How to Tie-Dye: The Easy Way

Hello there, hippies! In this article, I will show you the simple process that I and my friends use to create our own tie-dyed clothing with a minimum of time and trouble. You can tie-dye just about any piece of cloth, from shirts and pants to towels and tablecloths...and each one is unique, so the possibilities are nearly endless.

Anyway, let's get to it. Start by figuring out what you want to tie-dye. I recommend plain white T-shirts, but do as you like. Now, go to the store and get the following:

  1. Salt
  2. Fabric Dye (as many colors as you want to use)
  3. Rubber Bands
  4. Disposable Plastic Gloves
  5. Squirt Bottles (one for each color of dye)
  6. Trash bags

All of these things should be easy to find. If you have trouble finding the squirt bottles, you can always improvise them by taking a small plastic drink bottle and punching a small hole in the lid. This can also be used to squirt your enemies with dye before you run away cackling...but you didn't hear that from me.

Step 1: Prepare the Dying Solution

Begin by putting some water in a pot and boiling it:

When it's reached a nice rolling boil, plug up your sink and pour the hot water in. Then, put more water in the pot and boil it, too. Keep doing this until you have about a quarter-sinkful of hot water.

Now here, you might be thinking you can just use hot water from the tap...well, you shouldn't. The hotter the water is, the better it will work for this process. Therefore, it would be inadvisable to use anything but the hottest water.

Anyway, once the water is as hot as you can deal with, add a decent quantity of salt. It doesn't have to be any particular amount, but for this much water, about a half-cup of salt will do just fine.

Now stir the water real good with a stick or a spatula or something, to mix that salt in real thorough-like:

That's all for this step. All you have really done here is created some good hot salt water. This will be used as a mordant. For those of you who don't know, a mordant is a substance that helps a dye to "stick". A mordant could rightly be called a "dye-fixer" because, without one, many dyes will not work. These substances keep the dye from running or coming out in the wash. There are many mordants besides salt water, but let's not worry about that for now.

Step 2: Dip the Clothing and Lay It Out

Okay, the first part of this is really obvious. All you have to do is put the garment (a shirt, in this case) into the water and leave it for a few minutes. use a stick or something to stir it around in the water to make sure all parts of the garment are saturated.

The next thing you will need to do is get out one of your trash bags, and lay it across the counter like so:

Now, check the water by putting your fingertip in the water for ONLY THE BRIEFEST INSTANT. Don't give it time to burn you. Once you have determined that the water isn't going to scald you, fish the garment out of the water and wring it out with your hands:

When you are done, it should still be damp, but not dripping.
So, now just fold this shirt like this:

And put it down on the plastic like this:

Make sure that all the edges are lined up, as my hippie friend is doing here.

Step 3: The Tying

You may have wondered why they call this process "tie-dye". It is so called because you tie it and then dye it. First, let's learn how to tie.

There are many ways to do this, and there really is no wrong way, so I will show you two basic methods for you to start with. You can use my examples or come up with your own way of tying. It is entirely up to you.

Let's start with a simple spiral tie. Start by taking a pair of pliers and gripping the garment somewhere (doesn't really matter where):

Then, you twist it up, using your other hand as needed to keep it together in a nice little bundle:

When it is fully twisted, you take rubber bands and bind the whole bundle together.

Here is a video that shows the twisting and tying process if you have any confusion:

Or, you might opt for the twist tie. Begin by spreading out your shirt on the plastic, and folding the top part down like so:

Now, roll that sleeve up all the way:

Now, have a friend hold one end of it, while you twist the other:

And use rubber bands (lots of them) to hold the twist in place:

Now, you fold it double..

And twist it up again, using rubber bands to hold it in place as before. The result should look something like this:

I recommend that you start with these two basic ties. Once you have used both of them a few times, you should get creative and start experimenting with all kinds of different ways of folding and tying cloth. There is a lot of room for creativity here. For instance, here is a strange one that a friend of mine did:

I would teach you how to do this one, except that this one was the product of random experimentation (which is very hard to repeat). My friend said he's not even sure if he can do it again. Still, this gives you an idea of just how creative you can get.

So, at this point your garment should be neatly tied up, and you are finally ready to dye the sucker.

Step 4: The Dyeing

This is the fun part. First, you mix up your dye. Get about this much of the powdered dye:

And add it to one of the bottles. Then, fill the rest of the bottle up with water:

I don't really have to tell you to put the lid on it, do I? Anyway, now, you are ready to dye the bundle.

There isn't much to this. All you really do is squirt the dye over the bundle in a random pattern. Here is a video of me dying a spiral tie:

And here's one with the twist tie:

Now, the final step is to wrap the bundle up in that garbage bag you've got there, and leave it for 24 hours.

So, anyway, that about wraps it up (no pun intended).

As you can see, this process is a lot of fun and can produce some very nice-looking clothes. Even if you don't really wear tie-dye clothing, you can always just do your towels and washcloths, and any other piece of clothing you want to make more colorful. And so, I bid you adieu until next time.

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