Category Archives: Patterns

Yoga Pants to Dye for!


Yoga Pants, Lorraine Cook, 2014

front and back views

It is a great pleasure to introduce a guest blogger to share with us some of her marvelous wearable art.  Lorraine Cook lives, works, and plays in Interlachen, Florida in the USA. is the place to view and purchase her wares.  After several years of learning the basics, Lorraine has developed her own personal style of tie dyeing unlike any other.  She was gracious enough to photograph her process, documenting the magic to share here at Up and Dyed.  Friends, prepare to be inspired!

In her words:


 I start with a pair of white cotton  yoga pants that have been soaked overnight in soda ash water, spun out in the spin cycle of my washing machine to get all the excess water out, and then hung on a hanger until they have completely air dried.

I lay them out flat and draw areas where I want the stars, peace sign, hip and lower right leg designs to be. Then I use a 3 lb coffee container lid to trace the half and full circles on the right leg.


Beginning with the 8-point star at the top of the wearer’s left leg, I fold and tie that, working my way down to the next star, and finally the peace sign.




Moving to the right leg, I fold the leg in half, with the inside and outside seams meeting and clip the edges together in a couple places to keep the fold in place.[editor’s note: Lorraine is using paper binder clips to secure her work. Clothes pins, or any similar clamp will work fine.]  Starting with the top half circle I pleat along the drawn line and then band it tight with sinew on the line and then tie 4 sections making the sinew tight. I work my way down the leg doing the other half circles the same way.


I unfold the bottom section of the right leg, below the half circles, and lay that out flat so I can see the “V” lines that I’ve drawn. I pleat along each line, starting at the top one and working my way down. Keep the line straight when you pleat, pulling it around the corner when you get to it. Band each of those lines loosely, not tight like the circles. When you pull the sinew tight it leaves white lines.


 After doing the legs move up to the hip area, laying that out flat and banding it (not tight) as you pleat along the curved lines. Once you’re done with that, lay the pants out, and, beginning at the bottom of one leg, gather the material  in sections, wrap with the sinew, pulling it tight, until you’ve got the entire thing banded up.





I use the rainbow for my color selection but you can use whatever colors you like. I like to start with the stars when I begin dyeing. When I’m done with each of those I wrap them up good in plastic wrap using a rubber band to keep them in place.


The plastic wrap keeps each area from touching other areas and transferring one color onto another, which ALWAYS happens to me when I don’t wrap them. After dyeing the 2 stars and peace sign I finish up that leg and move on to the other one, doing the half-circles the same way, wrapping them in plastic as soon as I’m done dyeing each one.


19 .
Since most of the pants have been tied tight with the sinew it will take MUCH time and patience to add the dye to each section. I use a syringe and literally drip the dye, one drop at a time, onto the cotton. It can take upwards of 3 hours for me to finish dyeing a pair.

Have fun and change up your colors and design placement to create your look!!



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Tie Dye Patterns, Part 3: Folds


Vee Fold

Many of the popular patterns in tie dye are started by folding the garment in halves, thirds, or quarters, either vertically, or horizontally, or both.   What happens when a garment or piece of fabric is folded, then tie dyed?  A mirror image results on each of the layers in the fold.  One fold creates two images, two folds create four images.  And so on.  Most folds are also accordion pleated to complete the design.  Geometrical accordion pleating is very similar to the technique learned in a previous blog about pleating a symmetrical image.  Instead of forcing a curved chalk line into a straight one, pleats are either uniform, or angled.

Let’s walk through a few folded, then pleated designs, step by step.


  1. Fold a pre-soaked tee-shirt, or other garment, in half vertically, smoothing out any wrinkles, matching all the seams, and hem, and sleeves.
  2. Using colored chalk and a yard stick, make two parallel line at an angle to the shoulder.
  5. Pleat against the chalk lines, creating a graduated angle the full length of the garment.
  8. DO NOT pick up the garment, but slide the bands on from each end.
  9. Band tightly at about two inch intervals the full length of the garment.
  11. Using the bands as guides, dye the area between the bands, fully saturating each section.

