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Tie and dye (8 different types & easy tie dye techniques)

Different ways to do Tie-Dye for beginners with step by step instructions for beginners and kids. Learn how to select best fabric and how to tie and then dye.
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Tie and dye is a self explanatory term – you just tie and then dye fabric.

It is a resist dyeing method in which the areas you do not want dyed are blocked using different methods of tying and then the fabric is dyed; the areas that are tied remain undyed resulting in beautiful patterns.

It is a very simple and inexpensive way to decorative plain clothes with beautiful and intricate looking patterns, with very little effort. And this art is seeing a resurgence today – you can read about it on in The Wallstreetjournal.

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Tie & Dye -Different methods from all around the world & How to do them

Technique wise it is the same as any fabric dyeing process – you use dyes like regular packet dyes, fiber reactive dyes, acid and vat dyes to dye the fabric. The difference is that instead of the whole cloth, only parts of the fabric are dyed because you tie the fabric where you do not want the dye to penetrate. The area along the ties remain undyed.

The dyed area are not sharply demarcated – there is a blurring of the lines resulting in the beautifully abstract appearance of the tie-dyed fabric. 

A variety of tying methods are used in which the fabric is twisted folded, coiled, crumpled, or even gathered and stitched and then tied. The only condition for fabric is that you should use an absorbent fabric. 

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There is no end to the kind of patterns that can be made by using the tie and dye techniques, because you can manipulate the tying in n number of ways. Favourite patterns include a marbling effect, diamond shape, spiral shapes, lines.

Tie and dye is not a new dyeing process for humans. Some beautifully patterned tie and dyed fabric have been discovered in Peru which dates bak to 500 AD.

In the modern world, the vibrant colors and patterns of tie dye became poplar due to the efforts of some standout names. 1960s and 1970s saw interest for tie dyed fashion spike due to the larger counterculture movement in the United States.

Many artists and groups contributed to the popularization and evolution of tie-dye. The Richardsons, who founded the company Up Tied in the late 1960s, are considered to be pioneers in the field of tie dye fashion. They won the 1970 Coty Award for “major creativity in fabrics. They were the first to produce tie-dyed velvets and silk chiffons, which were used by high-end designers of the period. 

Different types of Tie and dye around the world

Bandhej/ Bandhani

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This is the Indian technique of Tie and Dye in which small areas of fabric are tied into a point creating small diamond shaped patterns.

Small dots are made on the fabric by tying fabric with thread into a point at regular intervals. These diamond shaped patterns can be made in a random pattern or in a way resulting in them forming a motif.

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In India, this craft is practiced in the states Rajastan and Gujarat. Small grains are kept inside the sarees and then they are tie and dyed to get these small dot patterns.

Tritik 

This technique involves making stitches on the fabric. The fabric is  gathered by stitching randomly or by stitching in specific patterns. Nui shibori is a variation of this tie dye.

You can read more about nui shibori here.

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Running stitches are used to stitch on the fabric. When you take out the fabric after dyeing you will find beautiful patterns in the shape of the stitched thread. 

Ikat

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In this method, the yarn is tied and dyed before it is made into the fabric. 

Shibori 

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This is a tie and dye technique which originated in Japan. In this technique, fabric is wrapped over a variety of objects like wood, plastic tubes, rope and then cord/string/thread is used to tie the fabric to these objects.

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When you dye this fabric you get beautiful overall patterns, because the area of the fabric under the binding cord and against the core object would not be dyed. As a result, beautiful patterns are formed on the fabric surface .

Read more Shibori techniques and about pole wrapped shibori – Arashi shibori here.

Mudmee tie-dye

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This is a tie and dye technique that is originally from Thailand. In this method, subdued and dark colours are used. Black is also used along with other dark colours. Random patterns are made on the fabric but they are beautiful in their own way.

Lahariya

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This Indian technique results in wavy lines on fabric. It is popularly used in sarees and shawls.

Adire

This is a Nigerian Tie and Dye technique in which Indigo fabric is dyed in this way

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Zha Ran

This is a Chinese tie and dye technique which creates a fabric with a mottled appearance. Learn more about this technique

Plangi tie and Dye

This is the name of tie and dye practised in Indonesia and African countries – in this method cloth is rolled and tied together with leaves and other things to shield some areas from absorbing dye. Beautiful and colorful floral patterns are made in this way on the cloth. The patterns are similar to bandani prints described above. 

Different names for tie dye according the patterns

1.Bulls eye Tie dye

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2.Spiral Tie dye

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More like this:

3.Crumple Tie dye

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4. Folded Tie dye

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5. Sun burst Tie dye

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6. Shibori Tie dye

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6. Striped Tie dye

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History of Tie Dye and present day interest

Since man discovered coloring their textiles and started to dye clothes, there have been questions about how to enhance this. Tie and dye must be one method that came out of this. Tying and dyeing have been done in India and China for thousands of years. There are mentions of tie and dye in texts in the American continent dating back to the 12th century. There are mural images in Arizona and New Mexico that look like tie and dye clothing.  

