Tie Dye Techniques for DIY Tie Dye

Tie Dye Techniques - Tying
Friends practicing their tie dye techniques

This week my friends, Crystal and Owen came over to learn how to tie dye. Since I sell my tie dyes for a living, I can sometimes be guarded with my trade secrets. Hey, I’m not the only one!  Few professional dyers want to share their tie dye techniques freely.  Especially when we’ve found our signature styles nobody else seems to make – sharing information can be scary!

Practicing Generosity

Thankfully, Tieson (my amazing husband) has always reminded me to practice generosity not only in my personal life, but in business. Giving helps us look beyond ourselves to how we can help others. In business, Tieson believes giving can only benefit your business. Sure, in the short term, you may lose money or time, which seems counter-intuitive! But all companies that have long-term success practice generosity in some way and those that are stingy and selfish tend to fizzle out.

So, I am working on applying this “generosity principle” with Miss American Dye. For some reason it is much easier for me to give away a completed tie dye shirt than it is to show folks how to make a shirt themselves. DIY tie dye videos and tutorials are ubiquitous, so why should I share my secrets? Because it keeps me from that stingy, selfish thinking that is detrimental to both my business and my personal growth.

Sharing is Caring (And Mutually Beneficial!)

Plus… it’s a ton of fun to tie dye with friends! As I’ve shared in the past, I thrive in collaboration. I love how collective creativity is often exponentially better than that of individual creativity. There are times to get away and be alone. There are times to reach within and inspire oneself. But who am I kidding? Those times aren’t for me!  I need the collective. Even when I am teaching beginners, they inspire me.

Tie Dye Techniques
Crystal applying dye to her tied shirt

What does it look like for the student to inspire the teacher?  For me it was, “Jill, could you show me how to make a turtle?”  I had never tie dyed a turtle before, but I was inspired and together, Crystal and I created something new and different from anything I’ve done before. I loved the challenge of imagining and drawing up how we could achieve the turtle shape. Owen seemed to observe quietly and then pick up the tie dye techniques with ease. Later he joked, “Do you offer apprenticeships?”

The 3 Most Important Tie Dye Techniques

After having Crystal and Owen over I realized that I could take this generosity principle one step further and share what I taught them with you all.  I hope you find it useful, entertaining, and that it inspires you to try tie dye for yourself! Here are the three foundational (therefore most important) tie dye techniques Owen and Crystal learned this week.

Scrunch Fold – Used to make the Marbled Pattern

Hold your hands near the fabric and use your fingers to crumple the fabric towards the center of the design while your palms keep the fabric from buckling.  I find it easier when the fabric is slightly damp. The fabric should look like brains when all scrunched up.

To tie and secure this fold, wrap your artificial sinew around it, loosely at first then gradually pulling it tighter on each wrap.  Keep the sinew against the table to pull it under the fabric without disrupting the folds.

The scrunch is used in part for items like the Rachael Heart, Dancing Waters, and Camo Classic.

Accordion Fold – Used for Lines and Shapes

Draw your line on the fabric with a washable marker.  For symmetrical shapes, first fold the fabric in half on the center line of your shape, then draw half of the shape with the folded side of your fabric being the center of the design.  Now, begin to fold the fabric like an accordion or a paper fan along the drawn line.  The folds should be fairly equal in height and perpendicular to the drawn line.  The goal is to make the line completely straight.

To tie and secure this fold, simply wrap your sinew around it two or three times and pull tight.  If you find your fingers getting sore, wrap your slack line a few times around a wooden spoon and pull the spoon to pull the sinew tight.  If you want a nice, defined line, pull very tight.  If you want the colors to blend and bleed, leave the sinew secure, but loose.

The accordion is used in part for items like the Camo with Ammo, Wonder Baby, and Candy Cane Leggings.

Spiral Fold – Used to make the Classic Swirl Tie Dye Pattern

Many beginners start with the Spiral and it continues to be a favorite tie dye technique to this day.  Here, I offer a couple tips to make it better.

Find and mark the center of your spiral.  Use hemostats (medical forceps/clamps) to pinch the center of your spiral.  (If the fabric is doubled up, as in the case of a tee shirt, be sure you have both layers of fabric clamped.)  Slowly spin the hemostat with your dominant hand while guiding the fabric with your other hand.  You want your pleats to stay low and fairly equal in height.  Once you have spun most of the fabric into a spiral, hold down the center with a flat palm and release the hemostats.

To tie and secure this fold, use rubber bands. Wrap them around so they look like sections of a pie.

The spiral is used in part or whole for items like the Classic Blues, Waves at Sunset, and Rainbow Spiral Baby Bib.

Put ‘Em Together and What Have You Got?

These tie dye techniques may sound simple, but they are the Bibbity to my Bobbity-Boo.  Once you have mastered lines, marbling, and spirals, you can actually put them all together to create some magical designs.  (See what I did there?)  So, here I go… giving all my secrets away.  Well, maybe they aren’t so secretive and maybe there are only three… but I guarantee if you can master these three tie dye techniques, you’ll be on your way to making sweet tie dyes in no time.  If you decide to use these techniques, please share your experience on our Facebook page or share some photos on Instagram of what you made and tag @missamericandye!  And as always, if you’re not into the DIY thing, you know where to find me!

Jill