The Great Tie-Dye Project

Part of the prep for the Lag B'Omer Color Wars - hanging the freshly
tie-dyed team t-shirts out to dry on the school fence.

Every year, for Lag B'Omer, Akiba-Schechter holds the grand Color Wars. Children in grades 1-8 are organized into teams, with one student from each grade on each team, along with a teacher or two. Due to the growth of our school, this year that means 11 teams with 13 kids each!

It also means some 170 t-shirts for students, teachers and staff have to be tie-dyed to represent the different color teams. Our Art teacher Debbie Lekousis undertakes this grand project, and over the years she has perfected the process.

Once the requisite number and sizes of t-shirts have been ordered, Art class becomes about learning how to tie the fabric with rubber bands to achieve different patterns.

For the younger students, mastering the rubber bands themselves, and getting them tight enough to hold the fabric during the dyeing process, is enough of a challenge.

Older students learn how to pleat the fabric to create a swirl pattern or twist it to get a perfect bull's-eye, and of course they always make sure to tie it tightly so it won't come apart in the water.

After that, Debbie assembles her colors and buckets, and the school kitchen becomes a textile laboratory. With all her experience, she knows how to combine green and blue to create a vibrant teal, or she throws a bit of wine red in with violet to create a deeper color. Yellow, she has found, does not work so well, as the kids won't be able to see the patterns they worked so hard to create.

There is, however, lots of heavy lifting involved, see the dye buckets above. Boiling water is poured into each bucket, along with the colors and the salt to set them, and getting all those gallons of water to boil took three hours altogether this time around, even with the help of a colleague. Dressed all in black, wearing an apron and rubber gloves, Debbie stirs the giant buckets with a dowel rod to make sure the color distributes evenly.

Then the buckets sit overnight, and in the morning the water is almost clear as most of the color has been sucked into the fabric. Now comes another heavy-lifting chore, in which thankfully other colleagues help: pouring out the water and hanging the t-shirts out to dry.

Sadly, the air was so cold yesterday that the kids' hands got too cold wringing out the t-shirts, but they did help pick up all the rubber bands so the birds don't mistakenly eat them. Debbie herself had to wear sturdy rubber gloves to wring out and hang up the t-shirts. At the end of the day, the t-shirts hadn't properly dried yet, so the school dryer was running full time, and a few parents and staff members took loads of t-shirts home to run through their dryers as well.

But even when it's cold outside, all those colorful t-shirts are a sight to see! Thank you, Debbie, for being our tie-dye queen, and for getting us ready for another day of Color War fun!


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