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How to Tie Dye a Tote Bag

Learn how to tie dye a tote bag in this Howcast video.


I'm going to teach you how to dye a very simple tote bag using tie-dye.

One of my favorite techniques to dye bags is just simply scrunch it in a random way so you can get these very organic but also subtle and cool patterns. I'm going to be using the color black because I like to have black tote bags, and I think it's a color that matches really well with everything you wear. So I'm going a little bit for the look that you can see me swatch over here.

So, here's my tote bag, and when you want to do a pretty random scrunching, that's what you want to think of. Random. Forget placing the scrunching at one end or another end because that will just make a more specific pattern. You want to start gathering your tote bag using your fingers, a little like making these fluff kind of shapes, but you want to keep it random but somehow consistent, so you don't end up with areas that are totally white and areas that are totally colored.

You might decide to include or not include your straps in the pattern. Maybe now that I see it, I'm going to decide to not include them, so my straps will be fully black and only the body of the bag will be patterned.

So once I gather it, you want to use rubber bands to keep the gathering together. As you can see, there's not a lot of science to it. You're pretty much just wrapping your gathering randomly with the rubber bands. And if you want your pattern to be pretty sparse with a lot of white areas, like for instance this one, you should have as many rubber bands as possible.

I'm going to add quite a few. And it's always good for these projects to have a huge stash of rubber bands, and you can get them pretty much at any office supply store. And they're super cheap, so don't worry about using too many. And you can always re-use them for other projects. If you're careful when you're removing them, you can just rinse them and then just re-use them on other projects. So there's very little waste.

Maybe a couple more, but it's looking pretty good. After you tie it in your scrunch pattern, you want to make sure that you get your tote bag wet before you put it in the dye bath. So I'm going to get it wet right now. I've already prepared my dye bath, my black dye bath, by mixing the dye into water and adding the dye activator, or washing soda, to it.

Just a quick tip on dyeing garments black. Black is the hardest color to get. It's really, really hard to get a pure black. So this is a case where more is better. You really want to add a lot of black dye if you want to go as close to pure black as possible. So I add quite a lot.

After your dye bath is ready and everything is dissolved, you want to enter your fabric in it. And once again, make sure that it stays fully submerged for the full time that it is dyeing. After one hour, you can remove it, take the rubber bands out, and rinse it, and see the results.

So, the bag has been soaking in the dye bath for about an hour, and I just removed it. I wrung out the excess, and I quickly rinsed it with water. I'm about to open the bundle and reveal the results, so let's see how this looks. Be careful when you're removing the rubber bands so you don't splash yourself. Also, you might hurt yourself because the rubber bands are pretty tight, so just be careful with it.

And you can see as I'm opening that we have a couple of lines in the fabric created by the rubber bands, which I think are going to look neat. So many rubber bands, but I guess that's what'll make the pattern cooler.

Okay. The moment that we've been waiting for the past hour. And this is the final tote bag. So, pretty random tie-dye pattern in the bottom. You also see that something that I find kind of cool happened, that as the dye was traveling to areas that had a slight resistance, the color sort of deconstructed, so you see some purples appearing, and that gives it some more depth.

And the strap ended up being a really solid and nice black, which I think contrasts really well with the rest of it. So, I'm overall happy with the result.

This was how you can tie-dye a tote bag using fabric-reactive dyes.

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