How to Dye Fabric: Shibori Tie-Dye with Rubber Bands

Tie dye is a form of Shibori, which is the ancient Japanese art of dyeing fabric. There are many different forms of Shibori including folding, stitch resist, and pole dyeing. In this example I’m going to tie fabric with rubber bands to get 3 different dyeing effects. Get creative with different ways of tying the fabric. You never quite know how it’s going to turn out, but you can get some unexpected and beautiful results by experimenting.


How to Dye Fabric - Shibori Tie-Dye with Rubber Bands - Materials



Step 1: Tie the fabric

For best results, use a fabric made from natural fibers like cotton, and pre-wash the fabric. Wet fabric takes dye better than dry fabric so soak it in warm water and wring out.

I’m going to tie the fabric in 3 different ways. First I’m going to create a bull’s-eye effect. Lay the fabric flat, pinch the middle, and pull up. Wrap rubber bands around the fabric, spacing them out as much as you want. The more places you tie rubber bands and the tighter you wrap the fabric, the more white space will be left when you dye it because the dye won’t be able to penetrate those areas fully.

Next I’m going to create a stripe effect by folding the fabric like an accordion. Then wrap rubber bands around it like before. You can alternate which direction you’re folding the fabric as you add the rubber bands.

The last pattern will be small circles. Pinch pieces of fabric and tie it with rubber bands. Repeat until the fabric is covered. The less fabric you wrap, the smaller the resulting circles will be.

Step 2: Dye the fabric

Make sure your work space is covered with plastic or something to protect it from staining.  Heat at least enough water to easily cover the fabric.

With the water near boiling, pour it into a container. Put on rubber gloves and add the dye, shaking it first. I’m using denim blue Rit dye. If you’re dyeing cotton, rayon or linen fabric, adding salt will help the dye absorb better. Stir the dye bath thoroughly.

The amount of dye you use will depend on the color you want to achieve, the amount of water you’re using and the amount of fabric.

Place the fabric into the dye and let it sit for at least half an hour. You can move it around and open up some of the folds a little to allow the dye to get deeper into the fabric.

If you want to use more than one color, you can pour different colors on different areas of the fabric. Set your container on an angle or put the fabric on a rack so the colors don’t pool together. Pour on the dye and rotate the fabric to get all sides. I’m using petal pink, tangerine and lemon yellow Rit dye. Make sure the fabric is saturated with dye and let it sit for at least half an hour.

Step 3: Rinse the fabric

Rinse in warm water, then cold, until the water runs clear. Take off the rubber bands as you rinse. Machine wash on cold and hang dry.


Ready to try this with your favorite color? Browse our selection of Rit dye!