How to Tie-Dye on the Cheap

Updated on June 3, 2018
Red & Yellow Tie Dye Pattern
Red & Yellow Tie Dye Pattern | Source

Make the Most of Tie-Dye!

Tie-dyeing is a fun way to become a fabric designer. You can choose dye colors that range from subtle pastels to shouting vivids. Use them in interesting combinations to create your own masterpiece!

Why should you try this project?

  • You can tie your fabric in any fashion you choose.
  • You can create color effects and patterns that are unique.
  • It's easy to transform a plain T-shirt, pillowcase or jeans into something quite striking— 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.
  • Each time you untie your cloth and hold it up for inspection, there is an element of pleasure and surprise.

Tie-Dye Tip

Look for crystals when buying your dye—they are easier to measure!

How to Do Cheap Tie-Dye

Dylon Fabric Dye has been the cheapest I have found on the market. 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 tsp RITS fabric dye (Dylon Fabric Dye is cheaper and has more color options)
  • 1 cup hot water (140°F—use a meat or candy thermometer)
  • 1 tsp ordinary table salt

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

How Does Tie-Dye Work?

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

  1. First, you tie the fabric.
  2. Then, you dye the fabric.

It's as simple as that.

The fabric resists the dye where it is tied, allowing it to maintain its background color. Otherwise, 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 that 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

Remember that the way you tie the cloth is what actually determines the pattern.

Tie-Dye Fabrics
Tie-Dye Fabrics | Source

What Are Suitable Fabrics to Tie-Dye?

  • Look in your closet, as 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 a plain shirt or dress for less than a dollar and make it spectacular with your own personal touch.
  • If you use a cold dye, which is the easiest to start with, you can dye any type of cotton, unbleached calico, household cotton, 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.

What Fabrics Don't Take the Dye as Well?

  • Fabrics with a crease-resistant finish tend to resist the dye: acrylic fabrics such as Orlon are unsuitable for dyeing.
  • Polyesters accept the dye in a much-diluted form.
  • Rayon and nylon fabrics need treating with multi-purpose dyes.
  • For best results, wash the fabrics first in hot, soapy water. Let them soak for an hour or two before rinsing and drying.
  • For your first attempts, try working with fairly thin materials such as pieces of partly worn sheeting, which are much easier to handle until you get the hang of the process.

Tie-Dye Dresses
Tie-Dye Dresses | Source

How Do You Tie Fabric to Tie-Dye?

When you are tying the fabric, make sure to tie the fabric as tightly as possible. This prevents the dye from seeping in where you don't want it. If you do this project with kids, they might need help with this step.

  • 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 a 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, you don't need special equipment to start this project.

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 afterward before you do the weekly wash. Using a little household bleach is typically recommended.

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 measure
  • A stick or old wooden spoon
  • Waterproof apron
  • Pair of rubber gloves
  • Pencil
  • 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

Tips to Work Out How Much Dye You Need

  • 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 how much to use. An example of this would 1 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 process, 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

Tie-Dye Instructions

  1. Immerse the tied-up fabric in the cold dye solution. Stir well with the wooden spoon or stick.
  2. Keep stirring at frequent intervals for about 10 minutes. Leave the fabric in the dye for an additional 50 minutes.
  3. Lift the cloth out using the end of the spoon or stick. Rinse it very thoroughly in several changes of cold water.
  4. When the water is clear, soak the cloth in hot, soapy water for five minutes. Then, give ita final rinse.
  5. Pour the dye solution away or keep it to use again.
  6. 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.
  7. Take care how you cut the tying cords. It is really easy to snip the fabric.
  8. Hang the articles up to dry.
  9. If you want to give only one dye application, iron it while it is still damp. Otherwise, tie the fabric up again and repeat the process—always rinsing it in cold water, soaking it in hot, soapy water, and re-rinsing.

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

Tie-Dye Retro

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

See results

Advanced Tie-Dye Techniques to Try

Use Tie-Dye For Matching Bedspread, Sheets & Curtains
Use Tie-Dye For Matching Bedspread, Sheets & Curtains | Source

Will You Try Tie-Dyeing Something?

Thanks for stopping by, and happy crafting!

Nice to See You - Tie Dye
Nice to See You - Tie Dye

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Dawn

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Johnk922 

        4 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 imageAUTHOR

        Dawn 

        4 years ago from Canada

        Thank you! :)

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

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

      • Eccentric-Lhee profile imageAUTHOR

        Dawn 

        5 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 

        5 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 

        5 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 

        5 years ago from United States

        These are gorgeous! Not too retro at ALL.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://feltmagnet.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)