Tie Dying techniques (6 ways to do Tie-Dye for beginners)

Updated on November 13, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

how to do tie dye patterns

The basic method to do Tie dying

Tie and dye involves dyeing specific areas of the fabric by means of tying- the undyed fabric shows up in the base color of the fabric, in patterns depending on how you tie after folding or crumpling, scrunching, or twisting the fabric. This post is about the different ways that you can manipulate the fabric to make those specific patterns and designs the way you want them to occur.

tie dying - step by step method

Step 1. Gather all your supplies

Best FABRIC for tie-dye techniques

Select natural fiber fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp and rayon for your tie-dye project. On blended fabrics the dye color will not stick well. Blends work only if the percentage of natural fiber is very high. A 90% cotton and any other synthetic blend will work nicely but not more than this and it will turn out faded. 

Fabric, Tying materials, and dye
Basic supplies for tie dying.

Choose a warm day to do the tie and dye.

There are two ways to do tie dye:

  • One is to dip and dye the tied fabric.
  • The other method is to use squeeze bottles to apply dye directly on sections of fabric. The method you select will decide what supplies you need.

For dip dying, you need a wide shallow stainless steel container which is used only for dyeing. If you are using the tie dye kits or the squeeze bottles, you do not need the vessel, ofcourse.

You can use waxed silk threads for the tying – they will not take in dyes. Or ordinary thick cord (in case you do not have waxed thread) or even rubber bands.

Do not use rubberbands if you are dyeing in the microwave.

I forgot to mention gloves, and mask. Absolute necessities. Mask is needed if you are using powder dye. So here is the revised list of supplies for the tie dying –  gloves, mask, rubberbands, squeeze bottles full of fye.

Tie dye materials - gloves, mask, rubberbands, squeegee bottles.

You also need plastic sheets to protect your surface – though dye easily wipes out, it is a mess. If you are using the plastic sheet (I use those biodegradable garbage bag cut open) you can just sweep it out and throw it out after the dying is done. 

If you are tie dying tshirts, sweat shirts etc, only on the front, ensure that you are keeping the back of the clothing aside so that dye doesnot get there.

sweatshirt tie dying with coins
Tie dying old cotton sweatshirt with coins tied inside.

Using a plastic sheet inside works better than just holding the back aside.

Step 2. Prepare the fabric for dying.

Make fabric receptive to dyes.

Prewash your fabric. You can prewash the fabric in hot water with detergent and rinse repeatedly or use chemicals like Synthrapol to remove any foreign material from the fabric that may interfere with the dyeing.

hand washing the fabric for tie dye.
Remove all dirt, sizing and impurities from the material.

Sometimes you may have to wash your new fabric twice to remove the new-fabric sizing.

For old fabrics, you have to remove all oil, sweat, dirt etc.

You may want to treat the fabric to make it more recipient to dyes. Experts use soda ash in warm water for this. 1 cup soda ash is added to a gallon of warm water for this. Fabric is soaked in this solution for about 15 minutes

Alternatives to soda ash

If it is a nylon, silk, or wool, you can soak it in vinegar solution for about 30 minutes.

If it is cotton fabric soak it in a salt solution for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the water.

Do not completely dry. Squeeze out water completely and leave it damp. This way the fabric is more reseptive to the dye.

Step 3. Tie, fold or scrunch the fabric

How to do the TYING

How you do the tying depends on your expectation from the process.

tying fabric for dying.

If you want the resist process (that is, the base fabric color remain intact) you will have to tie the material very tightly with the cord. If you do not want the base color to show through, you can use the relaxed tying method.

Twist and tie fabric with string

In the first method, tie as tight as possible so that the fabric remains impenetrable to the dye.

When you do not need the resist effect or when you are tie dying with multiple colors with the squeeze bottles, you can loosely tie the material; it doesnot matter.

There are many ways to fold or tie the material but the 6 basic methods are given below – these are used in different variations and permutations to create beautiful patterns on the fabric.

6 Basic Tie and dye tying techniques

Twisting and coiling

twist the fabric for tie dye by the middle or sides

In this method, you simply twist the fabric and then tie it. This method involves twisting the fabric you have into a tube to look like a rope and/or coiling it further and then tie. You can twist like this in one place or multiple places.

twisting the middle of the t-shirt into a coil for tie dying

You can create very definite patterns on the fabric this way. 


Beads kept inside the fabric and tied in place

In this method, you will be tying your fabric into knots. The fabric is twisted at regular intervals or wherever you want the designs. The knotting can be done randomly or in the form of a large motif.

