Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
list an event      1 million Australian readers every month      facebook

How to Tie n' Dye

Home > Sydney > Fun Things To Do | Fashion | Craft
by Jessica Valls (subscribe)
Professional photographer, writting for fun!
Published April 26th 2012
How to Tie n' Dye

Feeling groovy? Feeling hippie?

Tie dye is great way to use old clothes that you like but don't wear anymore because they have lost their colour. Simply dye over them.

The best thing with tie n' dye is that you aren't just limited to t-shirts.You can tie dye short, skirts, tank tops, boob tubes, trousers, socks, underwear and even bed sheets or pillow slips.

So if you follow my steps, you'll get into the hippie trend in no time without spending too much.

First of all, you will need a couple of things before you get started:
Something white. A top, a skirts or whatever it is you want to dye.
Dye colours. You can find these at a craft store such as Spotlight. They have two different dye products, the cheap one and the more expensive. Personally I use the cheaper one, and it works just fine! They're about 7 bucks for each colour, but you can use them many times.
Squirt bottles that is if you are dying multiple colours on one piece of fabric. Ketchup bottle will work perfectly for this. Or if you buy a tie dye kit it might include them.
String or rubber bands. I prefer string I find it easier to tie.
Rock Salt will explain why later.
A bucket medium size will do unless you are planning to dye a sheet or something big. You won't need a bucket if you are doing multiple colours.
And finally, rubber gloves if you don't want to get any dye on your hands, for those who don't mind, forget the gloves, it's just spending more money for nothing.

Now you've got all your equipment, you can prepare the rest.

You will need to pre-wash and dry the fabric before use. This will remove any impurities and bring it to the right size. Some fabrics tend to shrink; we wouldn't want that to happen after all the work and effort put into it.

After you have prepared everything you will need to learn and check out the different designs you can create.

There are so many different ways to tie a fabric and even if you do the same pattern twice, the result will always be different. That's what I like with tie n dye.

Here are a couple of basic tying techniques you can use:


Pick up the fabric with thumb and forefinger at the point you choose to be the centre of the circle you are going to make.

With the other hand arrange the pleats around the central axis like a closed umbrella.

Smooth the fabric down and hold tight at the base and let go of the centre.

Now with string tie a know around the base, really tight.

Then, continue wrapping the string around the fabric until you reach the tip and go back down, still wrapping the string around until you reach the base again.

Tie the end of the string with a very tight knot. Variation: before tying the string, poke the centre tip down inside the rest of the circle, it will give another effect.

You can do this as many times as you want on the fabric, and in any sizes. If you want big circles just make bigger bases and vise versa.


Roll the fabric very lose making it into a tube. The stripes will be at right angle to the tube so think of the way you want your stripes to be before rolling your fabric.

Then tie at the same intervals or as far as you want your stripes to be. Make sure to wrap the string a few times around the fabric and tie it tight. Remember, the more string or rubber band you have the more white there will be.


Hold the fabric on both ends and twist it into a long rope. Now tie this rope into a big knot and tighten as much as you can without damaging the fabric.

This technique works best on long sleeves, trousers or any other fabric that will make a long rope. You can also tie as many knots as you can. That will also change the style.


For this one, simply pinch the part that you chose to be the centre of your design and start twisting. After each twist flatten the fabric with your other hand to keep the folds from rising. If there are any loose ends, bring them into the spiral to shape circle.

Now without disrupting the shape of the fabric tie a string all around but keep it intersecting in the middle. Make sure to make it very tight.


Lay the cloth on a flat surface and fold it like an origami fan. You can create different effect by making the pleats bigger of smaller every time. Without loosing any pleats, tie the string around all the pleats several times before making a tight knot. You can do as many tie as you want for different effect.

Electric Bunch

Scramble up the fabric into a bunch until it is shaped like a ball. Now wrap the string around the ball going in any direction but still keeping the shape intact.

Make sure to expose as much fabric possible to the surface as if most of it is inside the ball, it will no dye at all and will result on more white than colour.

How To Dye the Fabric

Now you've got all the basic tying techniques, chose one and get started with the tying.

When you're done tying, it is time to prepare your dye. Make sure you prepare your dye solution according to the instruction it came with.

The dye I have got requires me to use hot water. So I am putting hot water into my bucket along with the right amount of dye. The darker you want it the more dye you will put in the water.

Now I will give you a small tip that I have discovered and this is where the rock salt comes in. Using rock salt in the hot water allows the dye to attach better onto the fabric.

Once you are ready, it is time to apply the dye.

Now, if you are applying multiple colours you will need those squirt bottles I was talking about. Each bottle will have its colour. You can squirt the colours all over the fabric paying attention to where you want each colour according to where you have tied it off, or you can squirt the dye out randomly.

I am only applying one colour, so I can just soak my fabric into the whole bucket.

I have chosen purple for my colour. So I have prepared everything and now I am soaking my tied up fabric into the bucket.

The fabric tends to float in this situation. In case that happens, the best thing to do is to use a kitchen utensil to keep the fabric at the bottom of the bucket.

I used two fabrics, a top that was already pink to get some purple dye effects on it hence the pink ball in the bucket. And another plain white top. I did a electric bunch on the pink top and a big circle on the white one.

Now the dye will need to set, time to take a break and let the fabric soak.

When using the bucket technique with one colour, the fabric only need to soak for about half an hour. However the multiple colour technique, as it is not soaking in a bucket full of water, will take more time, about 6 to hours is best. So if you don't want to wait, the best is to do it in the afternoon so you can let it soak over night.

Important: if you let it set overnight, you will need to wrap the fabric in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry. If it dries out it will not react properly with the fabric.

When the waiting part is done, the fabric will be ready to rinse.

You need to properly wash out the excess dye. Rinse by hand first, in cold water until the water runs clear.

In my case I only waited 30 minutes before rinsing it. Now I am ready to see what I've done. Here's what it looks like after rinse.

This is the fun part!

After rinsing it thoroughly, you can finally remove the string or rubber bands and see what your top looks like!

After that you tie dye should be ready to wear.

Here's what mine looks like when it was completed. It's amazing!

Warning! You should still wash your fabric separately for the next few times to prevent the dye from going onto your other clothes.

Now let's see what you can do!
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  21
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? To reuse old clothes or make fun patterns
Cost: About $7 for the dye
Your Comment
Articles from other cities
Top Events
Popular Articles