How to Tie Dye Shirts

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How to Tie Dye Shirts

Tie-dyed clothing was once the apparel of choice for hippies and other 1960s-era youth, who embraced the technique as an inexpensive way of embellishing their apparel and demonstrating their allegiance to the ideals of peace, love, and understanding. Though it was during the Age of Aquarius that tie-dyeing came into vogue, the concept of folding fabric, immersing it in pigment, and straightening it to reveal unique patterns goes all the way back to sixth-century Peru. Other cultures embraced similar techniques, such as the Japanese practice of shibori and the Indonesian practice of batik.
Today, tie-dyeing is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, as fashion mavens of both genders make their own tie-dyed clothing as a means of adopting Bohemian styles of dress and encouraging the concept of artisanal craftsmanship.


Tie-Dye: An Introduction

The tie-dye process starts when a person twists, folds, or otherwise manipulates a garment (most often a shirt), then tightly ties parts of the crumpled item using string or rubber bands. Next, the tie-dyer places the article of clothing into a pot of dye that has been prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (A popular brand of dye is RIT, though other dyes are also available.) The garment should remain in the dye until the colour takes. At that point, the tie-dyer can remove the garment and leave it somewhere safe to dry. Once the garment is no longer wet, the dyer can remove the rubber bands and strings, unfurl the shirt, and take a look at the designs that he or she has created. Anywhere that the dye didn’t touch (for example, inside creases and underneath the rubber bands or string) will remain the same colour as the original shirt, creating an abstract, multi-hued design.


Things to Keep in Mind

Tie-dyeing is a relatively straightforward process once a person gets the hang of it. However, beginning dyers should keep a few things in mind before they start creating their own designs. Tie-dyeing works best when a person uses cotton shirts – preferably those that are 100 percent cotton. A blend of 50 cotton/50 polyester will also work, though the resulting colours might not be as intense as they would have been on a 100 percent cotton shirt. A dyer should be sure to wear rubber gloves so that the dye doesn’t come in contact with his or her skin and should have a pile of rags handy to wipe up spills, should they occur.


Tie-Dyeing Techniques

A nearly endless array of tie-dyeing techniques exist, each producing a different pattern. The following table describes three such techniques, and provides information about how to carry them out, as well as what design each produces.






Flatten the shirt on a tabletop, then grab its center and turn the material in your hands like a dial until the rest of the shirt has spiraled around the middle point. Tie the now-circular shirt closed with three rubber bands and immerse it in the dye.

A spiral pattern that starts in the middle of the shirt and radiates outward.


Flatten the shirt on a tabletop, then roll it into a tube, either from the hem to the neck (for vertical stripes) or from sleeve to sleeve (for horizontal stripes). Wrap rubber bands around the tube and immerse it in the dye.

Vertical or horizontal stripes that span the length or width of the shirt.


Crumple the shirt into a ball, then secure it with rubber bands. Immerse it in the dye.

A mottled, speckled design that covers the entire shirt.


Buying Tie-Dye Supplies on eBay

People can buy tie-dyeing supplies in a variety of places, including craft shops and other specialty stores. However, it’s possible to find all the supplies needed via sellers on eBay. Shopping online gives buyers time to compare and contrast options, make choices from the comfort of their homes, and have everything they require delivered to their door while often times saving money.

To find tie-dyeing supplies from sellers on eBay, buyers can use “dye”, “cotton T-shirt,” and “rubber bands” as keyword phrases when searching categories like Crafts and Craft Supplies. When purchasing supplies, buyers should take care to examine photographs of the items for sale and, if needed, ask extensive questions about an item before bidding or making a purchase. Some items on eBay are sold auction-style, and others feature a Buy It Now option as well.

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