How to Tie Dye Mandala Patterns

The simple definition of mandala is 'sacred circle art.' Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning orb, heavenly body or halo. Mandala symbols are found in many cultures and religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Celtic, Native American and Hindu. The astrological zodiac is a mandala, representing a graphic interpretation of the cosmos. Even Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, thought the mandala was a symbol of self. Because of the spiritual nature of the mandala, it is a popular symbol to tie-dye.

Choose the item you are going to tie dye. Select something that will show off the round shape of the mandala pattern. Popular choices are a T-shirt, tablecloth or sheet.

Wash your item to remove any fabric staying put on by the manufacturer.

Iron your item to remove all the wrinkles.

Assemble your supplies in one place so they are available when needed.

Heat a pot of water on the stove for each colour of dye you are going to use. Do not boil the water -- keep it just under a simmer.

Put on rubber gloves and dissolve one dye colour in a bowl with some hot water.

Add each colour dye solution to a different pot of hot water.

Fold your fabric in half. If you are using a T-shirt, fold it so the sleeves are together on top of each other.

Spray the fabric lightly with water so it is slightly damp.

Fold it in half again, so your fabric is now folded in quarters. For a T-shirt, fold up in half from the bottom to the neck. Tuck the sleeves in to the centre of the two halves. You now have a square or rectangle of fabric.

Fold the square in half again, making a triangle shape. On each side of the triangle, make accordion folds until the entire item is folded in to small sections. Don't worry about it being completely symmetrical or uniform. Just try to make the same number of folds on each side.

Tie the fabric tightly with string in three or four places. Use more string if you are dyeing a large item, such as a tablecloth. If you are using several colours, you can use the string to mark sections where the different colours of dye will go -- each section will be a different colour.

Dip each section of your item into the dye solutions. You can fold the middle sections and dip these sections between the strings into the pots. Or,you can fill squirt bottles with dye and squirt the dyes onto the fabric. You will need to take care when you do this so dye does not stain your surrounding areas. A good way to do this is on a large piece of plastic outdoors.

Watch the dye soak into the fabric and remove it when the item is saturated with colour. Squeeze the excess dye back into the pot with your hands, wearing your rubber gloves.

Lay the item on a piece of foil. Wrap it tightly and put it into a plastic bag. It needs to sit for at least eight hours, and up to 24.

Rinse your item with cold water until it is completely free of dye residue. Wash in the machine by itself in warm water with a mild washing powder. Dry the item. It is now ready to wear.


Experiment with different ways of folding and combining different colours. Each result will be a different pattern. Wash the item separately for the first few times in case it bleeds.


When dissolving the dye, be sure to use bowls that you don't mind getting stained.

Things You'll Need

  • Item to be dyed -- must be at least 90 per cent cotton
  • Fine string
  • Dye in your choice of two to five colours
  • Bowls
  • One large pots for each colour
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stove
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Squirt bottles for each colour of dye
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About the Author

Jill Davis started writing professionally in 2006. She has had articles published in "Yogi Times" and "Orange Pealings" magazines. Davis received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University, Long Beach.