Rainbows of Fun

Tie dying is a terrific way to create one-of-a-kind clothing, plus it's an absorbing family or group craft.

By Barbara Albright


Tie dying is never out of fashion simply because it's so much fun. Kids love wearing and sharing their creations!

Candidates for tie dying include plain natural fabric t-shirts, nightshirts, sweat pants, sheets, and curtains.

The result is close to magical: when you untie the cloth, your creation is revealed in an array of bright, bold colors and patterns.

You can tie dye with any fabric dye or by using a tie-dye kit. If using a kit, refer to the instructions that come with it, particularly if you are a beginner.

Getting Started
Tie dye is a good project to undertake in good weather when you can work outside or in a garage. Because it can be messy, it's advisable to wear rubber gloves and old clothes or a smock. Cover the work area with plastic, such as a painter's drop cloth or an old shower curtain.

Begin by saturating the material or garment with water. It is easier to fold, pleat, or twist wet cloth.

Use rubber bands or string to tie the material. String works best on heavy fabric, such as jeans, while rubber bands are fine for lighter-weight cloth.

Soak the fabric in a mixture of cold water and sodium carborate or soda ash to set the dye (one cup per one gallon of water). Or just use plain water.

Some Techniques
Bunching: Wad the cloth into a ball. Wrap many rubber bands around it haphazardly, taking care to maintain the round shape. Soak and wring excess liquid from the fabric. Squirt dye into the folds.

Spiraling: Lay the garment on a flat surface. Select a center point and twist the material clockwise to make a tight bundle. Bind this with rubber bands and make six or more pie-shaped wedges. Soak and wring excess liquid from the fabric. Apply the dye in a spiral dribbles over the wedges.

Concentric Circles: Grasp the material and pull it into a point. Squash it into a long cylinder and then secure it with rubber bands. The distance between the rubber bands determines the distance between the concentric circles. Soak and wring excess liquid from the fabric. Squirt with or soak in dye.

Consider where to place the circles. You might want a bulls-eye in the center of a shirt's back or you might want circles on the shoulders.

Stripes: Starting at one side of the garment, roll or pleat the cloth into a long tube. For horizontal stripes, roll the garment from left to right and then bind with rubber bands. For vertical, roll from top to bottom. Place the rubber bands as close together or as far apart as you desire, depending on the width of the stripe. Soak and wring excess liquid from the fabric. Apply the dye to the areas between the rubber bands, using as many colors as you want.

Knotting: Form the material into a long thin piece and tie it into knots. Soak and wring excess liquid from the fabric. Apply the dye.

Individual Circles: Use rubber bands or string to tie around objects such as beads, coins, or stones encased in the fabric. Soak and wring the excess liquid from the fabric and dye. Remove the beads, coins or stones after the fabric is dry.

Cover or wrap the bundled-up, dyed material in plastic. Don't let two different items touch each other. Let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, put on rubber gloves and rinse the tied bundles under warm running tap. When the water runs almost clear, carefully cut the rubber bands or string, still holding the material under the water.

Without delay, wash the items separately in the washing machine with liquid detergent. Hang or machine dry.

Strike a groovy pose!