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Tie dye with natural dyes tutorial

Hi Creative Mamas! If you are interested in tie dye and you love using natural dyes you are definitely in for a treat! In this post I will show you step by step how to achieve beautiful results by using tie dye techniques in combination with natural dyes.

What is tie dye?

We refer to tie dye as a method in which we create a resist area in a piece of fabric. It usually involves binding areas with thread or rubber bands to create circle shapes on the cloth. However, tie dye is a type of Shibori and it’s traditionally known as Kanoko Shibori. Check out this Tie dye tutorial using Kanoko Shibori to make a tie dye t shirt.

tie dye with natural dyes

What is Shibori?

Shibori is an ancient Japanesse dyeing technique. The word shibori derives from the word shiboru which means to press and squeeze.

Shibori includes a range of different techniques which involve manipulating the pre dyed fabric by stitching, folding, compressing and twisting. These will create resist areas withing the cloth. Once the cloth is immersed in the dye bath, these folded areas are not going to be in contact with the dye and therefore will remain undyed.

Depending on the fabric and the dye used the results can vary a lot and the different shibori techniques can also be combined to create spectacular designs.

Types of Shibori

  • Arashi Shibori
  • Itajima Shibori
  • Kanoko Shibori

Arashi Shibori

It’s a well known and widely practiced technique amongst all dyers and it involves wrapping the fabric diagonally around a pole and tightly binding it with string. The fabric is pushed towards one end of the pole and the result is beautiful creases that resemble waves.

Itajimi Shibori

This method requires a couple of shaped objects to resist the dye. Traditionally it was practiced with wooden objects but nowadays we use Perspex, plastic or hardware clamps. The fabric is paced in between the objects and clamped together to resist the dye.

Kanoko Shibori

This is commonly referred as Tie Dye and it involves binding areas of cloth with thread, string or rubber bands to create a resist. Check out this great step by step tutorial to learn how to tie dye a t shirt using Kanoko Shibori.  

How to tie dye with natural dyes

Now that we understand what tie dye really is and where it comes from I want to share with you how to use natural dyes in combination with tie dye.  

Most commonly people will use acid dyes in combination with tie dye. I prefer using eco friendly and natural dyes. They not only yield much more sophisticated colors but they are also much better for the dyer and the wearer😊. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Natural Dyeing for a detailed article on how to get started with natural dyeing.

What are natural dyes?

Natural dyes are extracted from natural sources such as leaves, flowers, bark, insects, rocks, roots, fruit and vegetables. Through the process of natural dyeing you can use these dyes to create the most amazing colors! Check out the FREE best 10 Natural dyes List by completing the form below.

Types of dyes:

  • Substantive dyes
  • Adjective dyes
  • Vat dyes
  • Fugitive dyes

Which are the best colorfast natural dyes?

The list is extensive list and it includes food waste, tree leaves, flowers, insects and barks. Check out the Beginners Guide to Natural Dyes for a detailed list of natural dyes and the colors that you can expect to achieve.

How to tie dye with natural dyes – Tutorial

In this tutorial I will show you how to tie dye using natural dyes. I will be using 100 % cotton fabric and I have chosen to use cochineal as my natural dye. I will show you how to tie dye using Itajimi Shibori and Arashi Shibori.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details

Materials and Equipment

Step 1: Weigh your fabrics

The first thing you will always need to do when dyeing with natural dyes is to weigh your fabrics. All the formulas for mordanting and the amount of dye needed are based on the weight of the dry fabric. So before you do anything make sure that you place your fabric on top of your kitchen scale and make a note of the weight.

Using the kitchen scale: To make it easier place a bowl on top of the kitchen scale, then make sure you reset the scale to zero and then place the fabric inside the bowl.

NOTE: Be sure to confirm that your fabric is truly 100% cotton by doing a FABRIC BURN TEST to test the fabric 🙂

Step 2: Scouring and mordanting

We must always do the scoring and mordanting processes.

What is scouring?

Scouring is the process of washing and boiling the fabric in order to eliminate all chemical residues that the fabric may have. We do this to ensure that the fabric is clean and can be receptive to the dyes during the dyeing process.

