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How to Tie Dye a Dress

Learn how to tie dye a dress in this Howcast video.


I am going to show you how to tie dye a dress.

For this simple tank top dress, I chose to use a black color, a nickel color, and a bordeaux. I think I am going to go for vertical stripes, pretty random, but keeping it very simple and casual. Let us see how it will work out.

For the skirt I am going to pleat it with my hands and gather it. So, I’m just pulling a layer of fabric. Maybe I’ll show you a different way. So, I am just pulling a layer of fabric and gathering it. I have these simple accordion folds for the stripes. I am going to tie it together using a rubber band. I’m going to put some more on here.

Since the top of the dress is going to be in a different pattern, I am going to focus my rubber bands on this bottom area and then gradually decrease the quantity coming up to the top. I will do a different treatment on the top.

Tie dying is a lot about experimenting. A lot of times I do not really know how a project is going to come out before I do it. The more you do it, the more you will be able to predict how the techniques are going to work out in the garment that you are doing.

It’s kind of important to think about the garment as a whole and the place where you want to put the patterns. For instance, if you place a huge circle right on your belly, maybe you do not want that, or if you want to have an area with a lot of patterns happening or other areas very white. Really think about the garment as a whole before you start tying it.

Because I want striping to happen, but I do not want it to be really obvious, I am going to take my striping things and I am going to start rolling it into a spiral shape. I striped this end of the dress already. I am going to pick the ends of the bottom of the dress and start rolling it in like a spiral. Maybe up to here.

I am going to tie this together with a rubber band. Rubber bands are always your best friends when you are doing tie dying. They just help you hold any pattern that you want to make. The first one is in, with a couple more.

Then for the top of the dress, I think I am going to make a very random tie dye to contrast with the more structural tie dye that I did on the bottom. I am going to scrunch the top randomly leading up to the spiral that I just created with the stripes before.

After you are done, you just want to make sure that the transition area between the randomly scrunched part and the one with the stripes and the spiral is neat. You do not want to end up having a fully colored section there. You want it all to transition pretty easily. I think it looks good so I am going bundle it all together. See how it is a bit separated? I am just going to put a rubber band connecting it with the rest.

This is how it looks before I start dying. Because I am going to use three colors, the easiest way to do this is by using the squeeze bottle technique. That is what I am going to do. I am going to start by getting the fabric wet. After the fabric is wet I am going to soak it in my dye activator solution. which I previously prepared by mixing washing soda and water. It should soak in the dye activator for five to ten minutes. After that, you just squeeze out the excess water and you are ready to dye.

I am going to start applying my colors. I chose two very similar colors, the black and the nickel. I have a more contrasting color which is the bordeaux. I want my dress to end up being mainly black and nickel with just highlights of bordeaux. I am going to be very careful when I use the bordeaux and I am going to leave that for last. My nickel is slightly lighter than the black so I am going to start with that one. I am going to start applying to the dress and see how the color spreads. I’m going to flip it, apply it on the other side. Because this is such a tight bundle, you want to make sure that you get dye through all of the layers so that you do not end up with really white sections.

Sometimes to make sure that the dye goes through all of the layers I even take the tip of the squeeze bottle and press it against the fabric. Through applying pressure I can make sure the dye goes through the fabric. I think it is looking pretty good for the nickel so I am going to start adding little pops of black.

The good thing about leaving the black for after the other lighter colors, is that right now I am noticing big areas that have nickel that I do not want to be as plain. So, because the black dye is stronger than the nickel, I can over dye it and make some variation in it.

I think I am going to start adding little pops of the bordeaux color. I tested it before and it mixes really well with both the black and the nickel. I think this is going to look pretty cool. Coming back to some more black.

I sometimes open my bundle a little bit to peek and to see if I have areas that are very white. I think this is looking pretty good. Maybe I will put the squeeze in there.

Massaging it a little bit forces the colors to blend with each other and forces them to mix so you do not have as much of a contrast between color A and color B. It also forces the colors to go right through the middle and makes sure that you do not have that many white areas.

After you are done with the dying you want to cover your garment with a plastic bag and let it cure for four to twenty-four hours. After that you carefully remove all the rubber bands, you rinse, you dry it, and you are ready to wear it.

My dress has been curing for about four hours now so I think it is ready to be opened. I just rinse it really quickly and ring it out and I am about to remove the rubber bands. Always be really careful when removing the rubber bands so it does not splash anything onto you and that you do not hurt yourself.

You can always reuse these rubber bands too by rinsing them in water and then letting them dry to save for your next project. If you are careful in removing them and you do not break them, you can always use them again. If you get really impatient you can always cut them. I think this is unfolding pretty well.

This is the top part in which I had gone pretty random. I actually think it looks pretty cool. I really like how the colors blend together. It gives a bit of a punk aesthetic to it. Let us see how the bottom looks. I remember that I put the rubber bands on the bottom really tight so this is probably going to take a little longer to remove them. Slow and steady, you will get there. First one. Second one. Third one.

Removing rubber bands is sometimes harder when you are wearing gloves, so if you are sure that you gave it a really good rinse you can take off your gloves at this time. Last one. And it’s reveal time.

This is what the bottom looks like. Actually let me show you the front of it. Remember how on the bottom we were going for vertical stripes that would look a little bit organic, so not totally geometric.

I am pretty pleased. We see a bit of box action happening because of the rubber bands but we have solid vertical stripes. I really like it overall. I think it is a really good project.

This is how you tie dye a dress.

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