Scrunch T-Shirt Tie Dye

by Noelle Faulkner


  • Jacquard Procion MX dyes—Magenta, Bright Blue, Aqua Marine
  • 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) Place a damp shirt flat on the table, front side up. Starting at the center of the shirt (or in an untied section if you are scrunching in combination with another fold) pinch small (1/2") folds in a random fashion.

Step 1

b) Keep scrunching until the whole shirt is a mass of folds (see how easy this is!)

Step 2

c) Keep them small and tight so that you’ll get the most interesting end result.

Step 3

d) Slide the kite string under the shirt and tie across the center, leaving an extra “tail” for tying off at the end. Rotate and tie across the center again at a 90° angle to the first (like tying a package).

Step 4

e) Continue tying the bundle by pulling the string across the top, placing it about 1" from the previous tie, sliding underneath the bundle and coming up the other side, pulling snug as you go. Tie off with the ‘tail’ left at the beginning. Don’t worry if your tying is a bit random, the most important thing is to catch up all the edges and to keep the scrunching held tightly in place, the cool little “spider webs” of color come from the dye creeping into the tight areas.

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. This design looks best when you use just a few colors and really let them blend together. Generously apply all three colors randomly over the entire shirt, on both sides. Get the tip of your squirt bottle deep into all of the folds so that you get dye on all parts of the shirt (the fewer white spots the better). 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 can be surprising!

Finished project

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Scrunch T-Shirt Tie Dye