We are working with 100% cotton so this scouring instructions are for cotton only. Fill your stainless steel pot with hot water. Add 1 tablespoon of neutral PH soap and 1 tablespoon of soda ash.

Stir and place fabric inside the pot. Bring the pot to a boil and boil the fabric for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the water is yellow. Rinse well.

Check out how to scour in The Ultimate Guide To Natural Dyeing for a detailed explanation on scouring with different types of fabrics.

What is mordanting?

Mordanting derives from the word bite. It literally means to open the fiber through a mordanting substance so that the dye can bite the fiber.Because we are working with 100% cotton which is a cellulose fiber, the following instructions are different to silk and wool which are protein fibers.

Check out how to mordant in The Ultimate Guide To Natural Dyeing for a detailed explanation of mordanting with different types of fabrics.

For each 100 grams of dry fabric/yarn you will need between 10 grams and 25 grams of Allum Acetate (check the manufacturers suggested measure, I have seen great disparity between different manufacturer lately) and 6 grams of soda ash.

Imperial measurements: For each 4 oz of dry fabric you will need 40fl oz of Allum Acetate check the manufacturers suggested measure) and 10fl oz of soda ash.

Fill your stainless steel pot with water and dissolve the allum acetate. Stir well and add the soda ash. Make sure to wear a mask and to have a few windows open. The soda ash will react when it starts to release the carbon dioxide. This is ok but be sure not to inhale this.

We are dealing with natural processes but you must always be safe and remain cautious when mixing different substances 🙂 When all bubbles have disappeared add your wet fabric to this mordant bath.

Bring to a simmering point: 88 degrees C or 190 degrees F. Then turn off the heat and leave the bath resting overnight. Make sure you rinse well before dyeing.

Step 3: Resist dye – Itajimi Shibori

Once the fabric has been scoured and mordanted its ready to get tie dyed. You can do these two steps the day before and start the tie dye process the next morning. That’s what I would normally do myself.

For this example I have chosen to do Itajimi Shibori. As described in the Shibori section in this article (above) Itajimi Shibori involves compressing the fabric in order to create a resist. I will be using hardware clamps and I am going for a square concertina fold. So lets get started with the folding part of it.

Lay the wet fabric on a working surface.

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We need to fold the fabric like an accordion or a concertina so decide on the width of your fold. Make sure that the folds are all even.

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Once the concertina fold is done you need to start folding in the other direction creating a square shape.

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Once you have a square shape folded bundle. Press the folded square in between the clams. Add more little clamps all around it.

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Step 4: Make a dye bath

Go to The Ultimate Guide to Natural dyeing and read the section: Dye Extraction -How to make fabric dye. You can choose any dye. I suggest that you choose one of the best 10 Natural dyes List which I recommend so that you can be assured to get good quality and colorfast results. You just need to complete the form at the bottom of this post.

Once you have the dye bath you can immerse the folded square inside the dye pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour.

Remove from dye bath and rinse well.

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Step 5: Unfold

Remove clamps. Open the fold and be surprised!!!!

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I will now show you how to achieve a completely different result by tie dyeing in a different way using Arashi Shibori which is a bit more random but equally exciting!

Resist dye – Arashi Shibori- Tutorial

Repeat all steps up until step 3.

Step 3:

Place the wet fabric on the working surface. Fold the fabric in an accordion way as with the Itajimi method but this time you will start wrapping the folded fabric with a strong string.

Start by making a knot with the string on one end of the folded fabric and wrapping around the folded fabric towards the other end. Make sure the string is really tight. you are trying to create a resist area where the string is so it’s very important that the string is wrapping the fabric very tightly. Refer to illustrations below.

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Step 4: Dye bath

Place the wrapped folded fabric inside the dye bath. Make sure the bath goes to boiling point and leave simmering for an hour.

Remove fabric from dye bath and rinse well.

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Step 5: Unwrap and Unfold

Cut the string and start unwrapping and unfolding the fabric.

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The final result! Tie dye using natural dyes.

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Download the FREE Best 10 Natural Dyes List by completing the form below.

Keen for more tie dye fun?

Check out this cool tutorial on how to tie dye a t-shirt

Want to make your own tie dyed face masks?

Check out these cool face masks tutorial post

fabric face mask organic

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tie dye with natural dyes tutorial

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