Tag Archives: tie dyeing

Tied Together Reunion 2014


Most artists and artisans spend many hours working alone.  We draw creative energy from within ourselves.  Affirmation comes from our patrons when our work is admired and purchased.  As more and more commerce transpires over the Internet, there is less interaction between artist and patron, less provision for artistic encouragement.   In the early days of my career, the fiber artists in my region were secretive about their methods, even about where supplies could be purchased.  Again,  the Internet for research, marketing, and social media has changed those circumstances, and whole online communities of artists now support, inspire, and encourage one another.

It was indeed a privilege to spend a few days apart from the routine of creating to be in the presence of others who create.  From an online tie dyeing community, 32 people from 8 states gathered in Tennessee at Natchez Trace State Park in mid-October.   David Childers at Custom Colours, Inc donated enough color swatch booklets for each artist to take one home.  Mr. Childers also graciously facilitated donations of 50 lbs. of sodium carbonate from Surrey Freight and 49 lbs of dye from Standard Dyes in High Point NC.  Prism Magic Clothing and Imports in Reno, NV donated more blanks than I could count.  Seasoned dyers brought equipment to share, and willingly demonstrated techniques.  Everyone generously pitched in consumable supplies.

Campers brought all kinds of items to tie dye, sheets, pants, tapestries, skirts, socks, and, of course, shirts. Bandannas and caps were tie dyed for Grateful Heads, an organization supplying headcoverings for cancer patients coping with hair loss.  We did not have enough time to do all the activities we had planned, but we did learn and share a wealth of information.  It was an enriching experience for all involved.  We were surrounded by tapestries made by some of the Masters in our midst.



So how do 30+ folks create dyeing art in the woods with  no laundry facilities?  Volunteers brought tubs and buckets and garden hoses.  A portable, 20-gallon laundry sink outfitted with a wringer allowed us to presoak many items simultaneously.  After two passes through the wringer, it was on to the clothesline to await tie up.

wringer at Reunion




 Artificial sinew, rubber bands, plastic twine, cotton twine, dental floss, plastic ties, hemostats, and who knows what else were used to bind the material after it was manipulated into patterns, scenes and designs.

michael C


Dye solution was mixed using spring water in one gallon buckets, using a submersible blender.  From a selection of 25 colors provided by Standard Dyes, we sampled about 11 colors, using around 25 gallons of liquid dye. Since we had substantial leftovers, Participants were free to take unused dye powder home, and most did gather samples for later use.  Sacks of sodium carbonate were great door prizes, too.

  a dye mixin' fool

Dye was applied using syringes, squeeze bottles, injectors, droppers, pipettes, sponges, brushes, and sprayed on.

Dyeing at Reunion





On Saturday afternoon, our lesson in arashi shibori was fun and informative.


Several folks tried the pole wrapping technique.




Beautiful results!



Sunday morning a demonstration of dye removal, discharging, was received with enthusiasm.  SoftScrub cleanser was used to discharge the color from black garments.

Discharge demo 1

discharge demo 2

Several garments were ice dyed with spectacular results.  Dry dye powder is sprinkled on a ice-topped, tied item.  Or dry dye powder is sprinkled on a pre-soaked tied item, then ice is piled on top of the dye.  As the ice melts, the dye is slowly distributed through the folds of the material, creating a unique, water colored appearance.   A future guest blogger will describe this process and its variables in great detail. Stay tuned!  Pictured is a denim jacket iced dyed using several shades of red dye.



Stars were popular designs among the campers.





A sample of techniques, from spirals to pleats, and beyond.


Wash out was a big challenge without the use of laundry facilities.  Using a garden hose and sprayer for rinsing, and that handy sink and wringer, a washing method was  established that was clumsy and labor intensive.  We used about 200 feet of clothes line strung between the trees as a dryer.  There were many joyous moments at the hose.

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Three days in the company of kindred spirits in the beautiful woods was a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.  Friendships were forged, inspiring art was created, and a blending of artistic expression celebrated.  Let’s do it again!



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Dyeing Arts Retreat Spring 2014


“Painted” with thickened dyes

It has been a while since I have had time to do any blogging, and this one is quite brief.  Learning the different forms of resist dyeing is best accomplished by DOING rather than reading.  All the text books, videos,  manufacturers’ instructions, and blogs can not compare with hands-on instruction and personal experience.  That is why I train apprentices and offer workshops.  It gives those new to the art form an opportunity to gain basic skills.  It also allows the more advanced practitioner the opportunity to sharpen techniques under the guidance of an experienced Master Dyer.  The third Saturday of each month I host a Beginners and an Advanced workshop in a classroom at one of my retail outlets in Cookeville, TN, USA.  These 2 hour workshops are a great way to give resist dyeing a brief try.  But my patrons have demanded more in depth learning experiences.

Therefore it is my distinct pleasure to invite you to attend a Retreat Workshop in the hills of Tennessee near my home.  I have reserved a rustic lodge at Standing Stone State Park at Hilham, Tennessee for the evening of March 28, 2014 through the morning of March 31, 2014.  We will  explore several resist dyeing techniques, including three methods of Batik, Shibori, Tie Dyeing,  Discharging, and the use of thickening agents to paint with dyes.


Batik using soy wax and fiber reactive dyes

All lodging, meals, supplies, and materials are included as a package for only $350 per person.  Due to the intensity of our curriculum, the workshop is limited to six participants.  A $100 non- refundable deposit is required by Dec. 31, 2013, with the remaining $250 due by March 1, 2014.  Interested individuals may seek more information, and registration procedure at the Events section on my Facebook page–link at upper right of this page.

In all likelihood, I will offer more Retreat-style Workshops in the future, perhaps covering different topics. In the event that this time it is not feasible for you to participate, Fear Not, other opportunities will arise!


“Painted” using thickened fiber reactive dyes on cotton


Discharged with household cleanser, then re-dyed using thickened fiber reactive dyes

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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…..you 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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Filed under How to, Patterns