How to tie-dye nearly anything at home

How to tie-dye nearly anything at home

Over the years, tie-dyeing has remained a popular craft that anyone can do to create unique styles. It’s easy to tie-dye almost any fabric item in just a few simple steps.


Item to be dyed 100% cotton items will dye the best, although some blends will still hold dye properly if you want to experiment. You can tie-dye anything that can be tied and dipped in dye, so while T-shirts are always popular, you can also use socks, sheets, handkerchiefs, pants, hats, pillowcases, underwear, or anything else you might think needs a decorative touch.

Dye For the best results, you should buy fabric dye from arts and crafts or another specialty store. It is possible to use the dyes that are sold at your local department store, but they’re really best for soaking fabric in a single color and even then, the result won’t be as vibrant.

Rubber bands or string These will be used for tying the fabric to create the white spaces of the design.

Rubber gloves These will keep your hands dye-free while you work on your project.

3-5 gallon container A tub or bucket will work well for mixing the dye, but make sure that it’s something you don’t mind getting stained.

Floor covering You should put down a tarp, newspapers, or some other protective covering so that you don’t dye the kitchen floor. Or take the project outside on a sunny day, and you won’t have to worry about it.

Pre-treatment Some dyes require you to soak the article you’re going to dye in a solution made from water and either sodium bicarbonate or salt. Follow the directions on your dye package.

Squirt bottles Some dyes can be applied with a squirt bottle for more precise coloring.

Plastic bag Some dyes will require that the dyed clothing sits in a plastic bag for a set amount of time. Again, follow the directions on your dye package.


  1. Gather your supplies and cover your work surface. Pre-treat the fabric as necessary.
  2. Tie the fabric with rubber bands or string to create the desired design. Remember that the rubber bands or string must be tight enough that no dye can seep under them.

-If you want to create a completely random design, just grab chunks of fabric and tie them up.

-For a large circle pattern, lay the shirt flat and pick it up from the center. Run your hand down the length to smooth it into a single tube. Wrap the shirt every one or two inches.

-For a marbled effect, scrunch the fabric into a ball and then tie it until the ball holds its shape.

-For simple stripes, roll the fabric into a tube and only tie those areas where you want a stripe.

-To create a spiral, lay the fabric flat and place a dowel, or similar object, in the center. Twist the dowel to create pleats in the fabric, flatten them as they start to creep up the dowel, and keep twisting until you’ve created a tight circle. Tie the bundle in several places, keeping its shape.

-For a V pattern, fold the fabric back and forth, accordion style, tying as you go.

  1. Either dip the fabric in dye or apply the dye with a squeeze bottle. You can dye the fabric one color or several. Be careful not to mix colors unless you’re creating a particular effect because they can turn muddy.
  2. Follow the directions on the dye package in regards to soak time, rinsing, and setting. Some dyes need to be rinsed immediately while some must sit in a plastic bag for 24 hours.
  3. After rinsing, remove the rubber bands or string unless your dye instructions say otherwise. With some dyes, you should wait until the fabric is completely dry before removing the ties.
  4. Wash the dyed item in cold water. Wash it separately until no dye comes out in the water when rinsed.
  5. Enjoy your fun new design!
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