Pyramid–this fold and pleat is the same as the V-fold, just going the opposite direction.

  1. Fold a pre-soaked tee shirt, or other garment, in half vertically, matching all the seams, hem, and sleeves.  Smooth out any wrinkles.
  3. Using colored chalk and a yard stick, make two parallel lines at an angle to the hem of the garment.
  4. Pleat against the chalk lines, creating a graduated angle the full length of the shirt.
  7. Band tightly at about two inch intervals the full length of the garment.
  8. Using the bindings as a guide, saturate the fabric between the bands.

One of the tie dye patterns I have my apprentices master first  is the diamond.  It is such a simple fold.  Yet through mastering the diamond fold and its kin the tie dyer begins training the mind to anticipate the outcome of various more complex folds.



  1. Fold the garment in half vertically, then again horizontally.
  2. The center of the shirt is now in a fold at one corner.
  3. Using that corner as the first pleat, pull up a ridge in the fabric from corner tip to shoulder.
  5. Continue pleating until the entire garment is pleated.
  6. DO NOT pick up the pleated garment.  Slide bands from each end at evenly spaced intervals until the entire length is banded.
  8. Saturate with dye between the bindings.

X Fold is the same as a diamond, but pleated in the opposite direction.



Zig Zag

  1. Fold the garment horizontally three or more equal folds.
  2. Fold the sleeves in towards the center of the garment.
  3. Starting at the shoulder, pull up the first pleat ridge at an angle to the long folded side.
  5. Continue accordion pleating at the same angle until the entire garment is pleated.
  6. NOT picking up the garment, place bindings at evenly spaced intervals.

In this tie up, six or more layers are folded together, creating a strong resist to the dye application.  Therefore apply the dye with a heavy hand in order to reach the inner most folds.


Eric modeling a rainbow zigzag.

Unlike the spiral patterns, folding and pleating require a great deal more precision to produce a crisp, distinct pattern.  Good dye penetration into the tightly bound folds takes a little practice, as well.  Practice and patience are foremost in creating geometrical designs.

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Good Ole Paper Towels


When I first began purchasing tie dyed clothing there were not many intricate designs available.  Bull’s eyes, spirals, and V folds were pretty much the norm in the early days.  Now, the art form is highly sophisticated with a limitless array of simple to complex patterns. I am frequently astounded at the complexity and detail-rich creations produced by my colleagues around the world.  How did they DO THAT?

In the mid 1980s, I bought a two color spiral for my daughter and played with it until I figured out what to do.  That is one way of learning.  Folding, crimping, or twisting a shirt, binding it, then dyeing it, and washing it out is another learning experience.  Purchasing a book or DVD, watching YouTube videos, attending workshops are all good choices, too.  Jumping right in and attempting whatever crosses your mind is another common approach to self-teaching.  Although every tie dyeing experience is valuable to the education of the novice dyer, no one like to feel they are wasting time, effort, and especially, money.

In the apprenticeship program and workshops I offer through my studio, it was necessary to develop a means for the students to learn how to design their own patterns without bankrupting me from buying shirts and dyes.  I use a variety of corner-cutting measures to save time and resources with both the apprentices and workshop students.  One of my favorite teaching techniques is to create patterns using paper towels.  By using this method, immediate results are attainable, no garments or dye have been ‘wasted’, and most importantly, a permanent record can be compiled of the manipulations and color placement.

  1. Purchase a cheap set of felt tipped markers and a roll of white paper towels.  The ink from the markers will soak into the paper towel in the same way dye soaks into fabric.  Old leftover dye can be substituted for the markers.
  2. Trim the paper towel into the shape of a tee shirt, if desired.
  3. Fold, pleat, crimp, spiral (or combine techniques), the paper towel.
  4. Use the markers, allowing the tip to remain in contact with the towel long enough for the ink to soak in.  Or drip on a tiny amount of leftover dye.
  5. Spread the towel back out to see the resulting pattern and color distribution.  Because it is paper, the folds will still be visible.
  6. Save the towels in a binder as a record of the attempted patterns, and color combinations.

