“Make T-shirt, don’t buy it!” – The Tie-Dye trend

The technique of Tie-Dye is a coloring technique through the creation of nodes on fabrics.

It is a modern version of traditional dyeing methods used in many cultures. It is an old technique.


Tie-Dye fabrics were found in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Probably dating back to 5000 b.c., the technique has spread in Africa, in the East and in South America. In each region the technique has different characteristics but all are united by the fact that designs are obtained with knots. With this technique fabrics are woven with ropes, according to a plan and then dyed. When you open the knotted areas crop out designs in contrast, whom with their shaded drawings constitute the typical element of Tie-Dye. With Tie-Dye it is possible to create a wide variety of designs and patterns, such as stripes, spirals, swirling designs, marbled patterns and many others. During the 70’s there was a trend to wear multi-colored T-shirts dyed with this techniques.


It’s a funny technique that you can use to spice up your look and create unique T-shirts made by your self. What you’ll need to dye: cotton, common cord for packs, big old pots, color for fabrics and salt. Most of the people, hearing the word Tie-Dye, think at the psychedelic fantasy that people wore in the 90’s or at one of the “must” of the Hippies in the 60’s. But it goes back to the ancient times and with some ornaments it was the way to decorate the clothing of our ancestors.


History of tie-dye

Tie-Dye is first developed in Japan during the Nara period and in China during the Tang dynasty (during the first millennium b.C.) due to the high volume of fibers such as silk and hemp dyed with extracts of roots, flowers, leaves and berries. Adire, Plangi, Tritik and Bandhani are some of the name by which is called this process according to the area of origin and the technique used. The Tie-Dye methods from Japan, Indonesia and Southeast Asia arrived in many parts of Africa and applied to cotton and raffia. While the Peruvian tribes used the Ikat technique for wool and cotton. In Japan, in the Momoyama period, from 1568 to 1603, this art reach the culmine, thanks to the combination between the Tie-Dye technique with a picture made with a Chinese ink, called Sumi. And developed numerous techniques such as Shibori, born to embellish silk kimonos and kosodes, that were given as a gift to the brave officers and today is still considered a real art. A similar technique was also practiced in the Malay-Indonesian area, it’s called Plangi. In the 20’s in the U.S.A. were printed pamphlets, that explained how to decorate the home furnishing with the Tie-Dye technique. During the Great Depression girls cut cotton flour sacks, then treated them to create clothes, curtains and tablecloths.

la mode oui c'est moi_hippie style (4)

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Tie-Dye is rediscovered in a more psychedelic and colorful way. It become one of the symbols of the Hippy Movement and of the flower children, especially in the U.S.A.. They self-produced and personalized their clothing with this technique. It well suited their ideas of freedom and return to nature. Icons of the movement were the great Janis Joplin and Loulou de la Falaise, hippy-chic muse of Yves Saint Laurent. The Tie-Dye were present at Woodstock, where produced an explosion of colors and fantasies, symbols of their philosophy.


Today this pattern is still present in the fashion world and in the collections, especially this season. In the U.S.A is present since years: it has been already present on the catwalks the last season with some trendsetter designers. This spring the Tie-Dye is a “must”. The first was Laurence Conrad, notorious writer, TV presenter and fashion designer: she brought the trend creating for the stars colored streaks in an innovative way. Also Prada for the Fall/Winter 2012-2013 collection sent on the cat walk models with long bi-colored hair. The technique then is seen in a lot of the international catwalks and now the hair fashion trend influenced the prêt-a-porter proposals. The trend influenced also the makeup: lipstick is applied with a double shed to create an optical illusion of volume and the latest nail art manicure mania is the degraded one.


How to do it

  • Fold the fabric to create an acute angle (a bit). Take the rope and starting from the tip began to roll it around the cloth leaving the space between a lap and the other of the rope.
  • Tighten the rope with a knot and go back to the tip where you will make another node with the string. Let 2 or 3 liters of water boil and add a spoonful of salt. Melt in the still boiling water a sachet of color to dye. The dyeing of the knotted cotton has to start with the clearer color and then continues with the darker colors.
  • To create the designs you must first dip the tip in the first color and leave it there five minutes. In the successive pot dip the clothe on the opposite side to the already tint one and leave it there for five minutes.
  • Then remove the rope and let the clothe dry on a horizontal plane. The bindings of the fabric can be realized in different ways, but the principle is always the same: tighten some areas to prevent them being dyeing.
















Text by: Teresa Vitartali