beautiful swirl design, not too different from the expensive, online-boutique version that inspired the project. This one, though, was dyed using real indigo and made with love. I sent it off with some fun toys, self-care goodies for Mama, and a few color catcher sheets—just in case.

Now, of course, I’m wondering what other fun baby items I can dye for future gifts. I acquired a few white muslin swaddle blankets that would look fabulous with some shibori-style indigo designs. Next time I have a dye day, I’ll make sure to throw a few into the dye bath to have on hand for the next bundle of joy.

Happy Weaving (and Dyeing),