Directions for Tie-Dye Patterns

Written by jessica cook
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Directions for Tie-Dye Patterns
Make a variety of tie-dye creations using basic tie-dye patterns. (tie-dyed shirts image by Jim Parkin from

Tie-dye is a process for creating colourful patterns on fabrics. You can tie-dye any type of fabric, from T-shirts to tablecloths, and the cost of tie-dyeing is relatively low. Kids love the bright colours of tie-dyed fabrics, and enjoy creating tie-dye patterns of their own (under close supervised). As long as you are careful to protect the area in which you work from being damaged by the dye, you can have hours of tie-dyeing fun.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Dye
  • Water
  • Buckets
  • T-shirts
  • Clothespin
  • Scrap cloth strips
  • Rubber bands

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  1. 1

    Prepare your dyes in a variety of colours. You can purchase fabric dyes at craft and mass retail stores; some dyes, like Rit brand, are for any types of fabrics while others are specifically created for tie-dyeing. Follow the directions on individual packages, but in general you will have to mix a portion of dye in hot water. Mix your dyes in a large bucket or other container so that you can easily dip your T-shirts into them. You will also need access to cold water for rinsing your tie-dyed creations; a sink or hose will work well for this purpose. If you can, try to make your tie-dye projects in your backyard to avoid making a mess in your house.

  2. 2

    Make a spiral tie-dye pattern. Lay out your T-shirt on a flat surface and pinch the centre with a clothespin. Twist the clothespin clockwise and allow the fabric to twist up around the sides of the clothespin in a spiralling motion. Now your T-shirt should resemble a flat disc with a spiralled twist pattern emanating out from the centre. Tie a scrap of fabric around the outside circumference of the T-shirt disc. Tie another strip of fabric across it like you're wrapping a bow on a package, and tie a third strip in the same way perpendicular to the first cross strip. Now you should have one length of fabric around the rim of the disc and two crossing over the centre of the disc like an "X."

  3. 3

    Hold the T-shirt in your hand like you're ready to eat a cookie. Dip it into the dye as if dipping a cookie into milk; dip it halfway in so that the dye meets one of your centre-crossed ties. Rinse with cold water and repeat, making a quarter turn each time so that when you dip the T-shirt into the dye you're dipping a dyed portion and an undyed portion.

  4. 4

    While the shirt is still tied up, rinse with cold water. Unwrap the ties and rinse again, hanging to dry or placing in the clothes dryer for a faster dry.

  5. 5

    Dye a bullseye or sunburst pattern. Lay the T-shirt out on a flat surface and pinch the centre with your fingers. Lift the shirt up from the centre and tie a rubber band tightly around the shirt, approximately three inches down from where you have pinched. Wrap a rubber band around another section two to three inches down. Repeat this for as many sections as you want on the shirt. Dip the pinched centre section into the dye pot and hold, then rinse. Dip the next section into the dye pot and hold, then rinse; for this portion you may have to re-dip the first section in order to immerse the second section in the dye pot. To dip the last section, turn the T-shirt in the opposite direction to dip from the bottom up. Rinse with after each dip and again at the end, then unwrap the rubber bands, rinse once more, and hang to dry.

  6. 6

    Dye a striped pattern. Fold your T-shirt in an accordion style and wrap rubber bands all around the length of the folded shirt before dipping into the dyes. Dip into one dye for a single colour look with white stripes where your folds and rubber bands were; or dip the shirt in sections using a few different colours. The areas where you have folds and rubber bands will vary the intensity of the colours you have chosen. Rinse the shirt, then unwrap, unfold, rinse again and hang to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Always wear gloves when using dyes, as they will stain your skin.
  • In order to avoid dipping the shirt into dye twice, use a plastic turkey baster to squirt dye onto the T-shirt instead. This will help separate dye colours more completely.

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