How to tie dye

How to tie dye

Transform humble jeans or hoodies with our guide on how to tie dye. Once you know how to tie dye correctly you can be as sophisticated or as messy as you please…

What you will need to tie dye

  • Something to tie dye. Tie dying works best on natural fibres, so pick something that’s at least 60% cotton, hemp or silk. Hey – why not pick a nice pair of darkish blue skinny jeans and aim to give them a tie dye turquoise/green makeover? Indie heaven.
  • Accessories to make the tie dye effect. Basically when dyeing your clothes, you need something to scrunch up your material with so that the dye can’t get to all of it. Rubber bands, elastic bands or string will be perfect.
  • Some dye. Ideally you really don’t want all-purpose dye. You want some good fabric dye that isn’t going to go anywhere. Simply Spray Fabric Spray Paint is semi-cheap and comes in an array of colours. This clothing dye resources page lists dye suppliers in four continents. Check if the dye requires you to also pre-treat your clothes with soda ash. RIT Fabric Dye is great – it’s cheap and plentiful so you can save some for another day – or tie dye a whole big batch of clothing at once.
  • Rubber gloves. Whether you use a nice kitsch pair of marigolds or religiously save your old ‘disposable’ gloves from hair dye kits, a pair of rubber or plastic gloves is essential for tie dye without mess.
  • Large bucket. Most buckets will stain from the dye, so make sure it doesn’t matter if your container never quite looks the same again after your tie dye endeavours. Also, make sure it holds 3-5 gallons. And find an old spoon or stick to stir the dye with.
  • Soda ash / salt. This depends on the dyes you’re using and the effect you want to create. Pre-treating your clothes with soda ash will fix vibrant colours more strongly. If you’re using RIT dye, salt will add vibrancy to darker colours. In most cases, for your first tie dye attempt you can probably live without either of these.
  • Emergency clean-up kit. Unless you’re a very, very tidy person – which, quite frankly, you’re not – you’ll need emergency newspaper, soaky cloths and the like for damage limitation.

How to tie-dye

First, think about what you want to tie dye and what effect you want. If you’re tie dyeing a white pair of trousers you can use strong vibrant colours. If your item of clothing is dark, be prepared for a more subtle effect.

Make sure your item clothing has been washed at least once in its life so there is no danger of shrinkage.

Lay your dry tee-shirt/jeans/skirt/whatever flat out and fold, scrunch and tie as you wish. This is much easier to do when the clothing is dry.

Now put on your rubber gloves and follow the instructions on your dye to the letter when preparing it. If you’re using RIT dye, dip your clothing in hot water. If they tell you to pre-treat your clothes in soda ash, do it.

Now it’s time to tie dye your clothing! If you’re using more than one colour, start with the lightest colour first. The dye manufacturer will tell you whether you need to rinse or wait between colours. Once you’ve done as much tie dyeing as you can handle, allow your clothing to dry.

Tie dye tip: This is all a bit of an effort, so it makes sense to tie dye more than one item of clothing. That way you can try out a few different tie dye styles, as well – from squinchy starry shapes to tiny little circles… The nice thing about tie dyed clothes is that each one is unique. Guaranteed.

There is a good chance your tie dyed jeans/hoodie etc. might bleed the first few times they are washed. So it’s safer to wash them in cold water at first and see how they cope. After you move to using the washing machine, wash them either with similar colours or on their own.

These tie dyed jeans are a thing of simple beauty.

Idea: Pull your shirt into a long sausage then wrap it round itself in a flat ball. Tie with string then spray across with Simply Spray to get this.

Tie your clothing with double-bumps and doughnuts as pictured, them dip them in a bucket of purple RIT Fabric Dye to get this. We recommend going with much, much smaller circles, like tiny bubbles blowing out of a goldfish’s mouth. You can do this by making your initial knots really tiny tight single bumps.