How to Make Tie-Dyed Clothes and Crafts

Are you interested in learning how to tie-dye? I learned how to tie-dye when I was a young girl. I remember mixing up huge pots of dye in my grandma's garage and making a variety of colorful treasures. I enjoyed tie-dying with my kids and hope to get to teach my grandkids how to do it someday.

The information and resources I provide here will teach you how to create your own colorful t-shirts or other articles of clothing. You can also make matching sheets, pillowcases, and curtains if you like. It's easy if you follow the simple directions and tips below.

To tie-dye, basically, you gather, fold, and tie your item and then soak it in fabric dye. Of course, there are a few more things involved but these will vary depending on what kind of dye you use and which designs ​you choose.

  • Tie-Dye Supplies - There are different kinds of dye you can use in your tie-dye projects. You can order the dye online, find specialty dye at craft stores, and even grab simple RIT dye at the grocery store. No matter what kind of dye you use, there are a few basic items you will definitely need.

Use the supply list and the basic directions I provide as a general guideline and then let your creativity run wild. I hope you enjoy tie-dying as much as I do.

No matter what brand of dye you use, there are a few supplies you will definitely need before you tackle any tie-dye project.

  • Something to Dye - The first thing you need is the item you wish to dye. The most common item is a t-shirt, but you can dye just about anything (shirt, pants, socks, handkerchief, pillowcase, sheets, curtains, tablecloth, etc). You just need to make sure it is at least 60% cotton.
  • Something to Tie With - You also need rubber bands or string to tie up the item you will be dyeing. After all, the tying is what makes all of the cool, one-of-a-kind designs.
  • Dye - When it comes to dye, you have a few options. For our projects, we used RIT brand dye. This is usually my first choice for three reasons: 1) I have used it before with much success, 2) It is readily available, and 3) Each color cost us less than $3. You can also buy kits made especially for tie-dying or try Simply Spray.

Other than the above necessities, here is a list of other supplies you may need:

  • Rubber Gloves - To protect your hands from the dye.
  • Large Pot or Bucket - Used to mix the dye - it should be able to hold 3 - 5 Gallons and it should be old so you don't care if it gets stained.
  • Squirt or Spray Bottles - Can be used to apply some brands of dye.
  • Long-Handles Utensil - An old spoon, B-B-Q tongs, etc. to stir the dye.
  • Soda Ash - This is sodium carbonate which is used with some dyes to pre-treat the item you are tie-dyeing to help create more vibrant colors.
  • Salt - Used with RIT dye to help make darker colors more vibrant.
  • Plastic Bag - Some dyes require the dyed item to sit in a plastic bag for approx. 24 hours.
  • Newspaper and/or Plastic Garbage Bag - Used to protect your work area.
  • Rags, Paper Towels, Cleanser - For quick cleanup.

Remember, these items are listed just to give you an idea of what you may need. Read the package your dye came in to see which supplies you will definitely need. Once you have your supplies gathered, you can get on with the tying and dyeing.

Here are some basic instructions for tie-dyeing along with some helpful hints and tips to help get you started.

  1. Before you dye your item, you should wash it to remove any sizing from the manufacturer or anything else that may have gotten on it.
  2. Decide what sort of design you want your finished project to have. For some tying ideas, check out the photos of our projects which include step-by-step tying directions.
  3. Lay your shirt or other items out flat first and then fold and tie it as desired.
  4. Cover your work area so the dye doesn't stain it. I covered ours by laying down a few large garbage bags and then put newspaper on top of that.
  5. Prepare your dye as directed by the manufacturer. You should carefully follow all instructions. While preparing the dye and dyeing your item, you should wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from staining and the hot water.
  6. Pre-treat your item if necessary. With some dyes you will have to soak it in soda ash and with others, like RIT, you simply need to dip it in hot water.
  7. Start dyeing! It is usually best to start with the lightest color if you are using more than one color. Rinse or wait between colors as directed by the manufacturer. Make sure to follow all directions carefully when it comes to dyeing and rinsing your items. Some dyes require you to rinse immediately and others require you to let the item sit for at least 24 hours.
  1. When your dyeing is complete, make sure to clean all containers immediately with hot water and soap.
  2. Be careful washing your tie-dyed items. Most should be washed in cold water. The first few times they are washed, they might bleed, so wash them with like colors or alone.

Again, the exact directions you follow will vary depending on what brand of dye you use. Read all instructions and precautions on the package carefully.

There is one thing you should remember while you tie-dye, no matter what brand of dye you use: Every tie-dyed item will turn out different no matter what technique and colors you use. Check out the step-by-step tying directions I have provided and have fun creating your own.

Check out these directions for making a variety of tie dye designs using different folding methods. Try my tying techniques and then experiment with your own. You can make this fun tie-dye t-shirt featuring a cool spiral design.

Remember, no two shirts will turn out exactly alike, no matter how hard you try. Get creative and have fun. Feel free to share your tie-dye tips and photos of your finished projects with us.