But tie and dye came to the notice of mainstream fashion only by the 1960s when hippie culture and counterculture thought of different and eclectic ways to decorate fabrics.

Since then, tie and dye have been in out of fashion in small ways, but essentially, it has been confined as a craft activity for kids’ parties. And instead of everyday clothing and natural dyeing, nowadays cotton knit tshirts are tie dyed using rubber bands, squeeze bottles and cold chemical dyes. 

During the pandemic imposed holidays many people found solace in creative activities like tie and dye. This new interest has been noticed by the designers too and you can see many clothes with tie dye prints on them on shops. After I started taking an interest in tie and dye, it seems as if everywhere I go I see tie dyed clothing. Is it only me?

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The basic method to do Tie dying

Tie and dye involves dyeing specific areas of the fabric by means of tying- the undyed fabric shows up in the base color of the fabric, in patterns depending on how you tie after folding or crumpling, scrunching, or twisting the fabric. This post is about the different ways that you can manipulate the fabric to make those specific patterns and designs the way you want them to occur.

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Step 1. Gather all your supplies

Best FABRIC for tie-dye techniques

Select natural fiber fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp and rayon for your tie-dye project. On blended fabrics the dye color will not stick well. Blends work only if the percentage of natural fiber is very high. A 90% cotton and any other synthetic blend will work nicely but not more than this and it will turn out faded. 

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Basic supplies for tie dying.

Choose a warm day to do the tie and dye.

There are two ways to do tie dye:

  • One is to dip and dye the tied fabric.
  • The other method is to use squeeze bottles to apply dye directly on sections of fabric. The method you select will decide what supplies you need.

For dip dying, you need a wide shallow stainless steel container which is used only for dyeing. If you are using the tie dye kits or the squeeze bottles, you do not need the vessel, ofcourse.

You can use waxed silk threads for the tying – they will not take in dyes. Or ordinary thick cord (in case you do not have waxed thread) or even rubber bands.

Do not use rubberbands if you are dyeing in the microwave.

I forgot to mention gloves, and mask. Absolute necessities. Mask is needed if you are using powder dye. So here is the revised list of supplies for the tie dying –  gloves, mask, rubberbands, squeeze bottles full of fye.

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You also need plastic sheets to protect your surface – though dye easily wipes out, it is a mess. If you are using the plastic sheet (I use those biodegradable garbage bag cut open) you can just sweep it out and throw it out after the dying is done. 

If you are tie dying tshirts, sweat shirts etc, only on the front, ensure that you are keeping the back of the clothing aside so that dye doesnot get there.

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Tie dying old cotton sweatshirt with coins tied inside.

Using a plastic sheet inside works better than just holding the back aside.

Step 2. Prepare the fabric for dying.

Make fabric receptive to dyes.

Prewash your fabric. You can prewash the fabric in hot water with detergent and rinse repeatedly or use chemicals like Synthrapol to remove any foreign material from the fabric that may interfere with the dyeing.

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Remove all dirt, sizing and impurities from the material.

Sometimes you may have to wash your new fabric twice to remove the new-fabric sizing.

For old fabrics, you have to remove all oil, sweat, dirt etc.

You may want to treat the fabric to make it more recipient to dyes. Experts use soda ash in warm water for this. 1 cup soda ash is added to a gallon of warm water for this. Fabric is soaked in this solution for about 15 minutes

Alternatives to soda ash

If it is a nylon, silk, or wool, you can soak it in vinegar solution for about 30 minutes.

If it is cotton fabric soak it in a salt solution for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the water.

Do not completely dry. Squeeze out water completely and leave it damp. This way the fabric is more reseptive to the dye.

Step 3. Tie, fold or scrunch the fabric

How to do the TYING

How you do the tying depends on your expectation from the process.

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If you want the resist process (that is, the base fabric color remain intact) you will have to tie the material very tightly with the cord. If you do not want the base color to show through, you can use the relaxed tying method.

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In the first method, tie as tight as possible so that the fabric remains impenetrable to the dye.

When you do not need the resist effect or when you are tie dying with multiple colors with the squeeze bottles, you can loosely tie the material; it doesnot matter.

There are many ways to fold or tie the material but the 6 basic methods are given below – these are used in different variations and permutations to create beautiful patterns on the fabric.

6 Basic Tie and dye tying techniques


Twisting and coiling

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In this method, you simply twist the fabric and then tie it. This method involves twisting the fabric you have into a tube to look like a rope and/or coiling it further and then tie. You can twist like this in one place or multiple places.

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You can create very definite patterns on the fabric this way. 

Knotting

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In this method, you will be tying your fabric into knots. The fabric is twisted at regular intervals or wherever you want the designs. The knotting can be done randomly or in the form of a large motif.

