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How To Tie Dye A Sweatshirt (Easy Beginners Guide)
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How To Tie Dye A Sweatshirt (Easy Beginners Guide)

How To Tie Dye A Sweatshirt

I recently went down memory lane with a post about nostalgic 90’s tie dye, so I love that tie dyeing is having a moment again! But how to Tie Dye a sweatshirt? Tie dye projects are so fun to make and the bold patterns are a great way to express your style and creativity.

Tie dyeing is a great summer craft, but you can wear your custom tie-dye projects all year long! I love making tie dye shirts, but for this tutorial, I decided to make a tie-dye sweatshirt. I already can’t wait to wear it next fall! 

How To Tie Dye A Sweatshirt?

In this post, I’ll go over three different ways to tie dye a sweatshirt step-by-step. Don’t worry if it’s your first time making a tie-dye sweatshirt. This guide is so easy that even a beginner can do it!

Make your own tie dye sweatshirt

What types of sweatshirts are best to tie dye? 

For best results, you want to use a sweatshirt that’s made of natural fibers. 100% cotton sweatshirts are the best, but it’s okay to have a bit of a blend as long as it’s at least 50% cotton. If you get more than 50% synthetic material, the dye won’t hold as well. I prefer to use white material, but you can tie dye different colors. You won’t get vibrant results on a dark-colored shirt like you do on white. 

Where can I find sweatshirts to tie dye? 

You can typically find 100% cotton sweatshirts and other dyeable clothes at craft stores like Michaels. Amazon is another great place to find 100% cotton shirts for your tie-dye projects. 

What types of tie-dye can I use?

When it comes to tie-dyeing a sweatshirt, there are several types of dyes to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics. Traditional tie-dye involves using fabric dye and tying the garment with rubber bands or string to create intricate patterns. Cold-water dye is another popular option, which can be applied directly to the fabric without the need for a heat setting.

On the other hand, hot-water dye requires heat to set the colors and is typically used with a washing machine or stovetop method. Ice tie dye is a newer technique that involves applying powdered dye to ice cubes placed on the fabric, resulting in a watercolor-like effect. The main difference between these types of dye lies in their application method and the intensity of the colors produced. 

What’s the best type of tie dye?

Depending on your preferences and desired outcome, each type of dye offers its own advantages, making it essential to choose the best type of dye for your project. 

For this in-depth tutorial, we’ll be using traditional tie-dye. 

Materials you need to make a tie-dye sweatshirt

Affiliate disclaimer: Although I stand by all of the products I use, I can receive a small commission from any products purchased via my affiliate links.

  • 100% cotton sweatshirt 
  • Squeeze bottles (12 oz each)
  • Powdered dyes (color combination of your choice!)
  • Rubber Bands
  • Protective gloves
  • Soda ash
  • Tarp or floor covering to protect your work area
  • Plastic bags
  • Washing machine
  • Gentle dish soap

You can purchase these items separately or look for a tie-dye kit at your local craft store or on Amazon. 

I love ordering supplies on Amazon because there are tons of selection results, free shipping (typically ships within a few business days) and it’s never final sale so if you change your mind, you can send the supplies back. Check out my favorite items on my Amazon storefront. You’ll find a full page of all of my favorite things!

How to make a tie-dye sweatshirt

1. For the best possible results, pre-wash your garments. (Clothing often arrives with a treatment or a resist which will prevent the dye from soaking in.). Washing your clothing before using the dye will allow the dye to better absorb.

2. Wearing gloves, mix one cup of soda ash with a gallon of warm water. Shake or mix vigorously to dissolve the powder. If you wait too long to mix, soda ash will harden. Do not skip this step! Soda ash is one of the magic ingredients for vibrant garments. Soak the garments in the soda ash for 20-30 minutes. 

Helpful hint: soda ash is the same as washing soda (it is not baking soda). Soda ash can be an eye irritant, so gloves, a mask, and protective eyewear are recommended. Soda ash is an activator, & as soon as the soda ash mixes, it activates and should be used within 24 hours. We do not combine soda ash with our dye because we want you to have more time to work on projects.

3. Place garments either in the sun to dry until damp or in the spin cycle of your washing machine. Do not put clothing in the dryer—this will affect how the dye works. Dry clothing until it is damp, but not wet. If you try to tie dye a dry sweatshirt, the folds will not stay together and the dye rolls off the fabric instead of soaking in.

4. Begin folding or tying your garment. See different tie-dye techniques below. Use rubber bands to hold your folds together. If rubber bands are too hard to use, consider tying the clothing with string. Rubber bands are great for most garments, but string can be easier on larger garments.

