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Oh why do I love the blue so much?! ‘Not quite sure, but I don’t really want this to be considered as ‘tie dye’. Visions of a full rainbow of colours is not my idea of a sophisticated design of dyeing. Think of this as the ‘cousin’ of Shibori; The New Modern Tie Dye.

The Marvellous Colour:

When I first embarked on dyeing I sadly used some department store dye before I discovered the awesome ‘Fibre Reactive Dyes‘! It has been my ‘go to’ dye when I want easy use and permanent results.

My duvet cover and pillows are still my favourite and have held colour perfectly. I look at the colours available from Procion and Dharma and still end up with my favourite dark rich blue; navy.

Blue becomes a tint (lighter) without looking wimpy as red would. It always looks fresh and clean, probably since it is so cool. No one has ever really found a better colour for blue jeans in all those years so I am going with that!

The small jars do yield a lot (3/4 ounce) but 1 pound will make me happy for quiet a long while!

Be aware that this dye can only be used on natural cellulose fibres like cotton, rayon, bamboo, linen, tencel. (wool under acidic conditions)

This Unique ‘Hot’ Application:

This method is different than the usual method of making diluted dye mixtures, it involves applying a diluted solution of soda ash that has been heated to activate the dry dye.

To apply the solution a tool like a plastic syringe or bulb syringe can be used to siphon the hot liquid.

The Amazing Sinew:

Get yourself some Sinew, as it is the absolute best way to get some awesome ties. It is waxed and artificial but can also be reused.

The Hot Modern Tie Dye Setup:

  • Since this method uses a supply of heated solution a small Crock Pot will be convenient.
  • At mesh or screen over a tray will catch any extra drips.
  • Soda Ash (Washing Soda) aka Sodium Carbonate from the laundry aisle.
  • Fibre Reactive Dye
  • Your Fabric (natural cellulose) and tieing Sinew
  • Temperature Gun
  • SAFETY- *Gloves* *Dust Mask*
  • Protected table

The ‘Secret’ to the Tieing:

I have been tieing many many things and hate it when I can not get it tight enough or when my fingers start to get cuts! My fingers get so tired of knots as well. Let me tell you that ‘Sinew’ is the answer! Nowadays you will only find the artificial one but it works great! As a way of applying leverage use a small strong rigid piece of pipe or dowel to be able to grip and pull like mad.

Pull the section of fabric (circle or random sections) and wrap the sinew around 3-5 times. At that point you can now pull it very hard using the ‘pipe'(wrapped around the pipe few times or rolled on it) as your leverage ‘gripper’. The Sinew will stick to itself and not uncoil. Depending on the brand give it a few more wraps and pull super tight. Once it stays put it is good to go. I usually err on the side of caution and give extra wraps.

To continue on to the next wrap I leave a long extra ‘tail’ and do not cut it. Start another wrapping and repeat. When done it will have extra lengths between ‘ties’ to allow manipulating of the fabric.

The Hot  Dye Solution Application:

The soda ash to water ratio is 1/2 cup to 1 gallon water. Heat it on high until it hits the temperature between 160 degrees F and 180 degrees F and then turn to medium. The temperature gun is great for keeping an eye on it.

Fibre reactive dyes use Soda Ash as an aid in adhering the dye to the fibres. In this case it is also mixed with the powdered dye. Mix 2 parts soda ash to one part dye together. If you are concerned that they will react  over storage do the mixing before use.

Small glass vials allow better control of application and less dust. Do wear a dust mask when working with open dye powders.

Wetting Out:

Here we go… colour! The fabric does not need to be wet. If it is wet the patterns will be slightly softer edged than if it is a dry fabric.

Using the siphon action of the syringes pull the solution from the crock pot and apply immediately over the dry dye areas.

There really is no wrong or right here. The patterns will be quite forgiving so don’t be too concerned. It will dilute; lighter colour with more solution and stronger colour with less solution. I like dark definition of the ties so add the dye next to the ties and then wet out. (see the small stream from the syringe above)

Keep adding dye and wetting out. Keep in mind that there is much fabric that is not visible since it’s tied very tight. My first tie dyes were quite light since I was fooled at how much the dye had penetrated

To get an idea use a gloved finger to separate folds to see how deep the colour has wicked. Squeeze the dye through the layers as well.

Once you are happy with one side, carefully flip the piece and fill in any extra white as desired. Any excess will collect in the tray below.

Since the solution is hot you may skip the waiting of the batching (letting it sit for 24 hours or less if heated) Depending on the size I will sometimes give myself extra reassurance by popping it in a plastic bag and microwaving for a couple minutes. Once cooled it is good to go…

Get ready for the Magic:

Place the tied piece under running cool water until it runs clear. Once clear you can find the end tail of the sinew and begin the untieing (wrap back around your pipe).

This is the magical part! It has somewhat of a mind of it’s own so there can be some amazing surprises! See the defined lines of these ‘Blue Geodes’! You can only get such white lines if you tie ‘crazy-tight’ with sinew! After rinsing wash in a hot soapy water to make sure any residual dye gets washed away. It’s hard to stop looking at the great patterns… and looking through your closet for anything close to white…

This is a thin rayon scarf. Thinner fabric wicks better and takes less dye. The designs are more detailed as well.

I’m in love… and my wardrobe may become totally blue. That’s ok, it will all match and will be great with my jeans and Upcycled Jeans Jacket. Nope I’m not a hippy, and this doesn’t really look like tie dye… happily!

There’s many of my ways to dye


I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 12 Comments

    1. That would depend on a few things. Is it thick? does it have a coating? can it ‘squish’ enough to tie? will it get flat again? Can it take some heat? You do have me intrigued… I do love a shibori leather and was hoping to eco print it as well. Best way to tell is to do a tiny test. I would not get it too hot, as I have done that by accident it and it completely puckered and shrank! I know hide is a protein fibre so it may need different prep. Fibre reactive dye can be used on silk and wool but with an acid like vinegar. Hmmm… need to find me some leather (maybe an old jacket)

  1. Hi

    I love what you are doing. I am looking to do two different tie dyes for the women’s World Cup. I would love one to be light multi color so to see the graphic. The other I want to do American red white and blue but in a cool faded not so patriotic way. Could you help me? If so please email me at


    1. Sounds like fun! Maybe you should try on a piece of cotton sheeting until you get the colours you want. Light red is pink and light blue will make it more baby-like. You may also consider ice dyeing. Depending on the fabric thickness the amount of dye and spreading will vary. You can always go darker in a second though… Good luck!

  2. If you put any dyes in a microwave, you cannot use it for food purposes again! Also, use a respirator when applying dye, not just a dust mask.

  3. This is amazing! I was going to ice dye cotton drop cloth and recover the dinette cushions in our ’91 micro motorhome using Dharma moss green and plum. It’s a 10 ounce canvas. I just happen to have some sinew left over from my dream catcher days! Is this fabric too heavy? Do you have any words of wisdom about color distribution or anything else?
    So, so cool! Thanks for sharing your brilliance!

    1. Well, tieing that will be very tough! The thinner fabrics get better lines of resist. It might be better to cut pieces smaller (with enough excess) and then tie. It is somewhat unpredictable so may do a small test on one piece. I have also used the Dharma dye & drop cloth canvas to make a shibori chair

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