Rounded Yoke Tie Dye

by Noelle Faulkner


  • 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).

2) Tying

a) Lay a damp shirt flat on the table and fold in half lengthwise with the front outside, matching sleeves and shoulders. Smooth out wrinkles. Begin fold at the shoulder seam, between the neck and sleeve by pinching about 1/2" between your thumbs and forefingers.

Step 1

b) Continue pinching pleats, moving toward the center front fold, straightening the pleats as you go. (rounded yoke_pleating)Be sure that the pleats end in the neck and not in the center fold to ensure that the yoke is as round as possible. (You will notice in the photo that some of my pleats end in the center fold. Compare the multi colored shirt to the orange shirt at the end of these instructions. Notice that the orange shirt has a more rounded yoke.)

Step 2

c) Begin the tie by sliding one end of the kite string underneath the folds at the neck. Tie gently, then wrap the string around again (in the same place) and pull snug—the tighter you pull, the more dye will be resisted in that line. Move about 1" toward the sleeve to begin the next wrap, gently on the first round to get the string in place and then tighter. Continue in this fashion until the yoke is as big as you want it and tie off. You may stop at the top of the sleeve for a smaller yoke, or include the sleeves for a larger one. Leave the bottom of the shirt untied.

Step 3

Step 4

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. Starting at the neck of the shirt, apply the dye in the following order, one color in each tied-off band, repeating until you run out of tied-off bands: Bright Blue, Golden Yellow, Magenta. As you apply the dye, work the tip of your squirt bottle well into the folds, the more dye you work into the folds the less white you will have on your finished shirt. Be generous with your dye application to get rich, blended colors. Use paper towels to blot up extra dye as you go, sometimes too many colors blending together will just make mud! When you have finished applying dye to this side, turn the shirt over and repeat the same process on the other side. For the bottom of the shirt, use all three colors squirted on at random and squeezed together to help blending. Place the dyed shirt in a zip-lock bag and let sit for 24-48 hours 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.

Simple, yes?! Experiment with different color combinations or just one color—the results

Variation. Here is an example of this design with a smaller yoke using a different color scheme (Golden Yellow, Brilliant Orange and Magenta). It could also be very effective to use just one color.

Step 5

Finished project

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Rounded Yoke Tie Dye