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Different Tie Dye Methods

Decoration Methods Sep 16, 2022

Wondering how to create all those incredible tie-dye patterns on cotton or linen fabrics? Well, all you need to do is tie the fabric in multiple ways and apply lots of bright dye colors. Literally, that's it. Give it a try and wow your family and friends with some unique gifts. So, let's go ahead and learn about some different tie dye methods that are doable for even complete beginners.

Explain Tie Dying to Me Like I'm Five

Tie-dyeing is folding, twisting, and tying fabrics in specific ways and then applying dyes or pigments to them. You let the colors soak into the cloth for a time and unfold it to reveal the pattern. Experiment with different folds, twists, and ties and see what you come up with. You'll honestly be shocked at how many unique patterns and gorgeous color combos you can create.

What Supplies Do I Need to Tie Dye?

Here's what you need to get started with different tie-dye methods. Don't freak out at the number of items — you probably have a bunch of this stuff in your home already:

  • 100% cotton or linen fabric or T-shirts.
  • Fiber-reactive powder fabric dye or a kit containing this type of dye.
  • Rubber bands or string.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Cardboard.
  • Washable marker.
  • Zip-top bags.
  • Plastic table cloth.
  • Paper towels.
  • Steel pan with a wire rack.
  • Water.
  • Ice cubes.
  • Squeeze dye bottles.
  • Spray bottle.
  • Soda ash.

Psst. These T-shirts are an awesome place to start for your first tie dying adventure.

Here Comes the How To

Tie dying is awesome because you can use it on so many different items, like shirts, scarves, blankets, napkins, curtains — honestly, the sky is the limit. Whatever item and design you choose, you can follow the same step-by-step process to create your tie dye masterpiece:

1. Prep the Fabric

Start by wetting the cotton or linen fabric with water and then spread it flat on your plastic tablecloth. Get creative shaping the fabric into folds, twists, or both, and tie of each lil' chunk with rubber bands or strings. Next, depending on the dye you use (this is your friendly reminder to always read the directions), dip the bundle in soda ash for around 20 minutes. The soda ash is useful for bringing out the vibrant colors of the dye. If you're using a tie-dye kit, you can probs skip this step since the dye formula typically contains soda ash.

Still thinking about what you should tie dye? Tank tops are always an adorable option.

2. Mix the Dye

Tie dyes are generally non-toxic, but we suggest wearing gloves unless you also want tie-dyed hands. If you use powder dye, mix it with water, and pour it into the squeeze bottles. Just remember to use it within 72 hours or it you'll have to throw it out and start over.

Since you don't want to end up mixing more dye than you need, decide in advance how many items you are going to dye. Check the dye package to see how many things you can dye with one box and go from there. Or you can calculate the dye amount based on how much color coverage you need for the item size and the dyeing method you plan on using.

TL;DR: Wear gloves, less is more with dye so you don't waste it, and it may take some trial and error to get your piece perfect.

3. Dye It Up!

After pouring different colored dyes into separate bottles, squeeze that dye on the tied fabric however you want. Done? Tuck your tie-dyed bundle into a plastic bag and let it set for 48 hours. Don't cheat and take it out early! After the two days have passed, remove your masterpiece and rinse in water to wash away excess dye. Unfold and voila! Go ahead, congratulate yourself. You did a great job.

Now, did you notice an important thing? The areas you folded, twisted, and tied are the ones that resisted the dye and stayed white. The rest of the fabric is brightly patterned. Wash and dry it separately at least three times before using it.

Fun fact: you don't have to just tie dye white items. Try out a colorful shirt and see what happens!

Got It! Now, What About Some Tie Dye Methods?

The best thing about tie dying? There are sooo many cool designs you can create. Even if you are brand new to tie-dyeing, learning how to use different tie-dye patterns is a breeze and honestly just a fun time. For a little sampler, here are some tie-dye patterns and folding techniques to try out:

Spiral Tie Dye

This is the iconic tie dye pattern. Well worth adding it to your roster!

  1. Place the cotton fabric on a flat surface.
  2. Pinch a small central or side section of the fabric as your starting point, hold it, and twist the material clockwise around it.
  3. After twisting the fabric into a flat circular roll, tie it securely across the center with rubber bands or string.
  4. Decide which spiral or swirl color pattern you want.
  5. Apply different dye colors to the fabric wedges between the ties on both sides.
  6. Use more dye for less white space and less dye for more white space.

