Make stunning tie-dye shirts & other fashions just like hippies did it in the 70s

How to tie dye fabric the hippie way

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email

Why tie-dye?

Like so many other design trends of the 1960s and 70s (hello, bell bottoms and macrame!) — tie-dye has made a huge comeback over the past several years.

The beauty of tie-dye is that anyone can do it; it’s the ultimate fashion DIY. You may not be able to sew a stitch, but even kids can tie-dye a t-shirt (as many a former Girl Scout may recall from her trooping years).

It doesn’t hurt that it’s inexpensive and only requires a few items to make the magic happen — something made out of fabric (any old t-shirt will do), some rubber bands and all-purpose dye. That’s it.

Several T-shirts on a clothesline painted in tie dye style.
Photo by kvladimirv/Freepik

Tie-dye shirts — and so much more

Although tie-dye-as-a-concept transcends cultures and spans millennia, these days we associate it primarily with the psychedelic counterculture fad of the 60s and 70s.

Check out these retro tie-dye ideas for your project inspiration — there is so much potential beyond tie-die shirts: dresses, jeans, scarves, bathing suits and hats — even tights and satin! The possibilities are truly endless.

And if you need to get some tie-dye tips, don’t miss these vintage step-by-step how-tos direct from the 70s-era experts at RIT dye.

Four bottles of paint and a white T-shirt rolled up for coloring in tie dye style. Flat lay.
Photo by kvladimirv/Freepik

Have a tie-dye party

“Talk about far-out T-shirts! Rit really made my tie-dye party fly!”

Have a tie-dye party


Groovy tie-dye how-to

How to make this happening top: Basic tie-dye knot can be any size. you can tuck the center of the knot back inside for a different effect.

Tie tightly with a rubber band. Dye won’t absorb through the rubber band… that’s how the pattern of white lines happens.

Toss the whole garment into hot diluted Rit dye. 10 to 15 minutes for t-shirts. About 30 minutes for jeans. Or you can dip the knots alone. Or you can tie new knots and dip them in a different color.

By Twenty20Photos/Envato
By Twenty20Photos/Envato

How to make this yellow and black t-shirt: Gather four stripes across the t-shirt. Tie tightly with rubber bands. Lots of rubber bands together give you a broader white pattern. Dip bottom in hot diluted charcoal-colored dye. Turn upside down and dip top in yellow.

PS: Some people just gather fabric up and tie it; or wring it and tie it. You can make up some great effects yourself… the dyed result is usually marvelous and unique.

Jean dye jobs: Accordion fold jeans lengthwise. You don’t have to be good at it — pattern can be wobbly. Fold jeans in half, then in half again. Tie tightly at intervals with rubber bands.

Dip halfway in diluted dark brown, or whatever color turns you on. Now turn the fabric around and drop the other half in hot diluted Rit orange.

Groovy tie-dye how-to


Splash and dash tie dye dress – Groovy vintage fashion (1970)

Splash and dash tie dye dress fashion 1970


Ideas for tie-dye scarves, hippie-style

Rit tie dye scarves


Fit to be tie-dyed (1970)

Getting dressed today is no longer a simple matter. It’s a challenge. You must choose your own skirt length, you must accessorize with scarves, vests, capes, floppy hats. You have to decide where your waist should be and whether to belt it. It boggles the mind.

But one way to stand up to the situation is on your own exciting legs — covered with pantyhose or tights that you have designed and colored yourself.

It’s done by tie-dyeing, and doesn’t require skill or a fantastic color sense. All you need is the desire to turn out a unique-looking you.

ALSO SEE
A white & blue tie-dyed sofa was spectacular 70s living room decor

Tie-dyeing is an ancient method of fabric design being revived by swinging do it-yourselfers as well as by the country’s top designers.

It involves tying off sections of fabric with rubber bands or string and dipping the fabric into pots of simmering household dyes. Patterns of color are formed because the dyes do not penetrate the tied areas.

Tie dye how-to for satin

The results are vibrant designs that may range from geometric patterns to overall, lush organic effects. Experimenting with various knots, folds and colors will produce unexpectedly delightful designs. There are no mistakes — just improvisations which can be more fun than a planned pattern.

Here’s how to tie-dye: Start with inexpensive white or pale pantyhose. Supplies needed are Rit dye in powder or liquid form, a stock of rubber bands, wooden spoon for stirring dye bath, rubber gloves, and a glass, metal or enamel pan large enough to completely immerse the garment.

Wet down the tights or pantyhose, fold in half, lengthwise. Working on a flat surface, band a series of closely-spaced rosette knots over the entire surface of the tights. Just pinch the fabric into puffs of desired height and secure the base of the puff tightly with a rubber band.

For concentric circles or a sunburst effect, band the puffs in several places. The more rubber bands you use, the more circles will result.

Use 1/4 cup of liquid dye or 1/2 package of regular powder for each quart of water and heat in the pan. The dye solution should be kept simmering throughout the process, but never allowed to boil. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.

WANT TO TRY DYE? See several dye brands and colors here!

Keep tights in the dye bath for 15 to 20 minutes, making sure all fabric is covered by the dye. When the desired shade is reached, squeeze out excess, and rinse in cold running water. Unband the knot, then re-rinse until the water runs clear. And stand back and admire your handiwork.


Tie-dye some electric satin!

Tie dye how-to for satin

How to tie-dye satin

Simplicity says it’s shocking! Shocking jolts of Rit color really turn satin on. You tie, dip and dye it to create your own unique print. Sew on an electrifying pattern. Rit color makes it fun — Simplicity Patterns make it easy — you make it different from anyone else!

Crumble an area of fabric together. Tuck know center inside. Secure with rubber bands. Plot the “knots” over the fabric.

Dip the whole fabric or just knots in simmering diluted Rit for 15 minutes. (1/4 cup of liquid Rit or 1/2 package regular powder dye to each quart of water.) Rinse in running water. Untie knots. Re-rinse until water runs clear. Iron damp.

Tie dye how-to for satin

Tie dye how-to for satin


Rit tie dye wall art from 1971

Rit tie dye wall art from 1971

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, plus see exclusive retro-inspired products in our shop. Thanks for visiting!

Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email

You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Tie dye has never gone out of style… but DIY tie dye has, mainly because it’s far more difficult than it looks. I recall the initial tie dye craze in the 70s, and most of our attempts at it were, simply put, a mess. Not to say that it wasn’t fun…

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See some of our books!