How to Get Started With Tie-Dye
How to get Started With Tie-Dye

Tie-Dye is Making It’s Way Back

Tie-Dye was all the rage in the 60’s with bell-bottoms, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Sit-Ins! Yesterday’s tie-dye is making a comeback but with an amazing twist. The dying technology has changed and techniques are similar but much improved. You can make your own tie-dye quickly and easily.

Tie-Dye has moved back to being trendy and fashionable with the movement to saving our earth and the DIY culture. We all have a stake in the future and DIY is making a difference!

A Little Background on Tie-Dye

Tie-Dye originated in Japan and Indonesia and started around the 8th century. The art form was called Shibori which entailed labor intensive stitchings and gathering techniques to create patterns in the dyed material. In Japan these patterns were used for kimonos.

Basically tie-dye is a collection of techniques to make the material you are working on dye-resistant. This means you control where the colors are dyed in order to make incredible patterns.

Tie-Dye from

What You Need to Get Started

Tie-dye works best with cotton material but you are not restricted to using just cotton. My polyester shirt stains well, so it is also a candidate for my tie-dye projects. You want the fabric to be porous so that the dyes can be absorbed and the colors stand out.

Remember the goal here is to restrict the dye from penetrating certain areas of the materials. If you tie a big knot in the material and then dunk it into the dye, only the exposed parts will take on the new color.

Tie-Dye example from

The next item which will be helpful is a number of (a couple dozen) heavy duty elastic bands. These will be used for keeping your fabric bunched the way you want it. We will not be creating a Japanese intricate kimono here but a simple circular pattern such as the one above so the elastic bands or another item that can hold the material together is needed.

Clothing dye is essential but you can use beet, blueberry, or other food juices that have a tendency to stain anything that gets in its way. Just remember that juices will often fade with time. BTW you can also use food coloring for your project.

Here is the essentials list to get started:

  • A bowl or bucket (around 3 gallon size) – this will be used for dyes and may get stained so don’t use one where you want to keep it unstained.
  • A glass jar that seals well. I have used old peanut butter jars because they have tight-sealing lids. The lid is very important – you do not want any spills.
  • Rubber gloves to protect you from staining! Long gloves that go up your arm are actually best – be sure to wear old clothing that you don’t mind ruining with this process.
  • Measuring spoon so you can measure accurately the amount of dye or soda ash as needed. A teaspoon is perfect.
  • Dye that is fiber reactive. There are a couple of brands out there and the two that come to mind are Jacquard Procion and Dylon Permanent – there are others but make sure the one you choose is fiber reactive.
  • Soda ash fixative. Once you have dyed your fabric, you will want to make sure the dye stays in the clothing and not on other items in the wash.
  • A shirt or other piece of fabric that has been pre-washed. You do not want to have the sizing in the clothing as it will prevent some of the dye from absorbing.

General Steps in the Process

There are 3 basic steps you need to follow for your tie-dye project. Tying your material should be done before each application of dye. I will outline the steps here and give you some extra resources to spark your imagination when it comes to making patterns.

  • Step 1 – fill your bucket with approximately 1 gallon of cool clean water. Make sure you put on your rubber gloves. Fill your glass jar halfway full with cool water. Measure 2, 3, or 4 teaspoons of dye (the more dye you add the darker the color you will get). Shake the jar to dissolve all the dye then pour the mixture into the bucket. Now that the jar is emptied, fill it halfway with hot water and measure 6 teaspoons of Soda Ash and shake it until completely dissolved. Add the mixture to the bucket and stir everything together.
  • Step 2 – make sure your shirt is wet and you have tied it the way you wish (more on how to tie your article later). place the shirt in the bucket and stir frequently. You should let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour. The time will depend on how deep a color you want.
  • Step 3 – remove the shirt from the dye bath with a long stick (you can use tongs). Remember you should be wearing your rubber gloves. Rinse your shirt under warm water at first, then cooler water later until the water runs clear when you rinse the shirt. You will want to wash the shirt alone the first time you do the laundry – just in case some of the dye escapes.
DIY Tie-Dye courtesy of

Reading Resources to Learn More

Having a book in hand to guide the way is crucial. I have compiled a list of books that should help you along the way.

Tie-Dye 101: How to Make Over 20 Fabulous Patterns (Design Originals)

Totally Awesome Tie-Dye

Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It

Video Resources

How To Tie-Dye Water Drops

Tie-Dye 101: Tips & Tricks

Tulip Tie-Dye

Rosed Dyed Using Tie-Dye Methods

Last Word

I find Tie-Dye to be messy but a lot of fun. The results are amazing and very rewarding. If you have decided you want to try this project, take photos and share them with me.

Until tomorrow…


Bette Daoust
Bette Daoust

Dr. Bette Daoust is a Copious Crafter with many crafts and techniques completed with very many more to go. Bette's Makes ❤️ DIY Home Decor DIY Craft Tutorials, DIY Paper Flowers