Tie-Dye 101


We are a little Tie-Dye crazy in my family.  Growing up in the bay area, I guess Tie-Dye is in our blood!  Every summer we get together for weeks of swimming, eating, hanging out and Tie-Dye.  Every year gets more and more intense!  So, here’s and invitation to you: put on some hippie music, grab some white T-shirts and fabric Dye and join us in the fun. (the fun turns to crazy really fast!)

100% cotton shirts and clothing work the best.
95% cotton 5% spandex – these work good as well
50% cotton 50% polyester – Stay away from this combination – colors will be muted, there will be a light fuzz over the dye and they just don’t look good.
The key is to have a good quality cotton.

Prep your clothing:
If your clothes have never been laundered, run them through a light wash or a rinse cycle.  If you have shirts that you want to pre shrink, rinse them and then put them in the dryer, then rinse them again.

Your clothes need to be damp (not wet) to tie…despite what the directions say.
Giant batch of damp shirts!!

It is 106 degrees as we are doing this project – so we are in our swim suits.  We alternated swimming and tying for about 8 hours – almost 200 shirts.

Soda Ash:
You can dye your shirts without soda ash – but we all agree that this helps keep the colors vibrant.  The package instructions say to soak your shirts in the soda ash for 20 minutes.  We have tried this method and found the shirts were too wet and very drippy which makes the colors run.

We developed a new method which will let you maximize your soda ash.  Mix the soda ash according to the instructions (1 package makes 1 gallon).  Place in spray bottles.  We sprayed our shirts with the soda ash before we tied them.  I like this the best.

Prepare your work station:
You need to have a flat work surface to tie your shirts on.  We had 4 adults working at once so we needed a few tables.  Here is our set up:

Spray both sides of your shirt with the soda ash mixture.

It’s best to wear tie-dye and listen to hippie music while doing this!!!

This is the fun creative part.  There are so many ways to tie your shirt: classic spiral, double spiral, triple spiral, deep V, stripes, scrunch, etc.  (at the bottom of this post are links different methods of tying.)  You need rubber bands, string, and maybe a needle and thread.  I like to put my tied shirt into a baggie and label it so when it comes to dying I know what I am doing.  This shirt was a crazy tie design:

The Dye:

We used Tulip brand Tie-Dye.  They offer a wide range of colors, it’s not too expensive, and it’s sold at all craft stores and Wal Mart.  We have a lot of dye!

The caps are colored.  Once the caps are removed and the dye is mixed, it’s impossible to tell which color is which.  Using a Sharpie, write the color of the dye on the top of the bottle – this makes it SUPER EASY!

Mix the Dye:
The dye comes in the bottles and you fill the bottle up with water and shake.  The dye is best used within 30 minutes of mixing.  After that the colors can loose intensity.

Wear gloves!!!
Work fast but carefully
Consider your color choices before you mix the dye – it saves time – the dye is the most potent during the first 30 minutes so DON‘T mix all the die at once
Set up a rack on top of a bucket or bowl.  The dye will run off an needs somewhere to drip.
Wear old clothes or tie-dye – it can be messy is messy.

Once the dying is done, wrap the shirt in plastic wrap or a baggie. The instructions say to let sit 6-8 hours.  I wait at least 24 hours.  It’s really hard to wait to see how they turn out!

Final Thoughts:
After you have waited about 24 hours, unwrap your shirt and cut off the string or rubber bands.  I like to hang my shirt up and let it dry completely.  Then rinse each shirt in the faucet or the hose and squeeze as much dye out as you can.  Then, put them through the rinse cycle in your washer and dry them.  I rinse like colors together.  Now you are ready to wear your awesome Tie-Dye Shirt!!!



  1. You make this look so fun! Thanks for the tip about the soda ash spray. Really want to try this! Cheers, Catherine (new follower)

  2. This is soooo cool!! What a fun party. Can’t wait to see the pics all week long.

  3. Perfect timing!! I’m getting ready to tie dye with my girls for girls camp. Thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Super Impressed! Deff dummy proof! I am going to try this, this weekend! Testing out shirt ideas before I see Luke Bryan next weekend! 🙂

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