This is a very simple exercise that may seem trivial, but it certainly is less costly and time-consuming than dyeing garments then waiting over night to test patterns.  As the tie dyer gains experience, it becomes easier to predict the outcome of new folds and pleats.



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Tie Dye Patterns, Part 2: Pleating a Symmetrical Image


Have you ever made a paper fan by folding back and forth repeatedly across a piece of stiff paper?  That  style of folding is called accordion pleating.  Accordion pleating is the basis for many tie dye designs.  Any symmetrical,  smooth- sided shape can be accordion pleated on a garment or piece of fabric.

1. Create a reuseable template.

Begin by drawing the desired shape on poster board or card board.  If you are insecure about drawing skills, download an image of the shape, enlarging it to the size needed to create the image on a garment.  After you are satisfied with the image,  fold it in half and cut it right down the center for vertically symmetrical images or straight across for horizontally symmetrical images.

Water-poof the half image by covering it on both sides with contact paper, or tape.  I generally use clear packing tape or duct tape.  This creates a reusable water-resistant template of the desired image.

2.  Fold the garment in half, either vertically or horizontally, as the design indicates. Smooth out all the wrinkles.  Match up all the seams, the hem, and the sleeves. Lay the template on the fold.  Using colored chalk, out line the image.  Turn the folded garment over and repeat. Why not just draw the image, then fold the garment in half?  By folding the garment first, the image will be centered on the shirt.  This method also allows for the few millimeters of fabric involved in the fold itself, so the resulting image is not distorted.   Below is a heart template to illustrate.



Please note:  I am left-handed, so for the 85% of humanity who are not left-handed, much of what I do looks backwards.  Follow the procedure using the direction that feels natural and comfortable to you.

3.  Select a point on the chalk line a few inches from the fold, lifting a ridge in the fabric to create the first pleat. Using the nature of damp fabric, and the hard surface of the table, push the first pleat, creating further pleats.


Try to keep the height of each pleat equal.  Continue pleating, forcing the curved line into a straight line.

Pleat the rest of the garment at the same angle below the chalk line.  GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Pull the cleft of the heart into the straight line.  My straight line is not so straight, but that will be remedied as the bindings are put in place.


4. Leaving the garment flat on the table, slide a rubber band ( or the binding of your choice) onto the end where the fold starts. Bind the image, using the chalk line as a guide.  Pull the binding as tight as possible, so it will have to be cut off later.  Tight bindings are what prevents the dye colors from bleeding together, keeping the image crisp.  DO NOT PICK UP THE GARMENT!  Leave it flat on the work surface, or the pleats will fall apart, causing bad words to be said  and forcing you to start  over.


Now that wonky line can be tugged into submission, by holding the unbound shirt against the table and pulling the image the opposite direction.


5.  Continue binding, at evenly spaced intervals, until the whole garment is tied up.  It is easiest to work from the folded image end to the half way point, then slide the garment around and begin binding from the opposite end.


Once all the bindings are in place, the garment can be safely moved and handled.  At this point, check all the bindings for tightness, pulling any slack to tighten fully.

Sometimes, a line of pleats will buckle under the pressure of the bindings, causing much distress to the tie dyer— again with the bad words!  Two techniques can help eliminate this horrible occurrence.  Creating deep pleats, rather than shallow ones, greatly reduces the risk of buckling.  Even more security can be obtained by placing splints on either side of the bound item, stabilizing the pleats.  I use retired chop sticks, retired popsicle sticks, or as in the illustration, bamboo skewers with the sharp tips nipped off.


Secure the splints in place by wrapping tightly with rubber bands.  Place bound item in a plastic bag until ready to dye, if desired, to maintain dampness.

A word or two about bindings.

There are many materials suitable to use in tying items for dyeing.  Every tie dyer has his or her personal preference.  In my 25 years of  tie dyeing, I have experimented with a wide variety of bindings, stitching, and clamping techniques.  It is my belief that the beginner is best off using rubber bands, then exploring other options as confidence is gained.

