Once limited to beach wear and wash-faded jeans, tie-dye is coming into its own as an art form. All you need to do is tie some knots, fold some pleats, and add some dye, and the results will be original, if not always predictable. Clothes, pillows, bedspreads, wall hangings, and rugs are just a few of the items that can receive new life through color.
Whether applied to ready-made clothes or fabrics to be sewn, tie-dye can add a new dimension to your wardrobe. It allows for unusual color combinations as well as design. Perhaps its most enticing element is actually an added feature—the surprise of seeing what you’ve made.
Before dyeing, consider the fabric and its ability to pick up dye. All washable materials except some polyesters and acrylics can be dyed. Be sure to avoid metallic fibers, fiberglass, and fabrics with water repellent, wrinkle-resistant, and stain-resistant finishes. Recommended materials include unbleached muslin, cotton (including knits and cotton voile), nylon, tricot, acetate, satin, organdy, organza, hopsacking, tightly-woven burlap, felt, rayon, velvet, and chiffon. For best results ready-made clothing or fabrics should be washed to remove sizing (stiffness) and finishes before dyeing.
In tying, use various knots and folds (see pp. 22–23); use wide rubber bands for heavy stripes and smaller ones for finer lines. The bands should be applied tightly and may be used again.
When mixing dyes, enamel pots large enough to hold the whole fabric bundle should be used. A porcelain roasting pan works well, but stay away from Teflon.
Follow the directions on the packages of dye. You can generally count on one-quarter package liquid dye or one-half package power dye to each quart of water. When using the pour-on technique, put undiluted dye into a squeeze bottle. For more vibrant color, heat the bottles of dye before using. Eyedroppers can be used also. Work on a smooth, nonabsorbent or protected surface, and keep a sponge handy to wipe up the excess dye.
Points to Remember
Unless you are using a color remover, always dye lighter colors first, darker colors last.
When using a color remover, add it to simmering water, and immediately add wet fabric. After the color remover bath, always wash fabric in hot sudsy water and then rinse.
To aid color penetration of dense fabrics of many tightly tied layers, add a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent to the dye bath.
Wear rubber or plastic gloves. Be sure that the poured-on colors penetrate the fabric through all of the folds. Squeeze additional dye into the folds if necessary. It may help to work the dye through the layers with your fingers.
Do not boil any fabrics in the dye bath. A simmering temperature is adequate to produce washfast colors. For materials that wrinkle permanently at high temperatures, such as acetate or some nylons, use a lower heat than a simmer and longer dyeing periods.
Colors dry lighter than they look when wet. You may want to iron dry a test patch of fabric before untying the knots.
Donut Knot. Make a rosette knot. Push center of puff back down into gathers and through to other side. Fasten tightly with rubber band. Squeeze undiluted dye into center of knot.
Rosette Knot. Pinch section of fabric up to desired height; secure base tightly with rubber band.
Gathering. Hold edges of fabric in both hands and gather fabric toward you. Secure with rubber bands along length of fabric.
Accordian Pleat. Hold edges of fabric in both hands and pleat predetermined-width pleats; each should be the same. Secure with rubber bands along length of fabric.
Stripe. For a single stripe or a series, gather fabric in folds between thumb and forefinger. Secure areas where stripes are desired, and leave ends free.