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Tie-Dyeing 101

Wet, wild, and, yes, a little messy, tie-dyeing is the perfect way to keep kids entertained on a summer day. Even adults will appreciate that moment of anticipation just before the unraveling of rubber bands reveals their own vibrant creations.

Photography: Tosca Radigonda

Source: Martha Stewart Living, August 2007

Introduction

Tie-dyeing is a "resist" technique: Fabric is cinched so that when it's immersed, certain areas resist the dye. The undyed areas form decorative patterns against the dyed ones. 

 

This simple technique requires minimal equipment and supplies that are available at any supermarket or hardware store. Simply set out bowls of rubber bands, clothespins, marbles, and garments (for best results, use 100 percent cotton) and experiment with a variety of expressive patterns.

 

To begin, choose a pattern and gather fabric accordingly. Don rubber gloves, and mix dye (following manufacturer's instructions). Add a cup of salt to deepen the color if you like. Immerse a garment in dye and gently swish it around with a spoon. Remove when the color is slightly darker than desired; this should take 5 to 20 minutes. Rinse the fabric in warm and then cool water until water runs clear. Remove clothespins or rubber bands. Hand-wash with a mild detergent and warm water, and rinse with cool water. Or launder alone in a washing machine. Wring in a clean old towel and then line-dry, or machine-dry on the coolest setting. Below are four popular designs, although the possibilities are limitless

materials

  • Rubber gloves

  • Dye (Rit All Purpose Liquid Dye, starting at $3, amazon.com.)

  • Large non-reactive bowls, such as glass or enamel

  • Non-reactive spoon

  • Salt

  • Fabric

  • Rubber bands

  • Marbles

  • Mild detergent

steps

  1. For pleated stripes: Lay a T-shirt flat, and fold in its sleeves. Accordion-fold the shirt from the bottom up in the desired stripe width.

  2. Cinch one end of the folded shirt with a rubber band; repeat every inch or so.

  3. Dye fabric following our basic technique described above, and remove rubber bands to result in a striated pattern.

  4. For band bunches: Push one finger up inside shirt front, and with your other hand pull the fabric into a long point. Bind the fabric point tightly with rubber bands.

  5. Repeat this process in a random pattern over the front and back of the shirt.

  6. Dye fabric following our basic technique described above, and remove rubber bands to result in a bunched pattern.

  7. For marble spheres: Decide on a layout for your pattern. Lay a marble inside the flat T-shirt, and cinch fabric over it with a rubber band.

  8. Repeat this process with additional marbles to create your desired pattern.

  9. Dye fabric following our basic technique described above, and remove rubber bands and marbles to result in a circular pattern.

  10. For triangle folds: Fold a T-shirt in half lengthwise twice; fold sleeves so they're facing outward.

  11. Fold up one bottom corner of the fabric at a 90-degree angle, and repeat until you are left with a triangle of fabric. Bind with rubber bands.

  12. Dye fabric following our basic technique described above, and remove rubber bands to result in a triangular pattern.

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