How To Make Stripes On a Tie-dye Shirt (Explained)

The pleating is part of our techniques series. Be sure to check out other techniques as well for a full understanding of what tie-dye is and how you can use it to your advantage. If this guide feels too advanced for you, feel free to check out the basic process first which outlines the basic steps like preparing a blank shirt and mixing the dyes.

Pleating is one of the most common ways to fold a shirt. This is an essential technique to learn in order to improve your comprehension of folding in general. Simply put, pleats are the basic construction blocks of fabric folding, they are essentially small folds and can come in all shapes and sizes.

Spirals and crumples are composed of pleats at a basic level, even if they don’t seem like it because the folds are disorganized and random. Most of the time the pleats arrange themselves randomly as you fold the fabric. This time you are gonna learn how to control and manipulate the pleating process to make long, unbroken folds.

Table of Contents

How to pleat a shirt

Like most other folding techniques, this one uses the basic process. Pleating is an easy folding technique to learn and is the basis for many patterns. Throughout the process, take your time and observe how the fabric reacts to your manipulation. The most common pleating method is to create long, unbroken pleats that typically span the entire width of the shirt.

First, lay a slightly damp shirt flat on a table. Using your index finger and your thumb, try pinching the fabric. With your fingers one to two inches apart, pinch the fabric and bring your fingers together. As you pinch and bring the fabric together, the fabric has nowhere to go but up and it will fold to make a pleat. Try using both hands at the same time for greater control. Your goal is to make long, straight pleats that span the entire width of the shirt.

Keep in mind that you can pleat the shirt in any direction. You can just as well make a straight pleat as you can make a diagonal pleat. Another technique is to pleat the shirt in an arc or semi-circle, also called fan fold. Once you know how to pleat you can combine it with other techniques to make many designs. If you have difficulty making your pleats you can begin the pleat on one end and continue building it for the rest of the length one step at a time.

How to dye a pleated shirt?

The pleats are a stable fabric structure that should stay consistent. Still, they need binding to make sure that they stay in place and do not move when transporting or flipping the shirt. All the pleating techniques can be dyed in a similar manner. They are many ways to dye a pleated shirt, just like there are many ways to dye any technique. We will cover the most common and interesting methods.

With the straight pleat and diagonal pleat, a common dyeing method is to dye the shirt in a series of repeating colors. Most commonly, pleated shirts are dyed by using multiple colors that you use alternatively. You usually will dye perpendicular to the pleats using slim straight lines while alternating colors. Using your dye bottle, squirt a small stream of dye on the shirt, being careful not to spread the dye too wide.

An interesting way to dye the pleats is to first dye it normally on one side and then inverting the colors on the other side of the shirt. For example, if you dyed the shirt using yellow, blue, and red, you can then dye the other side using blue, red, yellow. Inverting the colors this way will make it so the colors overlap each other and can give you more color combinations.

Advanced pleating

There are far more complicated folding and dyeing techniques involving the pleats. Just like you can make your pleat in any direction, you can also make slanted pleats, fractional pleats, and zig-zag pleats. Practice and efforts will give you the abilities to modify your pleats with great control.

There are also other ways to dye normal pleats. You can, for example, place the dye in a zig-zag pattern instead of placing it in a straight line.

Pleat patterns

Chain Links Tie Dye Pattern

Chain Links

Diagonal Pleat Tie Dye Pattern

Diagonal Pleat

Rasta Pleat Tie Dye Pattern

Rasta Pleat

Wedge Tie Dye Pattern


Right Angle Tie Dye Pattern

Right Angle

Fan Fold Tie Dye Pattern

Side Fan Fold

Top Peacock Tie Dye Pattern

Top Fan Fold