Tie-dye techniques with bleach

Written by alana armstrong
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Tie-dye techniques with bleach
Tie-dye is a recurring fashon staple that mixes bright, bold colours with a raw, edgy effect. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Over the decades, tie-dye clothing has been worn by hippies, surfers, been part of the grunge scene and has even graced a few high-fashion runways. By tradition, tie-dye is a true DIY process, which leaves it wide open to various techniques and experimentation. By using bleach to do the dying, garments are given an edgy, acid-wash effect that works best with solid, pure, dark-coloured fabrics.

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Roll the fabric up into a tight tube. The stripes will appear in the opposite direction to which you rolled it. For added texture in the final effect, give the roll of fabric a few twists before adding any rubber bands. Wrap the rubber bands along the length of the tube and make sure each one is tight; the bands are what will retain the original colour of the material. With the rubber bands, you can control the number of stripes, their thickness and the distance between them.


To achieve the classic spiral design, spread the fabric out on a flat surface. Pinching the fabric up where you want the centre of the spiral to appear. Twist from the pinched centre until the whole thing is spiralled around the centre axis. Curl the edges of the fabric firmly around the centre to form a tight snail shell bundle and secure the bundle with enough rubber bands to hold it in place.

Star Burst

Wrap a marble inside the material in the spot where the centre of the star burst will appear. Lift the material up by the marble and allow it to fall naturally down. Add the rubber bands by wrapping the first one just below the marble. Achieve different effects through the width and number of the rubber bands and the distance that you leave between them.


For lots of smaller circles, wrap the fabric around marbles or any other spherical objects that can withstand being exposed to bleach. Pinch the fabric below the marble so that it's taut and hold it in place by wrapping a rubber band around the pinched base. The effect can be controlled by the size and number of marbles used and how they are arranged on the garment.


Knots are the easiest way to tie-dye items because it doesn't require any tools to tie off the fabric. The technique creates a series of large, free-form circles. By using bleach, the circles will be marbled with veins of original colour of the garment.

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