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How to Crumple Tie Dye Technique

Do you want to learn how to tie-dye with the crumple tie-dye technique? It’s one of the easiest tie-dye patterns, and the colorful results are so fun!

This step-by-step guide will show you how to create beautiful crumple tie-dye designs with just a few basic tie-dye supplies. Get ready to have some fun and create some unique tie-dye designs!

ice tie-dye t-shirt made with crumple tie-dye technique in pin and purple colors

Tie-dye is a fun and easy way to create colorful patterns on fabric. And the crumple tie-dye technique is one of the easiest tie-dye patterns to make.

If this is your first time doing tie-dye, the crumple tie-dye technique is a great way to get started.

Tip: To learn more about the basics of tie-dye, including how to prep, tie, dye, and wash tie-dyed garments, read my how-to article here: How to Tie Dye.

Grab a white T-shirt or sweatshirt out of your closet, and let’s get started.

What is Crumple Tie-Dye?

Crumple tie-dye is a tie-dye technique that makes beautiful designs that are totally unique – no two crumple tie-dye shirts are the same!

The crumple tie-dye technique is very simple – you just crumple up the fabric and tie it with some string or rubber bands. After you apply the dye, the fabric will have a beautiful random design that almost looks marbled.

I’ve also seen crumple tie dye called by other names like the scrunch technique, nebula tie-dye, or the random fold technique. Since this technique produces random swirly patterns, it’s perfect for making a galaxy tie-dye design, too.

Whatever you call it, crumple tie-dye is a fun and easy way to create unique fabric designs.

Check out this article for more step-by-step folding instructions: 17+ Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques.

crumple tie dye t-shirt in blue and green colors on a gray background

Basic Tie Dye Supplies

To do crumple tie-dye, you’ll need a few basic supplies – like dye and fabric. You’ll also need some household tools and safety gear, like gloves.

Here are all of the supplies you’ll need for this project.

  • fiber-reactive dye
  • fabric items, like a t-shirt or sweatshirt
  • soda ash (Some types of dye require a soda-ash pre-soak.)
  • Synthrapol, or another dye-safe laundry detergent
  • rubber bands or twine
  • squeeze bottles to apply the dye
  • a plastic tablecloth or a large trash bag to protect your work surface 
  • a wire rack to elevate the fabric off the work surface
  • gloves and a dust mask
  • zip-top bags or plastic wrap

Which type of tie-dye is best?

Fiber reactive dye is the best type of dye to use on cotton fabrics for cold-water tie-dye projects. Fiber reactive dye is easier to use than other all-purpose dyes and gives brighter, longer-lasting results.

I recommend two types of fiber reactive dye for the crumple tie-dye technique: Procion MX dyes and the Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye kits.

(I don’t recommend all-purpose dyes like Rit for this technique unless you’re prepared to simmer your fabric in one dye color on the stove for at least 30 minutes.)

For more information about fiber reactive dyes, and which types of tie-dye to avoid, read my ultimate How to Tie Dye guide.

What type of fabric can you tie-dye?

You can dye all sorts of items with the crumple technique. Large, flat items like cotton shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and even curtains all work great. Socks can work, too – although the design will be smaller!

When you’re shopping, look for items made with natural fibers, such as 100% cotton, rayon, hemp, or linen.

You can use items made from cotton/polyester blends, too. Just make sure that whatever fabric you choose is at least 70% cotton for the best results.

The more polyester is in your fabric, the paler the colors will be. (If you’re going for the pastel tie-dye look, this might be exactly what you want!)

How to do Crumple Tie Dye

Before you start, gather your supplies and safety gear. You’ll want to wear old clothes you don’t mind getting stained, wear gloves to protect your hands, and wear a dust mask when you’re mixing the dye powder.

Tip: If your hands accidentally get stained, read this post to learn how to remove tie-dye stains from your skin.

Step 1: Prepare the fabric and your workspace.