Scrunch Tie Dye

This is a super cute pattern for shirts and blankets:

  1. Lay the cotton fabric on a flat surface.
  2. Randomly scrunch or crumple together small sections of the fabric.
  3. Gather all the fabric into tightly scrunched or crumpled folds and form a flat roll.
  4. Tie the roll tightly with rubber bands or string.
  5. Randomly apply different dye colors to the fabric between the ties.

Bull's-Eye Tie Dye Pattern

Another classic look — it's especially great for bigger pieces, like oversize T-shirts, sheets, curtains, yada yada:

  1. Place the cotton fabric on a flat surface.
  2. Pinch a small central section or an off-center section.
  3. Draw up the fabric to form a pointed cone shape and tie it tightly with a rubber band or string.
  4. Tie other fabric sections with more rubber bands or string at intervals below the cone.
  5. Apply different color dyes alternately on the fabric between the ties.

Polka Dot Tie Dye

There is nothing cuter for a kid's tie dye project than polka dots:

  1. Gather some dried beans or plastic beads.
  2. Cut plastic wrap into large squares.
  3. Place a bean or bead under the fabric.
  4. Place the plastic wrap square on top of the fabric-covered bean or bead.
  5. Fasten a rubber band or string tightly to secure the bean or bead within the plastic and fabric.
  6. Repeat the process with the rest of the fabric.
  7. Dip the fabric in water to wet it before applying the dye.

Mandala Tie Dye

This absolutely gorgeous design deserves a large canvas like a blanket, scarf, or sweatshirt:

  1. Place the fabric flat on the table, fold it in half lengthwise, and then fold it in half widthwise to create a fabric square with four layers.
  2. Fold the square in half along the diagonal line.
  3. Fold the square again along the diagonal line.
  4. Secure tightly with rubber bands or strings.
  5. Apply dye right down to the inner layers.

Square Box Folds

You'll be obsessed with this pattern. It's absolutely timeless:

  1. Spread the fabric on a flat surface.
  2. Fold it lengthwise in accordion-style folds.
  3. Then fold it widthwise in accordion-style folds.
  4. Try to get sharp creases in both cases.
  5. Bundle the fabric into a square.
  6. Cut two cardboard squares slightly smaller than the fabric square.
  7. Place one cardboard square under the bundled fabric and one over it.
  8. Tie tightly with rubber bands or strings.
  9. Saturate with different colored dyes.

Heart Tie Dye

Adorable, trendy, fun — what's not to love?

  1. Spread the fabric flat and fold it lengthwise in half.
  2. Use a washable marker to draw a half heart shape on the folded side.
  3. Start folding along one end of the marker line to make small, accordion-style folds.
  4. Pinch pleat the fabric along the curve of the marker line.
  5. Try to ensure the marker line appears straight on top of the folds.
  6. Tie the pleated fabric bundle with rubber bands or strings.
  7. Dye between the ties.

Ice Dye Pattern

This one not only looks cool, but it's a great activity for kids:

  1. Scrunch or fold the fabric in your desired pattern.
  2. Tie with rubber bands or strings.
  3. Place the tie fabric bundle on a wire rack over a steel pan.
  4. Pile ice cubes all over the top of the fabric bundle.
  5. Add dye powder over the ice cubes.
  6. Leave for 24 hours to let the ice cubes melt.
  7. As the ice cubes melt, the dye will soak into the fabric.

Stripes Pattern

Another classic tie dye look:

  1. Lay the cotton fabric flat on the surface.
  2. For horizontal stripes, fold it back and forth vertically into 1-inch accordion-style folds.
  3. For vertical stripes, fold it horizontally.
  4. For diagonal stripes, fold from one of the corners.
  5. Tie the folds at intervals of 2 inches with rubber bands or strings.
  6. Vary the pattern by changing the widths of the folds and the ties
  7. Apply the color dyes to alternate sections of the fabric.

The great thing about using these different tie-dye methods is they are easy to do at home. You can tie-dye new clothes and fabrics or upcycle old ones. Involve the whole family in the fun or invite friends over for an amazingly creative weekend.