Tie-dyed garments and fabrics are created by tying string or rubber bands around fabric in a set pattern, then either immersing the cloth into a dye bath or squirting dye onto its surface. Tie-dyed garments and fabric are typically a kaleidoscope of bold, bright colours and wild, swirling patterns. Bandhani is the oldest form of traditional tie-dyeing, practised in India for 5,000 years. Modern multicolour tie-dyeing came of age with the introduction of cold-water fibre reactive dyes in the 1950s and tie-dyeing became generally popular in the 1960s. Techniques have not changed since then; however, many contemporary tie-dye masters and enthusiasts use organic, vegetable dyes in place of harsh, toxic chemical dyes.
Knot tying is one of the easiest tie-dyeing techniques. Hold the cloth at both ends and twist it into a long rope form. Tie the rope into a knot and tighten. Tie as many knots as you have the length to do so. To achieve fine veinlike lines in the pattern, tie string or wrap a rubber band around each of the knots. Test your pattern on a piece of scrap fabric before tie-dyeing a T-shirt or other garment.
The spiral technique creates some of the most compelling, artistic patterns in tie-dyeing. Lay your fabric on a flat surface, place your thumb and a couple of fingers firmly at the centre point and begin twisting the fabric--keep your fingers in place to hold the fabric flat. After each twist, flatten the material to keep it from bunching up. Bring all the loose ends into the circle with your other hand and twist until the fabric takes on the form of a flat pancake. Slide four to eight rubber bands around the disc, intersecting in the centre to help the fabric retain the round shape. Either immerse in a dye bath without stirring or squirt dye onto the fabric's surface.
Rosettes are tiny circles that touch or overlap one another. To make them, draw dots on the fabric or garment with a pencil in a random pattern. These dots indicate the centre of the circles or rosettes. Pick up two dots with your thumb and forefinger and transfer the fabric to your other hand; repeat with all of the dots you've drawn. Once the fabric is gathered in a bunch in your other hand, tightly wrap string or rubber bands around the base and continue wrapping back up to the top and back down again, keeping each tie uniformly tight.
To make tie-dye stripes, roll the cloth into a long tube; the stripes will form at right angles. Tie string around the tube at one-inch or more increments. Tightly wrap rubber bands or string around the tube a few times; be sure to knot the string. Immerse the fabric in a dye bath or squirt different colours of dye into each section.