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Ready to try a DIY bleach tie-dye design? Learn how to make lots of different reverse tie-dye patterns using these five folding techniques.
Tie-dying with bleach is a fun and easy way to create unique sweatshirts, hoodies, tea towels, and more. In this article, I’ll show you how to transform your dark-colored fabric items with bleach tie-dye patterns.
There are lots of different folding and tying techniques that you can use for bleach dying. You can use traditional tie-dye patterns like the spiral design, or shibori-inspired techniques. Each method will give you a different pattern or design on your finished item.
After you read about bleach tie-dye basics, scroll down to see pictures of 5 different folding techniques that you can use to create custom bleach tie-dyed shirts.
Bleach Tie Dye Tutorial Video
Materials and Tools
Here are the supplies you’ll need for this project.
- dark-colored cotton shirt or other fabric item
- household bleach (liquid, gel, or spray all work)
- a plastic bucket
- a pair of gloves
- rubber bands
You’ll get the best results with 100% cotton items. But I’ve had some success with cotton/poly blends as well. You can also test how your fabric will react by placing a small dot of bleach in an inconspicuous area first.
Here are the basic bleach tie dye instructions. Be sure to check out my in-depth tutorial on how to bleach dye a sweatshirt for more details.
- Fold, crumple, or scrunch your fabric. (Scroll for pictures of more folding techniques below!) Secure with rubber bands or string.
- Apply a 1:1 bleach and water solution with a spray bottle. Or, dip the fabric into a plastic bucket filled with the bleach solution.
- After 10-15 minutes, remove fabric from the bleach solution and rinse thoroughly. Wash with mild detergent.
For more details about the best fabric to bleach dye, different ways to apply the bleach solution, and how long to leave shirts in the bleach, don’t miss this popular post: How to Bleach Tie-Dye a Sweatshirt.
I think it goes without saying, but be careful when working with a strong chemical like bleach.
Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and work in a well-ventilated area.
It’s not a bad idea to wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting bleach on.
Folding Techniques and Tie Dye Patterns
1. Shibori-Inspired Folding Technique
In this shibori-inspired technique, the fabric is folded accordion-style and produces a geometric grid design.
Start with slightly damp fabric. (Or, start with dry fabric for crisper lines and a bold, graphic look.)
Fold the fabric lengthwise, accordion-style, to make a long, rectangular strip. Then fold this strip again, accordion-style, to make a square or rectangle.
Sandwich the folded fabric between two square pieces of wood or cardboard. Use rubber bands to secure the bundle. The wood and rubber bands will compress the fabric and block the bleach from penetrating the interior of the fabric bundle.
Submerge the folded fabric in a plastic bucket filled with a 1:1 bleach and water solution. Some fabrics will start changing color immediately, while some will take up to 15 minutes to change color. Remember that the colors will look much lighter once the fabric is washed and dried.
When you are happy with the amount of color change, remove the fabric from the bleach, and rinse well.
2. Crumple Dye Technique
Here’s one of the easier dying techniques.
Simply scrunch up the fabric, creating lots of wrinkles, pleats, and folds. You can choose how tightly or how loosely to crumple it up.
Use plenty of rubber bands to secure the bundle of fabric. The interior spaces of the folds will remain dark, while the exposed areas of fabric will lighten in the bleach solution.
Spray or submerge the fabric in bleach. After a few minutes, remove the fabric from the bleach, and rinse well.
3. Sunburst Pattern
The sunburst dying technique creates an abstract ring pattern.
Start by pinching small pieces of fabric. Pull them up about 1 to 2 inches, and secure with one or more rubber bands. Repeat as desired to create as many sunbursts as you’d like.
The areas covered by the rubber bands will create darker rings of color, while the exposed fabric will be bleached.
4. Spiral Tie Dye Pattern
This folding technique creates the traditional spiral design that you see on a lot of rainbow tie-dye t-shirts.
Using your fingers, pinch the center of the fabric and twist. Keep twisting in the same direction until the whole piece of fabric is wrapped into a spiral shape.
Secure the fabric with 3 or more rubber bands. I like to criss-cross the rubber bands across the middle point so that it creates 6 wedges shapes.
You can dip the edges of the bundle into a bleach solution, or you can spray the sides with bleach from a spray bottle.
For a finished photo of the spiral tie-dye pattern, check out this post: 17+ Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques
5. Pole Wrapping Technique
Here’s another shibori-inspired technique. In this method, the fabric is wrapped around a pole and tied with string to make a striated pattern.
To start, lay the fabric out flat onto a table.
Starting at the bottom corner, roll the fabric onto a pole at a slight diagonal. (I recommend a piece of PVC pipe or wooden dowel.)
Once the pole is wrapped in fabric, tie a piece of cotton string or twine onto base of the pole.
As you wrap the twine around the fabric, scrunch the fabric down to make it even more compact.
One the fabric is completely scrunched and wrapped, spray, or dip in the bleach solution. The string will protect the fabric from the bleach, creating dark stripes or striations.
More Tie Dye Tutorials
If you like tie dye, you may be interested in the following articles:
- How to Tie Dye – Easy Techniques for Beginners
- How to Ice Dye – Easy Tie Dying Tutorial
- How to Bleach Tie-Dye a Sweatshirt – Easy DIY
- 17+ Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques
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- cotton fabric, tea towel, or t-shirt
- household bleach
- rubber bands
- plastic glovers
- plastic bucket
- squares of wood or sturdy cardboard
- Make a bleach solution with 1 part water to 1 part bleach. You will need enough to submerge the fabric in a small plastic bucket.
- Start with slightly damp fabric. (Or, start with dry fabric for crisper lines and a bold, graphic look.)
- Fold the fabric lengthwise, accordion-style, to make a long, rectangular strip. Then fold this strip again, accordion-style, to make a square or rectangle. The final size of your fabric bundle should be about 1/2"- 1" larger than your wooden pieces in each direction.
- Sandwich the folded fabric between two pieces of wood or cardboard. Use rubber bands to secure the bundle. The wood and rubber bands will compress the fabric and block the bleach from penetrating the interior of the fabric bundle.
- Submerge the folded fabric in a plastic bucket filled with the bleach and water solution. Some fabrics will start changing color immediately, while some will take up to 15 minutes to change color. Remember that the colors will look much lighter once the fabric is washed and dried.
- When you are happy with the amount of color change, remove the fabric from the bleach, and rinse well. Launder as usual.
The shibori-inspired accordion folding technique is shown here. Be sure to read the whole post for the other bleach tie-dye techniques.
Sarah Stearns has helped millions of makers find their next craft project with free patterns and step-by-step tutorials on her blog, sarahmaker.com. Read more.
With over a decade of experience in knitting and crochet, she has been featured in prominent publications like The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and Lifehacker.