From T-shirts to Towels: How to Tie-Dye Almost Anything
By: Esther Pransky, Lubicom Marketing Staff
What’s become the quintessential quarantine fashion statement?
(Besides pajamas, of course.)
Tie-dyeing! It’s this season’s fashion craze. Tie-dyeing is made for quarantine – without ever going to a store, you can redo your wardrobe with supplies you have at home. You can even upcycle your trusty pj’s.
While there are advanced tie-dye techniques that take practice, the basics are simple. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to get started.
FABRICS THAT WORK (AND DON'T WORK) WELL
You can tie-dye almost anything, as long as it’s made of a 100% natural fiber like:
Natural fabrics absorb and hold the dyes, keeping the colors vibrant. Synthetic fabrics like polyester won’t.
Blended fabrics MIGHT work if the fabric is at least 50% cotton. If you have a fabric blend, you might want to test out a small swatch and see how it takes.
Bottom line: For best results, check the label before you start to tie-dye.
FUN FASHION IDEAS
When you think about tie-dyeing, t-shirts come to mind first. And t-shirts are ideal for tie-dyeing. They’re made of cotton and give space to create fun designs. You can even breathe new life into last year’s slightly stained white shirts.
But let your imagination go, and you can tie-dye a whole range of items:
- hair accessories
- baby clothes
Just remember to check that the fabric is made of 100% natural fiber.
You’re almost ready to start!
Take a look at this supply list, but don’t be intimidated. The beauty of tie-dyeing is that except for the dyes, you probably already have most of the supplies you need. A lot of the recommended supplies are to catch the mess, and you can improvise with what you have at home.
- Dye (one-step tie-dye kits are recommended)
- Rubber bands
- Squeeze bottles (often come in the dye kits)
- Plastic tablecloth
- 2-ply paper towels
- Rubber gloves
- Apron or smock
- Ziplock bags or plastic wrap
HOW TO TIE-DYE
Here we go!
- First, prep your fabric. Prewash the garment with detergent only. Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets.
- Next, cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth and layers of paper towels. Tie-dyeing can be messy. You may want to set up your worktable outside.
- Take your fabric straight from the washing machine, while still wet. Always FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS on your dye. Traditional dyes require you to soak the material in a mixture of water and soda ash before dyeing. If you use one-step dyes, you can skip that step.
- Now comes the fun part: Fold, twist, and bind your wet fabric. The simplest and most popular technique is the Bulls Eye:
1. Pinch the fabric at its center and pull up, creating a small cone.
2. Wrap a rubber band 1 to 2 inches below the tip of the fabric.
3. Continue adding rubber bands as you pull the entire fabric into a tube shape.
- Following the instructions on your dye, squeeze the colors onto different sections of your bound fabric. You might need to rotate or flip your fabric to cover all areas.
- Cover your tie-dyed fabric in plastic wrap or put it into a Ziploc bag to keep it damp while the dye sets. Let it set for 6 to 8 hours or longer.
- Once the dye is set, unbind the fabric and rinse out the dye in the sink. Wash immediately in hot water and dry right away. This is really important because otherwise, the wet colors can bleed into each other, ruining your design.
You did it! Show off your creation to family and friends!
HOW TO CARE FOR TIE-DYED FABRICS
If you’ve followed all the steps carefully, your dye should be set. Still, proper care will keep the colors from fading:
- Experts recommend soaking your tie-dye in equal parts white vinegar and cold water for 30 minutes after you rinse out the dye from your garment. The vinegar helps with colorfastness.
- After the initial hot wash, only wash your tie-dye in cold water.
- Use gentle, color-safe detergents.
- Hang your items to dry, instead of using the dryer.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW WHEN TIE-DYEING
Tie-dyeing is all about experimenting and creativity. But here are some pointers to help you get the best results:
- Fold or bundle your fabric carefully. Those folds and bundles create your unique pattern.
- Folds create geometric lines in your pattern.
- Crumbling, scrunching, or twisting the fabric creates freestyle patterns and spirals.
- Wrap your rubber bands TIGHTLY to prevent the dye from seeping through the folds of your pattern.
- Primary colors that are next to each will seep together and create a new secondary color. (example: red + blue = purple) But combining secondary colors will create muddy shades of brown. (purple + orange = murky brown)
If you’re ready to take your tie-dyeing to the next level, here are some fun patterns to try:
- Tie-dye Grid (from tiedyeyoursummer.com)
1. Fold fabric in half.
2. Fold fabric in half again, then once more to create eight layered squarish panels.
3. Apply dye to folded edges of fabric. Flip over and repeat on backside.
- Rosette Pattern (From Parents.com)
1. Lay fabric flat.
2. Pinch a 2-inch section through both layers and rubber-band it.
3. Push your finger down through the rubber band to make a donut shape.
4. Repeat as many times as you want.
5. Apply dye to the shirt.
- Diamond Pattern Folded Tie-dye Technique (From bystephanielynn.com)
1. Lay fabric flat.
2. Accordion fold the fabric from the bottom up until it’s a long strip of folded fabric.
3. Turn the strip in a vertical position and fold the bottom corner of the fabric at a 90-degree angle, creating a triangle shape.
4. Using that triangle shape as a guide, repeat an accordion fold until you are left with a single ‘triangle’ of fabric.
5. Tightly secure the triangle with rubber bands.
6. Apply the dye to the fabric.
7. Flip the fabric over and repeat on the backside.
Are your creative juices flowing? Experiment and create your own unique design.
Get the kids involved and have some fun! We’d love to hear about your tie-dyeing adventures.