Updated on September 3, 2022 by Sarina

how to do tie dye patterns

The basic method to do Tie dye

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.

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

Choose a warm day to do the tie and dye.

You need a wide shallow stainless steel container which is used only for dyeing.

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.

How to PREPARE fabric for tie dye

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. 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 etc.

Do not completely dry. Just squeeze out water and leave it damp.

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. For a more accessible solution, 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.

How to do the TYING

 Fold, tie the fabric in your preferred method – there are so many ways but the 6 basic methods are given below.

Twist and tie fabric with string

And tie as tight as possible so that the fabric remains impenetrable to the dye.

6 Basic Tie and dye 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 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.

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.

DYEING technique

You can either use acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium or the fabric dyes. 

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

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 : 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.

The fabric which is dyed using the tie dye techniques

CURING the fabric 

After dyeing you can keep the fabric in a plastic cover to cure. You can keep it for 4 hours to 24 hours like this in a warm place. You can keep the fabric like this it is fully dry.

WASHING the tie-dyed fabric 

After this, but before removing the folds or tie, rinse the tied fabric in cold water. 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


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.

Related posts : What is Tie and Dye : 8 different techniques from around the world; Different types of fabric dyes; How to dye fabric – an overview.; How to do fabric painting.

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