Clothing + Fashion tie-dye tutorial (7 of 9)

Published on July 24th, 2011 | by Julie Finn


How-to: Tie-Dye

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tie-dyed socksSummer is the best time to tie-dye. Even with gloves on, tie-dye is a messy project, with a couple of iffy chemicals that you don’t necessarily want in your kitchen, but outside you can spread out and make your mess in the fresh summer air, and if you sit on the grass then you won’t even have the driveway to hose off when you’re done.

Additionally, tie-dye works best when it’s allowed to set for 24 hours in an airtight container, and the steamier and the muggier the environment that it sets in, the better. Know any place steamier and muggier than your backyard in the summer?

I love to tie-dye our stained and/or dingy clothes to upcycle them back into nice clothes, and I love to tie-dye with my messy, creative kids. It’s a fun, accessible project with great results. Check out how to do your own tie-dye below:

put rubber bands around the fabric to be tie-dyedYou can tie-dye any fabric made from plant-based fibers– anything cotton, anything linen, anything jersey knit, etc. Protein-based fabrics, such as silk and wool, require different dyes (have you ever dyed silk with Kool-aid?), but if you’ve got anything from T-shirts to tablecloths, then you’re ready to tie-dye.

To tie-dye a fabric, you first must tie off portions of it, either by wrapping the fabric with rubber bands, or simply tying it into knots. You can do this at random, like the five-year-old here (her tie-dyed socks turned out AWESOME, by the way), or you can search online for specific tie-dye techniques.

Next >> Step 2

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

  • Esther Gregory

    Tie-dying is cool and all, but I’m not really sure it belongs on this blog. I would worry about the chemicals your washing down the drain when you rinse excess dye out of the fabric. Have you ever experimented with using natural dyes for tie-dying. Or possibly another kid-friendly, fun clothing alteration project that doesn’t require high quality chemical dyes? 


    • Pumpkinbear

      There are lots of ways to be eco-friendly. There is room for different methods, and each method doesn’t have to be perfection. This particular method focuses on upcycling stained or dingy clothes, not on chemical-free crafting. Natural dyes are also eco-friendly, but they’re not the only correct way to be eco-friendly.

  • Jessica Marie

    I agree with Esther – I’m never sure exactly whether those tie-dye kits are all that eco-friendly.

  • BellaB

    This is such a great idea! I knew that tie-dye existed, of course, but I never thought about using it on clothing that’s not new. I have so many Gerber baby onesies in all sizes that just don’t look nice enough anymore to pass down to my next baby, but I’m thinking now that I can tie-dye them for much cheaper than I can buy all new ones, and they’ll look even better! Thanks!

  • Cas

    Do these dyes work out in the sun like SetAColor?

    • Pumpkinbear

      No, leaving the dyed fabric out in the sun in a watertight container (like an old grocery bag) is only to allow the fabric to remain damp and warm, preferably steamy, for longer. The dyes are not heliographic, and actually, if you didn’t want to leave them outside like I do, you could certainly experiment–perhaps tie them up an an old grocery bag and put them in your dryer for an hour? Skip that step altogether and see if the colors are nevertheless saturated enough to suit you?

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