Stones, shells, coins, used to do tie dye.

Instead of dying the whole fabric, you can dip each knot in a different color dye. You can tie the cloth with small objects inside like small buttons, beads, shells, small stones etc.


Fabric is scrunched and tied

This is a very basic tie and dye technique for creating uneven textured patterns on fabric. This method involves gathering and scrunching the fabric as a tube and/or into a small round and tying it using a binding thread. Tie and dye as you usually do.


Folded fabric in different types of folding techniques before tie dying

You can fold the fabric into pleats and then tie and then dye.

Other than straight pleats you can fold fabric in many different ways like triangular shape. Each corner of the folded fabric can be dipped in different colors for a variety of patterns.

Running or tacking stitches

HAnd made stitches used on folded or twisted fabric to make tie dye patterns

You can use a thick thread to make sewing stitches with a suitable thick needle on your fabric (ensure that the needle is not too thick that ot would leave holes) – running stitches are the most commonly used but whipping stitches are also over folded fabric.

For the best results you need to make these stitches over an outline and then tighten to gather it and then dye.

Pole wrapping/Tying fabric over tubes

Wrap the fabric over pipes and then tie over them to make rain like scattered patterns

A thick stick or tube is used as a base on which fabric is wrapped and then tied with fabric.

Step 4. Dyeing Process

Most of those who do tie dying, use the cold water dyes available as a kit in shops. They come in easy to use squeeze bottles and can be used just by mixing water.

You can also use acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium or the fabric dyes available as powder (hot water dyes). 

If you are using dyes you can follow the directions on the dye packet.

If you are using the squeeze bottles, follow the dye mixing instructions on the bottle and then dye in sections, as you have tied.

squeeze bottles and the tie dyed fabric.

If you are dip dying, when you want to tie and dye in more than one color, start with the light color first. For example if you are thinking of dyeing your fabric with yellow and violet, dye with yellow first. Finish the dyeing, curing, washing, and drying. Now move on to dye with the next colour

This is how I dyed as I had a heat activated dye : Heat the water in your pot up to 70 degree C. Dissolve the dye in this water stirring continuously ; (Afterward you can strain the dye solution through cheesecloth fabric to make sure there are no undissolved particles if you find the dye is not dissolved).

tie dye after all the techniques or twisting and tying are done

Check the color strength on a scrap. Take off the flame.

Now decide on how you will do the dyeing. You can either apply this dye on the fabric kept flat on a covered tabletop with the help of squeeze bottles/paint brushes/sponges or immerse the fabric in dye, completely or partially.

With the surface application method, you can use many different colors at once. If you are squirting dye on the fabric you may have to use the microwave method to heat set the dye depending on the dye type.

If you are doing immersion dyeing, put your tied fabric in the dye solution for about 5-15 minutes, depending on the instructions in your dye packet. Squeeze out the garment so it is damp but not dripping.

If you want to avoid dyeing of certain areas use wax or any other thickening agents there, if the tying is not enough.

The fabric which is dyed using the tie dye techniques

When using the squeeze bottles, you have to ensure that the dye reaches inside all the folds and creases of the fabric (unless you want the mottled look). Use the tip of the squeeze bottle to go inside deep into the folds. 

Squeeze bottle dyeing

After one side is done, you have to flip the material and do the dyeing on the other side too. 

Step 5. CURING the fabric 

After dyeing, you can keep the fabric in a plastic cover, covered with another plastic cover, to cure. You can keep it for 4 hours to 24 hours like this.

You can keep the fabric in the same place, till it is fully dry.

removing the ties carefully after tie dyed fabric is dried

After this remove the ties carefully.

Another option is to wash the dyed fabric with the ties on them. You can rinse the tied fabric in cold water before removing the ties.

tie dye techniques

Step 6. WASHING the tie-dyed fabric 

Remove the ties/folds and keep rinsing until the water runs almost clear.

Use detergent and wash again.

If you are using textile paints/medium for tie dye you will have to heat set the paint by ironing for about 5 minutes with medium heat to set the paint before washing.

Fabric after the tie dye wraps are opened

Step 7. DRYING

Dry flat, away from sunlight.

If you want more patterns in different colors re-tie and dye again. But before that it has to dry completely after finishing the first dyeing; ie rinse and dry separately however many times you dye.

tie dye done on already dyed fabric

Do not forget to protect your eyes and hands from contact with dye. Use goggles/spectacles and gloves. Use dust mask when mixing dye.

For specific patterns you can checkout this post – Different tie and dye patterns.

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Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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