How to tie-dye the cotton fabric?

While the cotton is the traditional fibre for tie-dyeing in Africa and India, you can use almost any fibre for this process providing that it is receptive for the dye and not too bulky to withstand tying. For best results, select a smooth, fine cloth such as cotton lawn. In general, man-made fibres are not as suitable as natural ones because they don’t absorb the dyes as readily.

Always make sure that you wash the cloth prior to dyeing to remove manufacturers’ finishes and grease, since these may impair the results. It is important that you wash the cloth in the hottest temperature it will withstand (refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for advice). Afterward, make sure that you rinse and dry the fabric and iron it flat before you start folding or dyeing.

As the example here featured reveal, everyone has their own technique of tie-dyeing. While some people favour stitch-resist technique, others produce existing results by binding objects like peanuts into the cloth. As you will see, the results are often diverse, especially if you create your own dye colour. The example shown in this step-by-step guide has been stitched in order to resist the dye, but you can employ a wide variety of techniques – from tying and binding to knotting, folding, plaiting and hand stitching.

For a random effect, clamp areas of the fabric together with paper clips, clothes pegs or bulldog clips. For a spotted design like that shown above, bind small objects as rice, pebbles or dried peas inside the fabric, then remove them after dyeing is complete.

Equipment & materials

  • fabric
  • turquoise cold-water dye
  • blue cold-water dye
  • fixative
  • measuring jug
  • 4 tbsp salt
  • absorbent kitchen paper
  • rubber gloves
  • needle
  • buttonhole thread
  • dyebath
  • wooden spoon
  • iron

First mix up turquoise dyebath, making sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. When the dye has completely dissolved, add four level tablespoons of salt and one sachet of fixative (dissolved first in boiling water). Wearing rubber gloves, immerse the fabric in the dyebath and keep it submerged for at least an hour. When the cloth has absorbed the dye, remove it from the bath and leave to dry.

To produce a lozenge design on the cloth, fold the fabric in half to produce two thicknesses and, using a running stitch and buttonhole thread, stitch a series of curves 10.2 cm (4 in) in length along the folded edge, making sure that you leave the ends of the thread free between each shape. To produce a repeat lozenge design, repeat this several times. Next, pull up the ends of the threads and gather them into a pouch effect.

To make the cloth resist the dye, bind the thread tightly around the neck of each pouch. Then soak the tied fabric in warm water to encourage it to take on an even colour when placed in the dyebath in next stages of process. Gently dab off excess moisture on absorbent kitchen paper.

Following the instructions given for the turquoise colour, make a dark-blue dyebath. Next, wearing rubber gloves, immerse the tie-dyed fabric in the liquid and agitate it a number of times with a wooden spoon so that it takes on the dye evenly throughout. Leave the tied fabric submerged in the dye for at least an hour so that it absorbs the dye completely.

In order to give an extra depth and to produce geometric shapes, the author has drawn out selected threads from the cloth

Finally, rinse the dyed cloth in warm water and leave it to dry. When the cloth is dry, untie the ties and unpick the stitches, then iron flat. Decorate with drawn-thread work.




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