Tie Dye Revival

DIY Techniques to Dye For

Tie dye is having its moment, moving from the 1960s to the twenty-first century runway. Join the movement toward the colorful and unpredictable patterns of this nostalgic fashion with three techniques, as demonstrated by Cara Hasselbeck of Liberty Township. Known as “The Tie Dye Lady” at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in West Chester, Cara has led groups of all ages to tie and dye hundreds of colorful t-shirts over the past ten years. 

“What I love is that when you do tie dye, you never know what you’re going to get,” says Cara. “Each shirt is unique. If it doesn’t turn out the way you want, you can always make another one, but every shirt I've seen has been beautiful,” she adds with a shrug and a smile. “It’s all about the process.” 

Cara advises DIYers to remember that dye is dye: it will leave its mark on anything it touches. Just to be safe, wear an apron and protect your workspace with table covers. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and follow Cara’s expert tips to fold, twist and tie your way to unique and vibrant tees with colors that last.

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+ Cotton or Cotton/Polyester blend t-shirts (no nylon)

+ Pitcher

+ Measuring cups and spoons

+ Rubber bands

+ Plastic storage baggies

+ Squeeze bottles

+ Rubber gloves

+ Cooling rack

+ Face mask

+ Powdered dye, urea and soda ash

Cara recommends ordering dye products from Dharma Trading Company, DharmaTrading.com.


Soda ash is the secret ingredient for color that lasts. Wear a face mask as you stir together a bucket of soda ash and water, following the package directions. Once the powder is dissolved, it is safe to remove your mask. Make sure shirts are thoroughly wet and wring them out just before dying.


Prepare the dyes by mixing them with urea. Urea is a key ingredient to yield richer shades of color. Be sure to follow the chart on the package instructions carefully to stir the proper amounts together. Wear a face mask for safety until the powder is dissolved. Cara recommends that you label dye bottles, because many of the colors look similar. 


Spread out your soda-ash-soaked and well wrung tee on a covered table. Wrap, tie and twist it according to your preferred style. Double or triple loop your rubber bands to create the contrasting white spaces between colors. See our three techniques featured on the following pages to get a Spiral, Kaleidoscope or Bullseye design. 


Apply dye, then flip the shirt to apply more, matching the colors on each side. Add dye until the fabric is saturated, but not dripping. To avoid brown patches, do not allow complementary colors—the colors across from each other on the color wheel—to bleed together. For best color results, try rainbow color order and primary color blends, like red and yellow, or yellow and blue. Seal the dyed shirt in a plastic storage bag and store in a warm place for at least 24 hours to bond the dye to the fabric. 


Rinse the bulk of the dye from the shirt while it is still shaped, until the water runs nearly clear. Here’s the best part: unfold your shirt to get the first glimpse of your design. Remove the rubber bands and rinse it again. Wash with detergent before wearing, but only with up to four other adult-sized tie-dyed shirts per washing machine load. Cara recommends washing freshly tie-dyed garments separately for at least one additional load before mixing with other laundry. 

Sport your one-of-a-kind creation around town, flashing the peace sign in a nod to a bygone era. Each tie dye shirt is as unique as its creator, just a step off the fashion runway. 

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Spiral Style

When most people think of tie dye, they draw to mind the Spiral design. To create this iconic style, pinch and twist a soaked and well-wrung shirt into one direction to form a tight coil. Rubber band it into triangular sections, like a pizza. Squeeze on the dye, flip and add more color on the other side. The whirling result is a soul-pleasing galaxy of hues.

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Kaleidoscope of Color

The Kaleidoscope design is named for a peek into the timeless toy by the same name. Fold a soaked and wrung shirt accordion style, horizontally into a strip. As if folding a flag, flip each end of the shirt into triangles toward its center. Twist rubber bands onto the six outside corners, plus one in the middle. Use three colors, dying from outside in. Enjoy the unique blends of color.

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Vintage Bullseye 

Hit the fashion mark with the classic Bullseye design. Spread a soaked and wrung shirt on a covered table. Pinch and lift from where you want to center the bullseye. Pull the shirt into a tight torpedo shape and add several rubber bands to divide it into sections. Pour a different color of dye on each section, flip and dye again. Rainbow colors are popular for bullseye styled shirts.

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