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DIY Fashion Video Demos: Several Tie-Dye Techniques | How to Tie-Dye a T-Shirt

From HowCast & eVillage

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson


Dating back a thousand or so years in Asia, tie-dyeing (also spelled tye-dye or tye-dying) was the coolest of cool things to rev up a T-shirt or gauze dress during the spirited 1960s and 1970s. The combination of vibrant colors and unique patterns was a favorite fashion statement for the "Love Generation," and teenagers by the thousands made their own creations using many techniques.

Tie-dying is an inexpensive way to perk up your casual wardrobe or provide a fun-filled DIY craft project for children | Photo credit: Aegidian, | Creative Commons license
Tie-dying is an inexpensive way to perk up your casual wardrobe or provide a fun-filled DIY craft project for children | Photo credit:  Aegidian, | Creative Commons license

Tie-dye fell out of favor during the glittery Disco Era, but now, with a resurgence of interest in retro, hippie-type fashions, tie-dying is back.

In a nutshell, to tie-dye a garment or piece of fabric is accomplished by folding the material into a pattern, and binding it with string or rubber bands. Dye is then applied to only part of the material. The ties prevent the entire material from being dyed. Designs are formed by applying different colors of dyes to different sections of the fabric and letting them sit in the dye for extended periods of time. Once complete, the material is rinsed clean, and the dye is set using heat.

You don't have to pay $30 or more for a tie-dyed shirt from a boutique. You can DIY-it in an afternoon with just a few inexpensive materials and tools (most notably, a clean, white cotton T-shirt, dye, and rubber bands or string, plus a few other things).

If you want vibrant, bold colors, you should use fiber-reactive dye for tie-dyeing. All-purpose dyes, like RIT dye, will result in more subdued colors and your tie dye folds will be more muted. RIT dye will do an adequate job, but it's not intended for bright, colorful tie-dying.

The three videos below show several tie-dying techniques and the materials needed. You can apply these same techniques to tie-dye homemade curtains, pillow cases, bed sheets, hair accessories, doll clothes... the possibilities are immense!

Even young children, with adult supervision, can successfully tie-dye. If you can find plain white tees at the second-hand store, all the better.

This is also a terrific low-cost craft project for homeschoolers, Boy and Girl Scouts, Sunday School or Vacation Bible School classes, daycare students, youth groups, and sports teams.

Matching T-shirts can be created for a club or organization much cheaper than buying them pre-made or custom ordering them. Newlyweds have been known to make matching shirts to wear on their honeymoon.



Basic Tie-Dye Folding and Tying Patterns

Stripes: Roll the fabric very loosely, forming a long tube. The stripes will be at right angles to the tube. Tie at one-inch intervals or as far apart as you want the stripes to run. Loop rubber bands or wrap string around the tube a few times and knot. Make sure the ties are very tight. Now you can either immerse or squirt the dye on, alternating the colors.

Random Circles: The random circle effect is made by tying knots with string or elastic bands in different places. The more fabric that is tied, the larger the circles. The less fabric that is tied, the smaller the circles.

Spirals: Spiral patterns involve pleats of fabric arranged in swirls around a central point, gathered into a round bundle. Different wedges of the circular bundle are usually dyed different colors. Lay the fabric out on a flat surface. Place your thumb and fingers together on the cloth where you want the center of the design to be. Start twisting so that you create a spiral. After each twist, flatten the fabric so that it stays flat. Be careful so that the folds don't rise or lump up. Bring the loose ends into the circle so it looks like you have a pancake. Secure with bands or string so they intersect, like spokes on a wheel. The spiral pattern takes a lot of practice. Trial and error is the best way to learn to tie dye. Make sure you're satisfied before you place the fabric into the dye.

V: The 'V' shape is achieved by folding a shirt in half vertically, then a line is drawn diagonally from the shoulder area down to the shirt's center fold. The fabric is then accordion-folded along the line and bound into one or more areas to which the dye is applied. When dyed, the pattern will be in the shape of a 'V'.

Rosettes: Rosette patterns (like small roses) involve many little circles touching or overlapping each other. Using a pencil or your mind's eye, make a few dots on the cloth in any pattern. Each dot will be the center of a small circle. With your thumb and forefinger, pick up dot after dot and transfer to the other hand. Wrap string or rubber bands several times around the base of all the circles that have been gathered together. Continue to wrap to the tip and back, making sure your ties are very tight.

Random Tying: A random tying can be comprised of several different folding patterns, the majority of which have nothing to do with each other; they can be combinations or they can be as chaotic as bundling the item to be dyed.

Orange and yellow sunburst tie-dyed shirt

Orange and yellow sunburst tie-dyed shirt

For additional tie-dye folding, pattern, and color application ideas, you can visit the RIT Dye's website section on tie-dye tips.

To view these embedded YouTube videos without their Google ads at the bottom, click the button with the X in the lower right corner (it appears shortly after the video starts to play). However, please view the ads at least once all the way through so that the sponsors are happy and the video creators earn a tiny bit of revenue. Since you'll likely watch these how-to videos a couple of times, watching them at least once with the displayed ads, and clicking any of them that are intriguing to you, should be no hardship.


Beginner's Information on Tie-Dying a Shirt: HowCast


Double Spirals Pattern | Advanced Tie-Dying Technique: eVillage


Vertical Double Roll Pattern | Advanced Tie-Dying Technique: eVillage



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