How to Tie Dye


By Stephen T. Abedon (




Hint: The key to making a good-looking tie-dye is to be neat when applying dye, to use colors that work well together, and above all to create your funky designs by using neat and innovative fabric folding strategies rather than by using innovative dying strategies. Note: If you are having too much fun folding, then you are doing great. If you are having too much fun dying, then you probably need to mellow your approach some.


Doing it:


1.                  Start by mixing up a Sodium Carbonate (soda ash) solution (in hot water) to a pH of 10.5 (it doesnít take too much).

2.                  Soak your to-be-dyed cloth in the fixer bath until quite wet.

3.                  Squeeze as much water as you possibly can out of your now-wet cloth. The more fixer you remove, the more dye your fabric will take. Alternatively, see

4.                  Place your cloth on a clean (dye-less, especially), dry, non-porous surface for folding.

5.                  Fold your cloth, trying to be neat. How to do it is both a skill and an art.

6.                  Place your folded cloth on a dry, non-glossing newspaper.

7.                  Mix your Procion dyes with water. See for how much dye to use. Do not cross contaminate dyes! You may also add urea to your dyes:

8.                  Apply dye. Always apply dye perpendicular to your pleats. If you are making puddles, you are applying too much. If you are not penetrating into the middle of your folded cloth, you are applying too little. Try to keep incompatible colors from touching (e.g., green and purple which makes brown). ABOVE ALL, BE NEAT AND LET THE FOLDING OF THE FABRIC DETERMINE THE DESIGN, NOT CREATIVE DYING.

9.                  Allow the now-dyed fabric to sit on the newspaper. Keep from drying out, however.

10.              CLEAN UP WHEN YOU ARE DONE!

11.              To transport home place newspaper on top, and bottom too if there has been any soak through. You can stack pieces so long as you separate them with newspaper. Place in a bag for transport.

12.              Allow the dyed fabric to sit at room temperature for at least six hours.

13.              Remove dye by soaking in cold water (no soap), e.g., by using the rinse cycle of your washer. You can combine pieces in the same washer, just do not place dyed objects against each other prior to placing in water. (alternatively, you can do the whole dying process in your washer:

14.              Rinse until dye no longer flows in great quantities out of the fabric.

15.              Place in dryer set on high/cotton dry until dry to permanently set the dye.


Precautions: Use gloves to keep the dyes and fixer off of your hands. Donít breath in the powdered dyes.


Samples: (including me smoking a cigar)