How to Tie-dye a Scrunch (Crumple Technique)

Arrangement of six tie-dye shirts, all featuring a different Crumple tie-dye design.

The crumple might be the easiest tie-dye technique. It’s also it’s one of the most powerful.

The crumple’s popularity is a testament to its versatility. From a rough scrunching to precise micro crumpling.

This guide will teach you how to fold and dye a crumple from beginning to end.

How to tie-dye a Crumple Step-by-step

Also called the scrunch, the crumple is easy to get started with.

In this guide you will learn how to perform the folding, dyeing, and rinsing of a crumple shirt.

You will start from a blank white shirt an turn it into a beautiful tie-dye creation.

If you need more information on any of these steps, please visit our tie-dye guide for beginners.

Step 1 : Soak, then wring out a blank shirt

Pick out a clean garment (usually a shirt) made of 100% cotton.

Soak it in warm water to get it ready. Leave it to soak for a few minutes. This can be done in a sink or in a bucket, whichever you prefer.

Wait until the shirt is completely saturated with water. Take the shirt out and wring it out by hand.

Remove enough water to leave the shirt slightly damp, but not dripping.

Take the shirt to your work table, or any large flat surface.

Blank white shirt laid out flat on a table with hand pulling the fabric slightly towards the center.

Step 2 : Pull the fabric towards the center

Start with the shirt flat on a table. Flatten the shirt and remove any wrinkle. You want the seams from both layers to line up.

Place your hands on the fabric, a few inches apart. Press down with your fingers, grabbing onto the fabric.

Bring your hands together, dragging the fabric.

As you squish the fabric, it starts crumpling randomly, creating creases and folds in all directions.

Shirt in the beginning stages of being crumpled, with fabric being scrunched towards the middle of the shirt.

Step 3 : Bring in more fabric

Place your hands farther away from the center and pull in more fabric.

Slowly grab and pull fabric. Pay attention to the creases that start forming.

Make sure the folds are all similar in height.

Slowly start guiding the fabric towards the center. Don’t force the fabric, let it stay loose for now.

Shirt in the process of being crumpled, with the sleeves being brought towards the center.

Step 4 : Crumple around the shirt one area at a time

Continue crumpling farther away from the center.

Go around the shirt one area at a time. Crumple the fabric, then slowly bring it towards the center.

Pull in the top of the shirt. Crumple the sleeves and collar so they keep their shape relative to the shirt.

Crumple and pull in the bottom of the shirt.

Slowly start bringing the shirt together. Be careful not to create large mounds of fabric.

Shirt in the last stages of being crumpled with the last bits of fabric being brought to the center.

Step 5 : Tighten the crumple

Push the fabric together to tighten the folds. Tuck in loose fabric at the edges.

When needed, unfold and rearrange the creases.

Try to make your crumple uniform with all the folds a similar height and size.

Blank white shirt folded using the crumple technique and held in place with rubber bands, waiting to be dyed.

Step 6 : Bind the crumpled shirt with rubber bands

Place rubber bands around the crumpled shirt. Your goal is keeping the fabric in place.

Be careful not to deform the shirt with the rubber bands. Crumples are notorious for wanting to fold on themselves when binding.

Four rubber bands are usually enough to hold a crumple together.

After binding it, place the crumple on your work surface.

Topside of crumpled shirt, completely covered in dark purple dye.

Step 7 : Dye the whole first side

Now for the main course. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest mixing up some dye bottles.

With your squeeze bottle in hand, gently start pouring dye over the shirt.

Place dye over the whole surface of the crumple. Every peak and valley needs color. 

Continue until you cannot see any white areas peeking through.

In this example, I use a single color (purple) over the whole face of the shirt. Be sure to check out all our crumple patterns to try other designs.

Step 8 : Flip the shirt

Put on your gloves and flip over the shirt. Pick up the dyed crumple and place it face down.

If you’re using multiple colors, make sure to line them up when flipping the shirt to prevent staining.

Alternatively, you can use a second rack on top of the shirt for easier flipping.

Underside of crumpled shirt, mostly white, showing dye permeating from the first side which was dyed.

Step 9 : Leave the underside white

Some patterns may require that you dye the underside.

For this pattern, we’ll leave the underside as it is. The white will become part of the design.

Make sure to leave enough white so it shows through on the final result.

Leave the shirt with the white on top to prevent it from begin eaten by the color.

Step 10 : Let the shirt set for at least 8 hours

Place the shirt where it can sit overnight. Make sure to let the dye set for at least 8 hours at room temperature (70°F or 21°C).

Leave the shirt folded up as it is. You don’t need to cover it up with plastic or anything unless you live in a very dry environment.

Leave it in a warm room where it won’t be disturbed.

Step 11 : Rinse out and open up your crumple

Pick up the shirt and bring it to the sink. Keep the rubber bands on the shirt for now.

Rinse out the shirt under cold running water. Rinse out both sides of the shirt. The water running off will be brightly colored from soaking up the excess dye.

Remove the rubber bands and start opening up the shirt under the stream of water.

Unfold the fabric and make sure to hit every area of the shirt with cold water. Turn it inside out to rinse out the inside too.

After rinsing, prepare a hot water bath and soak the shirt for a few minutes. This will loosen up excess dye.

Wring out the shirt and soak it a second time in a hot water bath.

Step 12 : Wash and dry your shirt

Place the shirt in your washer. Wash it on cold with a small amount of detergent.

Either wash the shirt by itself, with other fresh tie-dye shirts, or with old/dark clothes.

This step removes loose dye molecule by friction between the fabric.

When the cycle is over, tumble dry or hand dry the shirt. Be sure to check this page for aftercare instructions for your tie-dye.

Person wearing a tie-dye shirt featuring a purple crumple design.

There you go. This is how you turn an  ordinary white t-shirt to a beautiful tie-dye piece.

The crumple is a useful technique to have in your tie-dye tool belt. The more variations you try, the better you will get.

Crumple tie-dye patterns

Here’s our collection of crumple patterns. Feel free to try them and find out which ones you like best.

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Pastel Crumple pattern.

Pastel Crumple

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Heavy Crumple pattern.

Heavy Crumple

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Random Crumple pattern.

Random Crumple

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Camo Crumple pattern.

Camo Crumple

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Fire Crumple pattern.

Fire Crumple

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Slash Crumple pattern.

Slash Crumple

More Amazing Tie-dye Techniques

Had fun with this tie-dye tutorial? Just wait until you try these other popular tie-dye techniques.