By Megan Flød Johnson, Program Specialist


UPDATED 11:30 07/03/2020

Tie-Dye is an exciting way to add color flair to your upcycled, cotton goods.


Tie-dye has become fashionable again in a major way!  It is a fun and easy project to do with young people of all ages and you can tie-dye just about anything (as long as it’s made from 100% cotton).  You’ll create original and wearable art while upcycling materials you already have (so it’s also good for the planet!). Imagine a rainbow explosion on a towel, socks, your backpack, sweat pants, pillowcase, or even your SHOES. A plain white tee is a classic choice and they’re available in packs for a discount. Pick up a couple of yards of cotton fabric and cut into handkerchiefs or look around the house for any white items you already have. In our experience, young people will want to tie-dye multiple items once they get started!


Did you know that tie-dye is often associated with counter-cultural movements like the anti-war protestors in the 1960’s?  The bright colors and unexpected patterns represent a visual challenge to convention and authority. So show your individuality and refusal to conform while brightening up your wardrobe and home!


Tie-dye is an awesome outdoor activity for the grass or sidewalk. Dyes will permanently stain whatever surface you’re working on so throw down a plastic tablecloth or tarp if you want to protect the surface. Once the project materials are set-up, young people can independently create and add to their piece. Save leftover dye for your next tie-dye project!


– Item(s) you want to tie tye (remember, 100% cotton and light colors work best!)

– Rubber bands (easy to find at the dollar store or use ones you already have around your home)

–  DYE KIT (kits are available online or at a craft store, we like the TULIP brand kits because they come with everything you need (powder dye in a squeeze bottle with cap, & rubber bands)

– GLOVES- if you have a pair of plastic or rubber gloves, you probably want to wear them. Dyes will turn your hands all kinds of swampy colors that will take a few days to wear off. Most dyes are non-toxic so if you don’t mind colorful hands, don’t worry!

-Protect your clothes- wear an apron or clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

-Zip Lock Bags- big enough to hold you fabric pieces, so the dye can set.


      -Alternatively, you can use any fabric dye in your own squeeze bottle.

      -Tie-dye with organic matter like Tumeric, raspberries, or onion skins. Note: there is an extra step with organics to set the colors. Follow the link for more info about this option.

       -PAINT tie-dye- use a brush or sponge to paint colors onto items to achieve an ombre effect. Use small cups for each color of dye.

       -Tye-dying with ICE is super trendy at the moment and gives a more subtle color effect. If you’re up for this option, you’ll cover your prepared fabric with ice cubes and sprinkle dye powder over ice and let it melt.  (note: dye must be in unactivated powder form).

All images from Tulip brand site, (note: this is not a sponsored link).


First, choose a design- spiral, folds, the star or kaleidoscope, THERE ARE SO MANY DESIGN OPTIONS for tie-dye! Take a look through these options and choose your favorite.

Prepare your piece- Use your rubber bands to bind the fabric or hold your fabric together (places the rubber bands are= white lines). Note: the tighter the rubber bands, the more likely it is your fabric color will stay that color. If you’re tie-dying shoes, add painter’s tape to around the soles and remove the laces.

Mix up your dye- Mix your dyes according to the directions of your kit. Remember to wear your gloves and put caps on your bottles when you shake them!

Add Tie Dye Color!- squirt or paint on your dye. When you saturate one side of your piece, flip it over and saturate the other side. Note: younger children will want to over-do the dye until it’s sitting in a deep pool of color. You only need to saturate it.

Seal it up- Put your creation in a sealed bag for at least 24 hours while the dye sets. After a day or 2, squeeze out all the dye you can into a drain. Wash your tie-dye pieces separately in cold water as all dyes will bleed. WEAR and ENJOY!

Image from Tulip brand (not a sponsored post)