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How to do Cheap Tie-Dye

Updated on February 25, 2015
Red & Yellow Tie Dye Pattern
Red & Yellow Tie Dye Pattern | Source

Making the Most of Tie-Dyeing

Tie-dyeing is a fun way to become a fabric designer.

Choose dyes from colors ranging from subtle pastels to shouting vivids.

Use them in interesting combinations.

Tie your fabric any way your choose.

Create color effects and patterns that are your very own.

It's easy to transform a plain T-shirt, pillowcase or jeans into something quite striking, and all with a packet or two of dye.

With a little practice, you will be able to control the patterns you achieve as surely as if you have painted them on the fabric.

Nevertheless, each time you untie your cloth and hold it up for inspection, there is an element of pleasure and surprise.

Tie Dye Buy Tip

** Look for crystals when buying your dye, they are easier to measure **

How to Do Cheap Tie-Dye

In researching how to tie-dye cheap, so far the Dylon Fabric Dye has been the cheapest I have found.

Using this recipe will help your dye go even farther.

Cut the recipe in half if you are only doing a small area with this color as a little bit goes a long way with this technique.

  • 1 Teaspoon RITS Fabric Dye (Dylon Fabric Dye - it's cheaper and has more colors to choose from)
  • 1 Cup HOT Water (140 degrees - use a meat or candy thermometer)
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt (ordinary table salt)

I have listed the Dylon Dye from Amazon on the right, the actual prices vary on their website because of partners.

Also make sure you check out your local craft store or Wal-mart to see if you can get kits that are cheaper.

Yellow, Orange, Teal Tie Dye Pattern
Yellow, Orange, Teal Tie Dye Pattern | Source

So How Does Tie-Dye Work?

The term tie-dye is exactly descriptive of what you do.

First you tie the fabric.

Then you dye the fabric.

It's as simple as that.

The fabric resists the dye where it is tied, this allows the material to maintain it's background color, or if you are using more than one dye, it will keep the last dye just where you want it.

When working with colors:

  • If you apply a yellow dye and then a blue dye, the areas where they overlap will be green.
  • If you tie the fabric so that parts of yellow areas (under the ties) resist the dye and other parts are exposed to it, it will have three colors with only two dye applications. (yellow, green and blue)

Other color combinations:

  • Yellow and Red make Orange
  • Red and Blue make Purple

But, remember that the way you tie the cloth is what actually determines the pattern.

Tie-Dye Fabrics
Tie-Dye Fabrics | Source

Suitable Fabrics to Tie-Dye

Look in your closet, I'm sure you have something that would look good with some added color to it.

Another great place to find cheap things to tie-dye is the local second hand shop.

You can pick up an blah looking shirt or dress for less than a dollar and make it spectacular with your own personal touch.

If you use the above dye (which is a cold dye, and the easiest to start with) you can dye any type of cotton, unbleached calico, household cottons and even fine lawn.

You can also use muslin, which will give you some beautiful, cob-web effects.

Terry toweling, linen, cotton-and-wool mixtures, lightweight wool, viscose rayon, cotton and silk velvet and corduroy and pure silk all handle the dye quite well.

As you can see from this list, you have a lot of options to choose from.

Fabrics with a crease-resistant finish tend to resist the dye: acrylic fabrics such Orlon are unsuitable for dyeing.

Polyesters accept the dye in only a much-diluted form.

Rayon and nylon fabrics need treating with multi-purpose dyes.

For best results wash fabrics first in hot, soapy water and soak for an hour or two before rinsing and drying.

For your fist attempts, try to work with fairly thin materials, such as pieces of partly worn sheeting, which are much easier to handle, until you get the hang of it.

Tie-Dye Dresses
Tie-Dye Dresses | Source

What About Tying?

When you are tying the fabric, you must make sure to tie the fabric as tight as possible.

This is so the dye does not have a chance to seep in.

Note: Children might need help with this stage.

Begin by experimenting with small pieces of cloth.

An area that has been tied with broad bands of fabric for 'bindings' pieces, from the rag bag, leaves a wider area untreated by the dye than fine string or twine would.

Try using string of all kinds, raffia, strong cotton or linen thread, cord, tape, bandages and wide elastic bands.