Before you start dying, it’s important to prewash your fabric to remove any dirt or oils that can interfere with the dying process. 

Prewash your fabric items in the washing machine with Synthrapol or another laundry detergent.

Then, set up your work area with all your tools and supplies. If I’m tie-dying with kids, I like to set up outside. If you’re working inside, lay down a tablecloth or a trash bag to keep your work surface from getting stained. You can also work inside a stainless steel sink, if you have one.

In any case, I recommend setting up a wire rack on top of your work area, so your fabric won’t be sitting in a puddle of excess dye.

Step 2: Mix the dye powder, and pre-soak the fabric in a soda ash solution.

If you are using Procion MX dyes, you’ll need to pre-soak the fabric in a soda ash solution for 15 minutes before applying the dye.

To make a soda ash solution, mix 1 cup of soda ash in 1 gallon of warm water, and stir to dissolve. Read this article for more information about tie-dying with soda ash.

After pre-soaking, wring out the fabric so that it’s slightly damp, but not dripping wet.

Then, mix the dye powder with warm water, according to the package instructions.

white t-shirt bunched up with the crumple tie-dye technique

Step 3: Make the Crumple Pattern

Next, it’s time to make the pattern. Before you start crumpling, decide how you want the finished design to look. You can crumple the fabric somewhat loosely to get a more subtle effect, or really scrunch it up tightly for a more defined design.

  1. Lay the damp fabric out flat on your work surface.
  2. Starting in the center of your fabric, scrunch up the fabric in small pleats and folds.
  3. Work your way toward the edges, keeping everything scrunched up as you go. Keep scrunching the fabric until you’ve got a relatively tight, dense bundle.
  4. Secure the fabric bundle with a few rubber bands. The rubber bands will keep the fabric from shifting when you apply the dye. 

Tip: You don’t have to tie the fabric bundle with rubber bands if you don’t want to. Leaving the fabric untied will give you a less defined pattern – which may be precisely what you’re going for.

white t-shirt crumpled up and tied with red rubber bands on a gray background

Step 4: Apply Dye to the Scrunched Fabric

You can apply the tie-dye to the fabric in a few different ways. You can apply the dye with plastic squeeze bottles or dip the fabric into buckets of dye. I recommend applying the dye with squeeze bottles for the most control over your crumple design.

You can apply one dye color or multiple dye colors – there’s no wrong way to do it!

To create a one-color design: Dip the fabric bundle into a bucket of dye, or apply one color of dye with a squeeze bottle. Remember to flip the fabric bundle over and apply dye to the other side, too. If you want more white space, you can leave some areas without dye.

To create a multi-color design: Apply different dye colors to the shirt in a random pattern. Make sure to flip the fabric bundle over and apply dye to the other side, as well. If you want, you can leave some areas of the shirt without dye.

To get more white space in your design: If you want more white space in your crumple design, make sure to scrunch the fabric tightly, and tie the rubber bands really tightly. You might also try applying the dye to the edges only, and avoiding any areas that you want to stay white.

Tip: When you apply several different colors of dye, think about how the colors will blend together. Put colors next to each other that will still look nice if they mix together. For example, if you put red next to blue, you’ll get some purple colors where they meet. And as another example, if you put red next to green, you’ll get some rather unappealing brown colors where they meet.

t-shirt tied up with red rubber bands with blue and green tie dye on a white background

Let the Dye Set

After you apply the dye, let the dye set or “process.” It’s important to let the dye sit for a minimum of 8 hours. Ideally, you’d let the dye set for up to 24 hours to give it plenty of time to react with the fabric. 

While the dye sets, keep the fabric damp and relatively warm – at least 70°F (21°C). You can place the dyed fabric in a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out overnight.

Read my how to set tie dye article for more information about setting tie-dye so it doesn’t fade.

Rinse, wash, and dry.

After 8-24 hours, you can start to rinse out the design. Rinse the tied fabric bundle under cold running water first. Then, remove the rubber bands or twine and continue rinsing.

