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Tie-Dye in Six Simple Steps
Tie-Dye in Six Simple Steps

Sure, you can buy your tie-dye in a store these days, but back in the 60s, groovy guys and gals did it themselves. Jump on the iconic bandwagon with this easy retro guide. Though most people envision hippies and a rainbow of bold color, tie-dye began as an ancient resist-dyeing technique used in Asia and Africa, centuries ago. Tie-dye makes a come back every now and again, and whether it's here or not, you can get in on the fun with a few simple steps.

01

Prep

tie dye on line Waradom Changyencham / Getty Images

First off, gather your supplies. These will vary depending on your method, but at the very least you'll need dye, a freshly washed and damp white t-shirt, gloves, stirring sticks, containers for your dye, plastic bags or cling wrap, a drop cloth, and rubber bands. You will also need a place to rinse and line dry your shirt.

02

Tie

tied fabric tie-dye supplies yongyeezer / Getty Images

There are many ways you can tie your shirt, and each results in a unique pattern. Typically, people use elastics or rubber bands to secure the fabric in place while it's dyed. A simple freestyle pattern can be achieved by scrunching the fabric in random spots, and we have includes a few more suggestions below. Always begin with clean, damp fabric.

03

Dip, dunk, or squeeze

squeeze tie-dye Figure8Photos / Getty Images

Tie-dye is super fun, but also super messy. If you're using a single color, you can fully submerge your shirt in the dye. You can also dip the fabric, or use a paintbrush or squeeze bottle. Remember, the dye will stain anything it touches, so plan accordingly. No matter your method, always seal your design in a plastic bag for 24 hours afterwards, to cure.

04

Repeat

rack of multiple tie-dye t-shirts VictorHuang / Getty Images

This is where the various color patterns and styles of tie-dye shine. If you're making a monochromatic design, skip this step. For multiple colors, repeat this step until satisfied by adding colors to your design one at a time. Be sure to check out the tips in the last step before applying your dye. Certain colors work better together than others.

05

Rinse your t-shirt

Remove your cured tie-dye garment from the plastic bag and rinse it with cold water. Let the water fully saturate the fabric and gently squeeze out as much excess dye as you can. Keep rinsing, using fresh water if needed, until the run-off is almost or completely clear.

06

Dry your t-shirt

tie-dye drying on line Nuttanin Knyw / Getty Images

Once the fabric is rinsed of all excess dye, remove the rubber bands and place on a clothesline to dry. It's best to let your projects drip dry outdoors — and if you can rinse them out there, all the better to avoid tracking dye into your house. Once your shirt has dried in the sun, throw it in the washer (alone, so any remaining dye doesn't damage other clothes) and dryer. Your epic new shirt is ready to wear!

07

Shibori-inspired tie-dye

shibori tie dyed silk Premyuda Yospim / Getty Images

Shibori is a Japanese resist-dye technique most well known for it's Edo period kimonos dyed with indigo. You can achieve a similar result using a blue dye or another color. Lay the shirt flat, thne roll it around a tube, like a PVC pipe. Scrunch the fabric towards the center and secure with elastic bands before dyeing.

08

Sunburst tie-dye

woman tying T-shirt for sunburst tie-dye pattern ti-ja / Getty Images

Lay the fabric out flat. Pinch a spot where you'd like your sunburst to be and secure a rubber band to hold it in place. It should look like a little knob. Add as many of these as you wish. Remember that the knob will be darkest, with the white or base color lines of the sunburst spreading out around it.

09

Spiral tie-dye

tie dye rainbow spiral strathroy / Getty Images

To achieve the spiral effect lay the shirt out flat. Pinch any point on the fabric — this will be the spiral's center. Begin twisting your shirt and continue until it is rolled into a spiral shape. Secure with rubber bands. Dye each section separately with as many or few colors as you want. Use every color of the rainbow for a classic look.

10

Last-minute tips

man with tie-dyed shirt gives peace sign CREATISTA / Getty Images

Tie-dye is a fairly simple and intuitive process, but it can result in a muddy mess. Keep these few tips in mind when dying to avoid some common pitfalls. Stick to the primary colors, and avoid placing contrasting colors — such as red and green — side by side, or they will turn brown. Remember, the narrower your folds, the smaller your white space will be. For large patterns, increase the size of your folds.

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