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Tie-dye is typically brightly colored, patterned textile or clothing which is made from ordinary cloth, usually cotton, through a resist dyeing process known as tie-dyeing. This is the modern version of a traditional dyeing method, used in many cultures in Asia and Africa. Tie-dyeing was briefly very fashionable in the West in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as part of hippie style.  



  The basic process is to tie up the material before applying dye in such a way that the dye only reaches part of the area to which it is applied. The boundaries of the dyed and non-dyed areas are usually rather blurred, as the dye has begun to soak into the non-dyed sections.

During tie-dyeing, if a good fiber reactive dye is used, a chemical reaction takes place which permanently bonds the colorful dye to the fabric, making tie-dye safe to wash amongst other, non-tie-dyed clothes once the excess dye has been removed. As the name suggests, the fabric is tied, usually with string or rubber bands, after being folded into a particular pattern. Some areas, where the textile is tied and in inner parts of folds, do not absorb dye as readily, forming a pattern. This is known as a resist technique (the areas that are tied and the inner parts of folds resist dyeing).

Patterns are also formed by applying different color dyes to different sections of the fabric. The folded and tied textile is usually first submerged in a bath of soda ash solution for 5-30 minutes to prepare it to take the dyes, which may be applied while the fabric is still wet with this solution, or once it has dried. Soda ash, which has a high pH, prepares the cellulose fibers of the cloth for permanent chemical bonding with the acidic fiber-reactive dye used in tie-dyeing. Dye is then applied, either by submerging the cloth bundle in a bath of dye or by squirting dyes onto specific areas of the fabric.

Alternatively, the soda ash may be added directly to the dye solution rather than soaking the textile in a solution of soda ash. With this technique the dye must be used within about two hours as the soda ash within the dye solution will react with the dye. In another variation, the fabric may be dyed, and then immersed in soda ash solution.

After 12-48 hours, depending temperature, dye, and the desired brightness of the final product, the fabric can be unwrapped and rinsed. After working out the excess dye under running water, tie-dye should be washed in a washing machine. A detergent called Synthrapol is preferred by many dyers, although any neutral detergent may be used. Excessively alkaline detergents may cause back staining.


Although many different kinds of dyes may be used, most tie-dyers now dye with Procion MX fiber reactive dyes. This class of dyes works at warm room temperatures and the molecules bind with cellulose based fibers (cotton, rayon, hemp, linen) permanently when the pH is raised. Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is generally used to raise the pH and is either added directly to the dye, or in a solution of water in which garments are soaked before dyeing. They do not fade with washing, but sunlight will cause the colors to fade over time.

Traditional tie-dye

Shibori includes a form of tie-dye that originated in Japan. It has been practiced there since at least the eighth century. Shibori includes a number of labor-intensive resist techniques including stitching elaborate patterns and tightly gathering the stitching before dyeing, forming intricate designs for kimonos. Another shibori method is to wrap the fabric around a core of rope, wood or other material, and bind it tightly with string or thread. The areas of the fabric that are against the core or under the binding would remain undyed.

Tie-dye techniques have also been used for centuries in the Hausa region of West Africa, with renowned indigo dye pits located in and around Kano, Nigeria. The tie-dyed clothing is then richly embroidered in traditional patterns. It has been argued that the Hausa techniques were the inspiration for the hippie fashion.

Plangi and tritik are Malay-Indonesian words for methods related to tie-dye, and bandhna is a term from India. Ikat is a method of tie-dying the warp or weft before the cloth is woven.

In the 20th Century, tie-dye became associated with the Hippie movement.

Mudmee Tie-dye

 From mudmee silk, mainly created in Thailand, developed mudmee tie-dye which displays unique shapes and patterns. Mostly found on the big markets in Bangkok, Thailand, the artists creating their garments, keep their specific artistry confidential.

There are very few vendors of these garments present in the United States. The most authoritative tie-dye site on the web, shows some samples of mudmee tie-dye and also mentions the most prevalent site bringing this type of tie-dyed garments into the Western World. Other great sources of Tie Dye clothing is and

This type of tie-dye is characterized by its softer forms and bigger variety of shapes and patterns. Colors used are often subdued and many items are found that are restricted to only one or two colors. The use of black as a base color results in tones that are hardly seen in the traditional hippie-era tie dye.

Another element that made the hippie-era tie-dye so recognizable - the big spiral - is hardly ever used by the mudmee tie-dye artist.

Folds and patterns

Below is a list of common modern tie-dying folds and patterns.


Spiral patterns involve pleats of fabric arranged in swirls around a central point, bundled into a round bun . Different wedges of the circular bun are dyed different colors


The 'V' shape achieved by folding a shirt in half vertically, then a line is drawn diagonally from the shoulder area down to the center fold of the shirt. The fabric is then accordion folded along the line and bound into one or more areas to which the dye is applied.


This category can hold several different patterns, the majority of which have nothing to do with each other; they can be combinations or they can be as chaotic as bundling the item to be dyed to resemble a plucked chicken.

See also

  • Batik
  • Psychedelic art
  • Uzbek Ikat
  • How To Tie Dye
  • An External Tie-dye Wiki
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Tie-dye". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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