Horizontal Bands

by Noelle Faulkner

The Horizontal Band (sounds like a rock and roll group doesn’t it?) is an easy design to do well. Place it anywhere on a shirt, across the chest, at the bottom, accent the sleeves or turn it on end to make a vertical band instead!


  • Jacquard Procion MX dyes—Golden Yellow, Magenta, Bright Blue
  • 100% cotton T-shirt (pre-washed)
  • Soda Ash
  • kite string
  • 3 squirt bottles
  • measuring cups and spoons (use for dyeing only)
  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • plastic bags (I like gallon sized zip-locks)
  • dust mask

Prepare your work area by spreading plastic sheeting over your work table and secure it with some tape.

1) Soda Ash Soak. Dissolve 1 cup of soda ash in 1 gallon of water. The soda ash dissolves easiest in hot water, allow the water to cool before soaking the shirt(s). Soak the shirt(s) for at least 20 minutes. (You can leave them in for longer—overnight won’t hurt anything). Remove shirt(s) and wring out. Save the soda ash solution, it can be used again, even after a month or more (actually it will keep indefinitely. You would probably get tired of storing it—the stuff just doesn’t go bad).

2a) Tying. Lay a damp shirt flat on the table, I usually have the front side up. Smooth out wrinkles and align seams at sides and shoulders. Begin fold under one sleeve by pinching about 1/2" between your thumbs and forefingers.

Step 1

2b) Continue pinching folds across the shirt, straighten the pleats as you go by pulling at the ends as shown.

Step 2

2c) When you have reached the opposite side, slide one end of the kite string under the folds, about 4" below the underarm, tie gently.

Step 3

2d) Wrap string around folds in this same spot. Do this a couple of times, pulling a little more snugly each time. The tighter you tie, the more that spot will resist the dye. Move up (toward the armpit) about 1" to begin a new wrap, gently on the first go 'round then tighter on the next two.

Step 4

2e) Move up another 1" and wrap again. Move up an 1" one more time and wrap. What you have now is three tied off areas ready for you to apply color. Leave the top and bottom of the shirt untied.

Step 5

3) Dyeing

Safety. Any powdered dye can cause a reaction if inhaled. Take the following precautions:

  • Wear a mask
  • Work in a well-ventilated but draft free area without fans or AC running.
  • Wear rubber gloves and old clothes
  • Measuring and mixing containers should be used for dyeing only. Do not use for food afterwards.

Dye Recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dye (double this amount for darker colors-especially black)

I like to mix the dyes in a measuring cup. Place the powdered dye in the bottom and add a bit of water to make a paste. Add a drop or two of Synthrapol, if desired, to help disperse the dye (don’t be concerned if you haven’t any Synthrapol—it’s completely optional). Gradually add more water until the entire cup has been used. Pour into a squirt bottle. I like to label the bottle, many colors look similar in solution.

Note: Hard water will affect the quality of color you can achieve. For brightest results, use distilled water.

Applying the dye. Be generous with your dye application to get rich blended colors. Keep paper towels handy to mop up extra dye as you go, otherwise your shirt will soak up the extra dye and you’ll end up with colors you weren’t expecting!

Apply Magenta in the center section of the tied band. Apply Golden Yellow in each section on either side of the Magenta. Let the colors bleed into each other a bit to create bits of orange in the finished color band. Work the tip of the squirt bottle into the folds to get the dye inside--the more dye you get in there, the less white you will have in your finished piece. My example is tied rather tight and I didn’t work the tip of the bottle very deeply into the folds, so there is quite a bit of white showing.

Squirt Bright Blue on the untied ends of the shirt close to the Golden Yellow tied section. Allow the blue to work on top of the yellow a bit, it’s what gives that nice green accent at the edges. Randomly squirt Bright Blue and Magenta over the top and bottom untied ends of the shirt. Apply a generous amount of dye so that these two colors blend to give a lovely purple. I also gave the ends of the shirt a little squeeze to help work the colors together.

Turn the shirt over and apply the colors in the same way on the back.

Place dyed shirt in a zip-lock bag and let sit for 24-48 hrs in a warm place (but not in direct sunlight).

Rinse and launder. After 24-48 hours remove shirt from the zip-lock bag and rinse in cool water. Carefully cut the strings and continue rinsing, gradually increasing the temperature of the water until it is hot. When the water is almost clear you can stop rinsing. Wash the shirt with liquid detergent in a washing machine set for hot wash/cold rinse. Hang or machine dry.

Wear your FABULOUS tie dye in peace and good health!! (Where IS that music festival?!)

Finished project

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Horizontal Bands