Tie-Dye Cross
Tie-Dye Cross | Source

What Do I Need to Tie-dye?

Luckily, there is not a long list of special equipment you will need before you can start.

The main requirement is a container for the dye.

Choose one according to the size of the articles you will be dyeing.

A plastic bucket is ideal, or glass or china bowls or pots (do not use an aluminum container). Large mixing basins are ideal.

If you are dyeing large items, like a pair of double bed sheets, you can use a sink, wash basin, bath or even a washing machine.

In this case remember to follow the maker's instructions for rinsing the machine out afterwards, before you do the weekly wash. Usually the use of a little household bleach is recommended for this.

Besides the container, sometimes called the dye vessel, you will need

  • 1 pint measuring cup
  • Household soda (or a sachet of manufacturer's Cold Fix)
  • Common salt
  • Tablespoon
  • A stick or old wooden spoon
  • Waterproof apron
  • Pair of rubber gloves
  • Pencil - Pair of sharp scissors
  • For some of the designs, you might want to use a needle and thread
  • Selection of the bindings suggested above

You are now ready to begin.

Multi-Colored Tie Dye
Multi-Colored Tie Dye | Source

So how Do I Begin?

Weigh the article when it is dry, this will help you work out how much dye you need.

The instructions on the packet will tell you.

An example of this would be: I packet for every ½ pound of dry material.

This means that if a garment weighs 1 pound and you want to tie-dye it with two different colors, you will need two packets of each.

You can dye the articles either wet or dry. Experiment with both.

You will see, that if you wet the fabric a few minutes before dyeing, you will have a design that is slightly blurred at the edges (rather as if it has been caught in the rain).

If you use dry fabric for the dyeing, it will give it a slightly crisper outline.

NOTE: Because dyes retain their full properties for only a limited time, make up your dye only when you are absolutely ready to use it.

Tie-Dye Layers
Tie-Dye Layers | Source

Lets Tie-Dye!

  • Immerse the tied up fabric in the cold dye solution and stir well with the wooden spoon or stick.
  • Keep stirring at frequent intervals for about 10 minutes and leave the fabric in the dye for a further 50 minutes.
  • Lift the cloth out on the end of the spoon or stick, and rinse very thoroughly in several changes of cold water.
  • When the water is finally clear, soak the cloth in hot, soapy water for five minutes, then give a final rinse.
  • You can pour the dye solution away or keep it to use again.
  • If you decide to use it again, remember that it will have a very diluted color effect.
  • This can actually be rather charming, so it's worth it to give it a try.
  • Take care how you cut the tying cords, it is really easy at this stage to snip the fabric.
  • Hang the articles up to dry.
  • If you want to give only one dye application, iron while still damp.

Otherwise, tie up again and repeat the process, always rinsing, soaking in hot, soapy water and re-rinsing.

Tie-Dye Retro

Would you wear tie-dye? Or is it too retro for you?

See results
Another Idea For Tie-Dye
Another Idea For Tie-Dye | Source

YouTube Has Great Video's On Tying Your Fabric

Use Tie-Dye For Matching Bedspread, Sheets & Curtains
Use Tie-Dye For Matching Bedspread, Sheets & Curtains | Source
Nice to See You - Tie Dye
Nice to See You - Tie Dye

Thanks for stopping by & Happy Crafting!

© 2013 Dawn


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    • profile image

      Johnk922 3 years ago

      I do agree with all the ideas you have introduced for your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post. aebafabbkgdc

    • Eccentric-Lhee profile image

      Dawn 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you! :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Your tie-die designs are beautiful! Great job. Shared and pinned.

    • Eccentric-Lhee profile image

      Dawn 4 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting! I love my tie-dye and it's great for those hot summer days!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Great designs and hub. Tie-dyeing has certainly come a long way since my days at summer camp :) These are beautiful!!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      These pictures are so beautiful! I've attempted tie dye in the past but without much success. The dye rinsed away and the colors were wishy-washy. But you've given some extra steps that maybe did the trick. (We used one of those thin hospital blankets, thinking it would be a nice picnic blanket)

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      These are gorgeous! Not too retro at ALL.