Beginner’s guide

A Beginner's First Tie-Dye

1. Prepare your shirt

Wash the shirt in the washing machine to make sure it’s all clean and ready to go.

The next step is to soak the shirt in a solution of soda ash and water.
You want your solution to be about 1 cup of soda ash per gallon of water.

Soak the shirt in the water-soda mixture for a few minutes to get it completely wet.

Nounours pouring soda ash into a bucket of water
Nounours looking at a shirt soaking in a bucket of soda ash

2. Wring out the shirt

Put the shirt in the washing machine on a spin cycle.

The goal is to remove excess water. You want the shirt to be damp but not dripping.

Nounours gently lowering a soaked shirt into the opening of a washing machine, ready to spin the shirt

3. Fold and tie the shirt

For the purposes of this guide the pattern we will make is the scrunch.
If you would rather do a different design you can visit our pattern library.

Also called crinkle or crumple, the scrunch is one of the most basic design. All it requires is to scrunch up the shirt.

Lay the shirt flat on a working surface such as a table or a desk.
Take the edges of the shirt and move them towards the center of the shirt.

Nounours with a damp shirt laid down on a working surface, looking at the camera
Nounours in the process of carefully folding a shirt following the crinkle pattern

Make as most folds, bends, and creases as you can.

The tinier the folds, the more detailed the result will be.

Try to keep the shirt flat against the table, repeat this process until the shirt resembles a circle full of mounds and crevices.

With the shirt now folded you can restrain it with elastic bands, rope or thread.

While bonding the shirt is not critical, it will make it easier to transport it and help it keep its shape.

Now let’s go and mix up our dye powder.

Nounours finishing the folding of a shirt in a crinkle pattern
Nounours using elastic bands to bond a shirt folded into a crinkle pattern

4. Mix the dye

Put some powdered dye in your bottle.
The quantity of dye determines the deepness and strength of the color.

For this guide we used one and a half teaspoon (7.5g) per bottle.

Experiment with your dye to discover which colors you like the best.

Since we are making a fire-themed shirt we chose the colors red, yellow and orange.

With the powdered dye in the bottles you can add in warm water.

While adding water, thoroughly mix around the contents to prevent clumping.

Nounours filling a bottle containing yellow powder dye with water from a water container
Nounours bringing a spoon full of yellow dye powder up to a bottle in order to prepare a dye mix
Nounours looking at the mess he made on the table as he was putting yellow dye powder in the bottle. There is now yellow dye powder on the surface of the table

5. Apply the dye to the shirt

After having folded and tied the shirt move the shirt onto a suitable surface on which you can dye the shirt.

Suitable surfaces are anything that can contain the excess dye during the dyeing process.

In a pinch you can use a cookie tray lined with either plastic wrap, parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Others like to put old newspaper under the shirt to soak up the runoff dye.

Using the dye bottles, freely squirt dye unto the shirt, alternating between colors as you feel like.

For this fire design, the dyeing pattern is random, you don’t have to worry about where to put the dye!

Let your imagination guide your hand. There is no wrong way to tie-dye a shirt, only new and exciting ways.

After you are satisfied with the first side, you can now turn the shirt upside down, revealing its backside.

Finish dyeing the backside as you see fit, adding dye to cover up the remaining white area.

Alternatively, you could leave some white areas to experiment and see what kind of design would come up.

Half the fun of tie-dyeing is in coming up with your own ways of doing it.

Who knows what kind of masterpiece you could come up with.

Nounours with a proud look on his face looking at the camera in front of a table onto which there are mixed dye bottles and a bonded shirt resting on a cookie tray
Nounours applying red-orange dye from a bottle onto a shirt bonded in a crinkle pattern
Nounours applying the last bit of dye onto a shirt which is now almost completely covered in red, yellow and orange dye
Nounours flipping a crinkle shirt that is dyed on one side, exposing it's other side which is still white
Nounours filling the remaing white areas of the shirt with red-orange dye

6. Let the dye set

The dye needs time to react fully with the fabric.

We found that letting it set overnight works really well.

Letting the shirt sit for 8 to 24 hours is recommended.

You can let it set for a lesser amount of time if you’re in a rush.

The dye will still work but the colors can turn out a bit paler.

Take this time to enjoy yourself, you’ve earned it!

A shirt, bonded and fashioned into a crinkle folding patter, now entirely dyed in a fire color pattern
Nounours laying on a couch with a game controller in his paws and a dyed hat on his head, waiting patiently

7. Rinse the shirt

After having waited for the dye to set you can now take your dyed shirt and begin rinsing it off.

In your sink or shower, rinse off the excess dye from the shirt under cold water.

While rinsing the shirt, slowly commence removing its bonding and unfolding it.

Gradually increase the water temperature until it gets warm but not too hot.

Continue rinsing until the water runs clear.

Nounours rinsing the shirt he dyed earlier. The shirt is resting on a baking grid inside a sink and is being rinsed by the water from the faucet
A now-untied dyed shirt is being rinsed in the sink by Nounours

8. Wash and dry the shirt

Almost done!

Wash the shirt by itself in the washing machine with a bit of detergent.

Dry off the shirt and voilĂ !
You now have a beautiful tie-dye shirt. You can be proud of yourself.

Nounours laying upside down on top of the washer and dryer, waiting for the shirt he tie-dyed to be washed and dryed

Congratulations on your fire tie-dye!

Don’t forget to visit our pattern library if you’d like to try another design.

If you’re curious to know the origins of tie-dyeing, we also have a section about the history of tie-dye.

Nounours with a proud grin presenting the shirt he expertly dyed. Good job Nounours!