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Instead of dying the whole fabric, you can dip each knot in a different color dye. You can tie the cloth with small objects inside like small buttons, beads, shells, small stones etc.

Scrunching

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This is a very basic tie and dye technique for creating uneven textured patterns on fabric. This method involves gathering and scrunching the fabric as a tube and/or into a small round and tying it using a binding thread. Tie and dye as you usually do.

Folding

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You can fold the fabric into pleats and then tie and then dye.

Other than straight pleats you can fold fabric in many different ways like triangular shape. Each corner of the folded fabric can be dipped in different colors for a variety of patterns.

Running or tacking stitches

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You can use a thick thread to make sewing stitches with a suitable thick needle on your fabric (ensure that the needle is not too thick that ot would leave holes) – running stitches are the most commonly used but whipping stitches are also over folded fabric.

For the best results you need to make these stitches over an outline and then tighten to gather it and then dye.

Pole wrapping/Tying fabric over tubes

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A thick stick or tube is used as a base on which fabric is wrapped and then tied with fabric.

Step 4. Dyeing Process

Most of those who do tie dying, use the cold water dyes available as a kit in shops. They come in easy to use squeeze bottles and can be used just by mixing water.

You can also use acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium or the fabric dyes available as powder (hot water dyes). 

If you are using dyes you can follow the directions on the dye packet.

If you are using the squeeze bottles, follow the dye mixing instructions on the bottle and then dye in sections, as you have tied.

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If you are dip dying, when you want to tie and dye in more than one color, start with the light color first. For example if you are thinking of dyeing your fabric with yellow and violet, dye with yellow first. Finish the dyeing, curing, washing, and drying. Now move on to dye with the next colour

This is how I dyed as I had a heat activated dye : Heat the water in your pot up to 70 degree C. Dissolve the dye in this water stirring continuously ; (Afterward you can strain the dye solution through cheesecloth fabric to make sure there are no undissolved particles if you find the dye is not dissolved).

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Check the color strength on a scrap. Take off the flame.

Now decide on how you will do the dyeing. You can either apply this dye on the fabric kept flat on a covered tabletop with the help of squeeze bottles/paint brushes/sponges or immerse the fabric in dye, completely or partially.

With the surface application method, you can use many different colors at once. If you are squirting dye on the fabric you may have to use the microwave method to heat set the dye depending on the dye type.

If you are doing immersion dyeing, put your tied fabric in the dye solution for about 5-15 minutes, depending on the instructions in your dye packet. Squeeze out the garment so it is damp but not dripping.

If you want to avoid dyeing of certain areas use wax or any other thickening agents there, if the tying is not enough.

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When using the squeeze bottles, you have to ensure that the dye reaches inside all the folds and creases of the fabric (unless you want the mottled look). Use the tip of the squeeze bottle to go inside deep into the folds. 

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After one side is done, you have to flip the material and do the dyeing on the other side too. 

Step 5. CURING the fabric 

After dyeing, you can keep the fabric in a plastic cover, covered with another plastic cover, to cure. You can keep it for 4 hours to 24 hours like this.

You can keep the fabric in the same place, till it is fully dry.

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After this remove the ties carefully.

Another option is to wash the dyed fabric with the ties on them. You can rinse the tied fabric in cold water before removing the ties.

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Step 6. WASHING the tie-dyed fabric 

Remove the ties/folds and keep rinsing until the water runs almost clear.

Use detergent and wash again.

If you are using textile paints/medium for tie dye you will have to heat set the paint by ironing for about 5 minutes with medium heat to set the paint before washing.

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Step 7. DRYING

Dry flat, away from sunlight.

If you want more patterns in different colors re-tie and dye again. But before that it has to dry completely after finishing the first dyeing; ie rinse and dry separately however many times you dye.

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Do not forget to protect your eyes and hands from contact with dye. Use goggles/spectacles and gloves. Use dust mask when mixing dye.

For specific patterns you can checkout this post – Different tie and dye patterns.

Books to read on Tie and Dye

  • Tie and Dye as a present day craft – Anne Maile
  • Tie -Dye : Dye it, wear it, Share it – Simon-Alexander
  • Batik and Tie dye techniques – Nancy Belfer

Related post : Resist printing – 3 DIY methods ; T-shirt printing methods.

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
6 thoughts on “Tie and dye (8 different types & easy tie dye techniques)”
  1. I want to learn how to cut high neck
    Please I want to learn high neck by bash Reply
  2. Enrika james
    wrong information Reply
    • Sarina Tariq
      Why? Can you elaborate?
  3. 'Mamohau
    Thanks very much, I had to guide grade 9 learners and it was wow! with different designs. Reply
  4. makereta

    thank you this is so helpful
    This is the first time and so excited

    Reply
    • Sarina
      Thank you ; best wishes
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