What can you use instead of rubber bands for tie-dye?

What can you use instead of rubber bands?

So we often use rubber bands for tying the shirts. You might be asking : “why do we use rubber bands and do we really need to use them?”. Do you even need to tie the shirt in order to dye it? We searched for the answers to all these questions and we found even more interesting information!

After folding the shirt we want the shirt to hold its shape. We need to somehow restrain the fabric. There are in fact multiple ways to hold the fabric in place for the dyeing process. The most common way is to surround the folded shirt with a bunch of rubber bands. We have tested many materials and techniques and we have found many other ways to bind the shirt.

Why use rubber bands

If you are like us, you probably have used your fair share of rubber bands, but why do we use them at all? Really the only reason is that it’s the quickest and easiest way to do something. It does hold the shirt in place, but it is not the best way to hold it, in fact, rubber bands have many disadvantages. Don’t get me wrong, rubber bands are great at what they do, they form a loop that can quickly expand and can contract with some force.

The problem is that we have little control over the contracting force when using rubber bands. We often find that they are inconsistent and they pull too much on the fabric. When you expand them, the elastic bands will pull more and more, but there is a limit where they will break, in fact they break very easily. There are in fact other ways to tie the shirt that are better. The other methods take longer though, so the rubber bands are still the king of speed and simplicity.

The disadvantages of rubber bands

There are in fact better materials and techniques that will let use tie our shirt with more control and precision. Rubber bands are great for doing it quick and also are great for beginners. The problem is they do not work very well in a number of situations. First, they don’t work well with very large shirts because you cannot stretch them enough without breaking them. We also have problems when trying to tie a very small section of the shirt and the rubber bands are too big to fit properly.

Also, you cannot control the force between the rubber bands and this shirt and they can mess up your pleats and in the worst situations, they can even fold your shirt in half! We have seen it with our eyes, so this is why we recommend more advanced methods of tying the shirt. What you need is control and this next method will give you plenty of it. The best intermediate tying technique is to use kite string.

A better way to tie

The material we recommend is a type of string or twine that will serve as a strong and versatile way of tying any project we need. You can find this string at a number of shops, it is also called mason line and twisted nylon twine. Essentially at this stage you want to use a roll of string that you can cut into pieces to easily tie a shirt in any way you can imagine. The string let’s you control the shirt much more easily and let’s you tie much more challenging folds. It is definitely a valuable tool that simplifies the process of tying the shirt,

Lengths of twine are ideal to use as much force or as little force as you need. You can decide to surround the folded shirt very gently or you can decide to tie it strongly. We really recommend this product for intermediate tie-dyers and also for beginners who want to have the freedom of tying the shirt exactly how you want it. The problem with string is that while you can pull very strongly on it and you can make it tight around the fabric, it has its own limits.

Maybe you cannot break the string by hand, but what is sure is that the way the string works, after a point it doesn’t work as well. You can pull more to make the string tighter, but the friction between the nylon fibers will prevent you from making very tight knots. When you need the maximum in tying technology you can try another material, artificial sinew.

Thousand times better than rubber bands

The best an strongest material we use in tying is made from waxed threads. The artificial sinew, as it is called, is very strong and durable and it comes with a lot of advantages. One of these advantages is that it is covered in a waxy substance that helps it slide and reduces the friction when tying.

Artificial sinew is a very advanced material that gives you a lot more possibilities when it comes to tying the shirt with a lot of strength. What need to happen when we pull strongly on the thread is that we want to make is as tight as possible around the fabric to compress the fibers and make is so the fibers cannot accept water. Artificial sinew is very expensive so you often will not use it for every tie-dye project, but you can also reuse your lengths of sinew for another time.

You can use this to make a great effect such as when used the mandala patterns and the geode patterns. A very tight sinew thread around the fabric will give it a band of white fabric with no dye where the sinew was tied. Get a spool of artificial sinew when you want to take your tie-dye game to the next level, especially if you want to make commercial patterns like the geode and mandala.

Do you even need to tie the shirt at all?

You may be surprised to know that in fact you do not need to tie the shirt if you do not want to. It is very possible to create a beautiful tie-dye pattern without tying the shirt at all. You can simply fold the shirt in any way you like and then dye it right there like that. There are reasons why we prefer to tie the shirt and why it is part of the recommended tie-dye process.

Not tying the shirt is quicker since it saves you a whole step, but there are disadvantages when doing this. When the folded shirt is left by itself and is not tied, the fabric has a tendency to become loose over time. Looseness between the pleats and fold will affect the final result. The reason we want to tie the shirt is so that is stays intact exactly in the form we want it to.

About us

We are Samuel and Francis. About two years ago we bought our first tools and supplies for tie-dyeing. Ever since then we’ve been learning the skills of folding and dyeing in intricate ways. We’ve learned from our experiences on the field about what techniques works and what doesn’t. This is the site were we share everything we’ve learned.

Samuel and Francis

We are the sole owners of this site, we live in Canada where we work everyday on making tie-dye more accessible to everyone. We are always looking forward to teaching you something new.