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Dying for something different this Fall?

A how-to guide for all things tie dye.

Written by Robyn Gilmour | View this authors Twitter page and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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It’s early days yet, but just you wait, with Christmas approaching and the wallets looking a little threadbare let me see if I can interest you in something that will kick start your creative side and sooth your aching pockets this summer.

I first started tie dyeing because, frankly I was really bored. I started off using common household bleach to alter the colour of those free t-shirts you collect over the years from charity events and the like, the ones you only ever wear to bed.  That was enough to get me excited and wanting to learn more and more about the effects and different looks I could achieve that would be cheap, fun to make and completely unique. 

Most people know what tie dye looks like and are familiar with the origin of it but nobody actually knows how to do it. I am here to assure you that it couldn’t be simpler and talk you through a basic tie dye. The idea is to get interesting and creative patterns from rolling, twisting, and scrunching the fabric in different ways and securing with elastic bands (or bobbins you find around the house, because I’m cheap like that). By bleaching or dying this fabric, you can create amazing patterns and effects.

Bleaching is great for beginners, you don’t want to splash out on dye and then end up wasting it on practice rounds. I’ll warn you now not to get it on the carpet, new clothes or anything you’re not willing to get a random white splodge on. This will work on any coloured t-shirts bar white or some greys. Whether you want a basic spiral, ombre (dip dye fashion) or galaxy effect, bleach will get the job done in a flash.

You will have hours of fun with bleach in an old flash or Mr Sheen squirty bottle spraying bleach on an old t-shirt. My only advice there is to know when to stop! As for the spiral, whether you use bleach or a single coloured dye, the same principles apply. Dampen and lay your t-shirt, bedspread, pillow case, sheet (whatever you choose to dye) out on a flat surface, pinch the centre of the fabric and begin to twist it. Some people find it easier to use a round table, pinch the middle and just walk around the table until you have your little spiralled bundle.

This is when the elastic bands come in to secure it. After this, if you were using bleach or a single coloured dye you prepared (chuck some bleach, or dye into a tub of cold water), place the fabric in the basin for about half an hour. If you use bleach for this, it’s important to rinse the item in question thoroughly after this as the bleach will continue to erode the fabric.

You don’t want holes in your fabulous new t-shirt. Taking things up a notch, the multi-coloured spiral is where shit gets real. You can buy sachets of powder dye in most hardware or DIY shops and mix the powder with water in a drinks bottle (making applying dye easy and mess free). Here is my very own step by step manual to a tie dye spiral;

  1. Dampen your t-shirt.
  2. Spread on a flat surface. Pinch the middle of the shirt and twist it until you have a neat bundle.
  3. Secure with elastic bands, splitting the bundle into 6-8 segments as shown. If you’re not prepared to have multi-coloured hands now would be a good time to put on gloves.
  4. Assign each segment a different colour; try keeping the segments neat but leaving no white parts. Be sure to dye the underside of the bundle the same colour also.
  5. Leave your colourful bundle out of the way for a day or so, when you remove the bands and unfold the t-shirt you will have your amazing spiral effect. If the t-shirt is very wet, do NOT hang it on the washing line as the dye will run. Leave on a flat surface until it is dry enough for the line. The longer you leave the dye before washing out the more vibrant the colour.
  6. If you put your t-shirt in the washing machine at this stage, it would come out white and destroy everything else in the machine. Time to fix the dye to the shirt. Rinse the excess colour out of the shirt first.
  7. Add a cup of table salts to an average sized cup or basin, drop your shirt in and leave it for 30-40 minutes. Some of the colour will come out so don’t be shocked. Leave on the line to dry, and iron once the shirt is completely dry.

The colour will fade over time and hand washing will slow the process. Step 1-3 also applies to using bleach or a single coloured dye. Dye is relatively cheap at around €3 for a sachet of dye but it’s a fantastic way to achieve a unique new look or just revamp an old faded pair of jeans, shorts or t-shirts. Summer is long, money is tight and unique, dirt cheap clothes are hard to come by so why not make your own?

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Published October 16th, 2013
Last updated October 19th, 2015
Tags fashion style budget
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