How to tie-dye your clothes at home: a stylish DIY t-shirt tutorial

Tie-dye is the 90s trend that’s having a major moment. Expert up-cycler Abi Patten shares the DIY tie-dye tutorial that you can try at home.  

Self isolation has seen the rise and rise of fashion challenges you can try from home. If you’ve refreshed Instagram anytime in the last week (let’s be honest, at this stage of lockdown it’s about every five minutes) you’ll have spotted endless posts of people wearing a pillow fastened with a belt in a tribute to #HomeCouture. While that Instagram trend might have kept us entertained all weekend we’re looking for something new to stave off the boredom, and ideally keep us off our screens too. 

Enter the new tie-dye trend that you can try at home. All you need is four household items, some dye and an old white t-shirt ready for a new lease of life. New to world of tie-dye? Fret not. We’ve enlisted upcycling expert Abi Patten to create a DIY tie-dye tutorial that you can try at home right now. 

Not only is transforming an old t-shirt into a new piece endlessly more fun than spending another evening scrolling, but now this home spun styling hack has been given fashion’s seal of approval. 

That’s right. It’s the nineties trend that no one expected to see again, but tie dye is back in a big way for spring/summer 2020.  It was seen all over the catwalks, from top to toe at Stella McCartney, Michael Kors Collection, Collina Strada, Eckhaus Latta, and MSGM, and on separates at Paco Rabanne, Prada, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, Polo Ralph Lauren and Prabal Gurung. And the street style set have been jumping straight on the band wagon too. 

Though designers and the high street have a huge selection to choose from, how about giving tie-dying a go yourself? Not only is upcycling a t-shirt you already own the most sustainable approach, but it’s the most fun too. 

You can customise the colours that you use, and we’ve even created three new tie-dye styles for you to try once you’ve mastered the basics. Then, if you fancy going off road and creating your own designs, the possibilities are endless. And why stick to t-shirts? You can elevate old socks, greying hoodies and hard-to-wear white dresses with tie-dye, or even give your bedding a colourful make over.

Log out of Instagram and get started now with our 6 step guide to tie-dying clothes at home. 

Step 1

Gather your supplies: coloured dye, rubber bands, a cooling rack, gloves and a large bowl. If you don’t have coloured dye at home, try Dylon Eco Reactive Dye which can be purchased online at most major online supermarkets and independent crafts stores. You’ll need a white t-shirt or light piece of clothing, avoiding using a dark style but a light pastel or beige top will work just as well if you don’t have white.

Clear a surface in your home – a kitchen counter is ideal, or if you have a garden area, a clean outdoor table a great alternative. If you are working inside, cover the floor space with bin bags or plastic sheeting to ensure that the dye doesn’t stain hard to clean carpet stone flooring. 

Step 2

Dampen the shirt with warm water and lay it on a flat surface. Put your gloves on, then scrunch the fabric towards the middle of the shirt with your fingers. Keep the scrunches even on all sides, so that the final shape looks a bit like a circle. 

Step 3

Stretch between six and eight rubber bands in a random pattern around the scrunched shirt to secure the fabric in place, so it sits in a tight ball. Ensure that all fabric is tucked in by the rubber bands and that none of it is sitting loose from the rest of the shape. 

Step 4

Rest the cooling rack over your bowl and place the scrunched-up t-shirt on top of it. Squirt the dye all over both sides of the t-shirt, leaving no visible white space.

Step 5

Leave the crunched t-shirt to dry for at least six hours then, leaving the rubber bands on, wash the dye out as the packaging instructs (usually a cool wash). Hang to dry.

Step 6

Your tie-dye t-shirt is ready to wear! To avoid the colour fading, always wash it in cold water and let it air dry - you’ll be doing your bit for the environment, too.

Pick your pattern

Once you’ve mastered the scrunch technique explained above, expand your tie dye wardrobe with different designs.

The Bullseye

To achieve this circular pattern, stretch out your t-shirt and put rubber bands in regular intervals down the length to form a tube.

The Swirl

For the classic spiral, lay your t-shirt flat, pinch the middle and twist clockwise until the fabric forms a roll. Secure with bands.

The Grid

Create a check effect by folding your t-shirt in a concertina from the bottom. Put rubber bands at regular intervals along the fabric.

With thanks to Abi Patten ( Words for the step-by-step Kylie Lynch. Opening images courtesy of Getty. Images for the step-by-step shot by Pixeleyes.


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