How to Tie-Dye Fabric

By Contributing Writer

Tie-dyeing can be a simple process that beginners can enjoy, although skilled artisans may use more complicated procedures to create artistic designs. You can learn the basic steps to make a tie-dyed item, but don't expect professional results on your first attempt.

Easy Tie-Dye

Set up your work surface in an easy-to-clean location. Tie-dyeing is messy. Drips are unavoidable. Many people tie-dye outdoors and clean up with a garden hose. Cover part of your work area with newspapers or paper bags to lay out the dyed fabric to dry.

Assemble the materials. Fabric that is 100 percent cotton works best for beginners. Use a fiber-reactive dye found in craft stores or by mail order. Grocery store dye is generally not vivid enough. Squeeze bottles work well for applying the dye. Fasteners such as rubber bands, string and nylon cable ties will hold the fabric firmly in place.

Wash and dry the fabric before you dye it. Use a small amount of soap in the wash. This will remove anything in the fabric that prevents the dye from being absorbed. Dry fabric is much easier to tie-dye than wet fabric. Once the fabric is completely dry, begin tying it.

Create patterns in tie-dye fabric by folding, twisting and scrunching the fabric. Add fasteners at several places to hold the fabric in place. The finished pattern is produced by uneven application of dye into the manipulated fabric. To make stripes, roll the fabric into a tube and put fasteners at intervals along its length. For a spiral, choose a center point and pinch the fabric together, then twist the fabric and place the fasteners at intervals along the length.

Wear gloves when you mix or use the dye to prevent staining or allergic reactions. Dye the fabric by saturating it with the dye from the squeeze bottles. After the fabric is saturated, leave it to dry completely, at least four hours or overnight. When dry, remove the fasteners and admire your work. Wash the fabric several times to remove excess dye before using the fabric.

Tip

Create white space in your fabric by using less dye saturation. Try T-shirts, curtains, bed sheets--or even socks and underwear. Choose dye colors that look good together.

Warning

Some dyes are toxic. Be sure to tie-dye in a well-ventilated area. Using several dye colors can become expensive; consider buying a kit instead. Rinse excess dye out of the fabric several times before you wash it in your washing machine.