As you rinse, you’ll see some dye coming out of the fabric. This is normal – it’s just the extra, inert dye leaving the fabric. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear.

After rinsing, you can wash the fabric items in the washing machine on a hot water cycle with a small amount of Synthrapol or another dye-safe laundry detergent. 

After running the items through one or two wash cycles, you can put your items in the dryer or air-dry them.

For more information about washing tie-dye the first time, read this article: How to Wash Tie Dye.

crumple tie dye t-shirt in blue and green colors on a gray background

Variations on the Crumple Tie Dye Technique

Here are a few other ways to tie-dye with the crumple or scrunch pattern.

Pastel Crumple Tie Dye

To get more pastel, faded effects, dilute your dyes with extra water before adding to your crumpled item. If you’re using the Tulip refill packets, try using 1/2 teaspoon of dye powder per cup of water. For even paler colors, you could try 1/4 teaspoon of dye powder per cup of water.

Using pastel tie-dye colors with the crumple technique is a great way to create a cloud tie-dye design, too.

Rainbow Crumple Tie Dye

Visually divide the crumpled shirt into 6 horizontal sections. Apply one color of dye to each section, in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

Galaxy Tie Dye

I think that the crumple technique is perfect for making a galaxy tie-dye design.

To make a galaxy tie-dye shirt:

  1. Crumple the shirt loosely. You can add a few rubber bands to keep everything together, but make sure the bundle stays pretty loose.
  2. Next, apply the dye in galaxy colors. Apply the darkest blue and black dyes around the edges of the fabric bundle. Then, apply random areas of blue, purple, and pink in the center area. Flip the bundle over, and apply dye to the other side. Add enough dye so that you don’t have any white areas showing.
  3. Let the dye set as normal. Rinse the excess dye, then wash and dry the shirt.
  4. Then, if you really want to create a galaxy effect, you can add some splatters of white fabric paint to the dry shirt. Set the fabric dye as instructed.

Crumple Bleach Tie Dye

You can use the crumple technique with bleach tie-dye to create cool effects. Check out this tutorial for more information (+video) about how to bleach tie-dye.

Crumple Ice Dye Technique

And of course, the crumple technique works perfectly with ice-dying, too. Check out this tutorial for more information about how to ice-dye.

ice tie-dye t-shirt made with crumple tie-dye technique in pin and purple colors

More Tie Dye Tutorials

For even more information about how to tie-dye, read these related articles.

What’s Next?

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Share on Instagram or Facebook: When you make this project, share it on social media and tag me @sarahmaker. We love to see what you make!

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How to Crumple Tie Dye Technique

How to Crumple Tie Dye Technique

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

How to do the Crumple Tie Dye Technique to make colorful and unique tie-dye t-shirt designs.

Tools

  • rubber bands or twine
  • squeeze bottles to apply the dye
  • a plastic tablecloth or a large trash bag to protect your work surface
  • a wire rack to elevate the fabric off the work surface
  • gloves and a dust mask
  • zip-top bags or plastic wrap

Instructions

  1. Prepare the workspace. Mix the dye. Presoak the fabric in a soda ash solution if necessary.
  2. Lay damp fabric flat on your work surface.
  3. Starting in the center of your fabric, scrunch up the fabric in small pleats and folds.
  4. Work your way toward the edges, keeping everything scrunched up as you go. Keep scrunching the fabric until you’ve got a relatively tight, dense bundle.
  5. Secure the fabric bundle with a few rubber bands. The rubber bands will keep the fabric from shifting when you apply the dye. 
  6. Apply the colors of dye as desired.
  7. Let the dye set for at least 8, or up to 24 hours.
  8. Rinse until the water runs clear. Wash in hot water with Synthrapol or another dye-safe laundry detergent.

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pinterest image for how to crumple tie dye with a blue and green tie-dye shirt on a gray background

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