Even though  I am a frugal soul, I never save and re-use washed bindings.  Tiny, hidden bits of dye reside in the stretched elastic, or in the binding material’s fibers that will transfer to the next project, potentially mucking up the color pattern or design.  My bindings are so tight, they must be cut away during the washout process, thus rendering them un-reusable.

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Tie Dye Patterns, Part 1 : Spirals


The amazing designs created in tie dyeing fall into three main categories: Spirals, Folds and Pleats.  Within each category are numerous variations and combinations of techniques.  Each tie dyer has his or her own unique method of producing the patterns.  There really is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  As a tie dyer gains experience and confidence, more advanced methods can be attempted, such as using stitching, or clamps.  For now we are going to cover the basics of Spirals.  Future blogs will incorporate the other methods, as well as more complex techniques.

I have taught hundreds of people to tie dye in my career– three generations worth of budding artists. I always teach children and beginners the spiral first because it is the easiest pattern to attempt with the most dependable outcome.  One of the most frequently heard comments AFTER tying up the spiral pattern is “My shirt is going to be a heart” !  Or a peace symbol, or a diamond… get the picture.  The answer is “Not unless we tie it up that way”!  The manner in which the fabric is manipulated then bound PLUS the manner in which the dye is applied determine the outcome, not wishful thinking.

My preference is to tie up a garment while it is damp.  Why?  Water molecules are attracted to each other.  Have you ever removed a wet bathing suit?  It clings to itself and to your body.  Using the nature of damp fabric gives the tie dyer two advantages.

  1. The fabric clings to itself, holding the pattern in the desired shape until the bindings are put in place.
  2. The dye wicks more efficiently into bound damp fabric.

Many dyers prefer to dye on dry fabric.  After trying several methods, my experience taught me that damp is preferable to me.  Try for yourself, and determine which method works best for you.

The following techniques are described with the understanding that a cotton jersey knit Tee Shirt is the subject for the design.  The same process can be applied to other style garments, fabrics, bed linens, etc.

Using the pre-soak method outlined in a previous post, prepare the garment for dyeing. 

SPIRALS and their kin.

Step by step illustrations are below.  Click on picture to enlarge for details.

  1. Spread the garment out flat, front side up, on a clean surface.
  2. Smooth out any wrinkles, match up seams, and straighten the collar.
  3. Using a metal dinner fork, select the point at which you desire the center of the spiral to begin.  I usually select the chest area, about half way between the under arms of the shirt.
  4. Hold the fork perpendicular to the surface, apply a little pressure, and begin twisting the fork.  Twist the way spaghetti is wound onto a fork.
  5. Pleats will form around the fork in even intervals.  If the shirt starts to “climb” the fork, start over, using less pressure.
  6. Use your other hand to smooth the sleeves and hem into the same direction as the spiral.
  7. The fork should be able to stand alone in the center of what now resembles a cinnamon roll.
  8. Leave the fork in place.  With a large, thin rubber band, bind the shirt around the outside perimeter.
  9. Remove the fork.  DO NOT PICK UP THE SHIRT.
  10. Using three more rubber bands, slide each from the side, to make an intersection over the center of the spiral where the fork was.
  11. It should now resemble a sliced pie, with six equal wedges.

The bound shirt can now be moved without fear of ruining the pattern and is ready to dye.  In the event that you are tie dyeing several garments, place the bound items in a plastic bag to keep them damp (and clean) until you are ready to dye. If at any point in the tying phase, you are not pleased with the appearance, start over at Step 1.  A nice neat tie up means a better looking garment in the end.




Variation on the spiral include, but are not limited to, double and triple spirals, off-center spirals, and side spirals.



Double Spiral


Off center spiral

  1. Multiple spiral designs are made by first folding the shirt, then spiralling all the layers, creating mirror images.
  2. Starting the spiral at the hem, or shoulder, or waist for an off balanced appearance.
  3. Instead of having the shirt front up in Step 1, lay it out where the sleeves are on top of one another and the side of the shirt is facing up.
  4. Start the spiral on the collar for a fanned out design.
  5. Think up something else really cool and share it with us here at Up and Dyed!I hope this information is useful to you.  If so, please consider making a donation to help keep my blog ad free.



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