5. Place the dye powder in each squirt bottle. Add warm water to each squirt bottle to activate the dye. Fill each bottle to the top and shake vigorously with the cap on. You will know the bottle is mixed when the dry powder is no longer sitting at the bottom of the bottle. Before you start dyeing, it’s a good idea to prepare your work surface with a plastic tarp, trash bags, or floor covering.

6. Apply the liquid dye closely to the garment. Do not use too much dye because excess dye can saturate the fabric and can cause the tie-dye design to get lost. Use enough dye to completely cover the white space. After the dye is applied, keep the rubber bands on and place items in a sealable plastic bag or wrap tightly in plastic wrap for 24 hours. This is where the magic happens.

7. Wash your sweatshirt. Remove it from the bag and leave the rubber bands on. Rinse under cold running water to stop the dye reaction. Next, rinse in warm water and remove the rubber bands. Keep rinsing until the water runs fairly clear. Ring out your sweatshirt and place it in a washing machine.

8. Using a washing machine, run it through a full cold water cycle without detergent. You can wash up to 8 garments together in one load. When washing, keep similar colors together.

9. Wash a second time on the cold water cycle of your washing machine using a small squirt of dish soap like Joy or Dawn. Do NOT use regular laundry detergent on this cycle. You can put it in the dryer after this cycle is complete.

10. Your sweatshirt is ready to wear! You can use regular detergent and place it in the dryer the next time you wash tie-dyed garments. It is possible that dye may continue to run so we recommend washing separately for the first few washes and avoiding hot water just to be safe.

How to make the most popular tie-dye patterns

There are various designs you can make with tie dye – the possibilities are seriously endless! Once you understand the basics of tie-dye, you can easily make different patterns. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on three of the most popular tie-dye patterns. Tie dyeing a sweatshirt is just like making a tie dye shirt. Make sure to fold the sleeves or hood (if it has one) the same as you fold the rest of the shirt.

Spiral Pattern

The spiral shape screams traditional tie dye to me. You can use just two different dye colors for this method or more for a rainbow spiral!

1. Lay your sweatshirt out on a flat surface. Grab the center of the garment and twist. Keep twisting until the entire shirt is gathered. Carefully add rubber bands. They should make a pattern that looks like a pizza.

2. Apply dye in pie shaped sections. Flip the garment over and dye the other side.

3. For an added effect, you can dye the other side with a different color or you can continue the same pattern with the same colors.

Stripes Pattern

Tie-dye stripes have a different look than the spiral. You can make horizontal stripes or vertical stripes using this method. Either way, we recommend choosing bright colors for a unique look!

1. Fold shirt in half vertically.

2. Accordion fold and rubber band.

3. Dye in sections with the colors of your choice. Flip your garment over and repeat.

Heart Pattern

The tie dye heart pattern is a fan favorite among the girls in my classroom! It seems complicated, but it’s actually super easy. 

1. Fold shirt in half vertically and draw half of a heart using a washable marker.

2. Accordion fold the fabric along the marker line. Place a rubber band to hold it down.

3. Add a rubber band near the marker line but do not cover it. Add additional rubber bands to hold your fabric together. Next, add one color to the left of the marker line. This will be the heart shape. Use another color to the right of the line. This will be the color that shows up on the rest of your garment.

Essential Tips for Tie-Dyeing:

  1. Pre-wash Your Sweatshirt: Before you begin tie-dyeing, it’s important to pre-wash your sweatshirt to remove any dirt, oils, or sizing that may interfere with the dye absorption.
  2. Use High-Quality Dyes: Invest in high-quality fabric dyes for vibrant and long-lasting colors. Whether you opt for traditional tie-dye kits or specialty dyes, quality dyes will ensure better results.
  3. Prepare Your Work Area: Tie-dyeing can get messy, so it’s essential to set up your work area with protective coverings, gloves, and aprons to prevent staining.
  4. Experiment with Patterns: Get creative with your tie-dye patterns! From classic spirals and bullseyes to more intricate designs like the mandala or heart, there are endless possibilities to explore.
  5. Apply Dyes Carefully: When applying the dye, use squeeze bottles or brushes to control the flow and create precise designs. Take your time and work methodically to achieve the desired effect.
  6. Allow for Proper Dye Setting: After applying the dye, allow your sweatshirt to set for the recommended time according to the dye instructions. This usually involves wrapping the garment in plastic wrap or a plastic bag to prevent colors from bleeding.
  7. Rinse and Wash Thoroughly: Once the dye has set, rinse your sweatshirt under cold water until the water runs clear to remove excess dye. Then, wash the sweatshirt separately in cold water with a mild detergent to further set the colors.
  8. Dry Properly: Finally, air dry your tie-dyed sweatshirt or tumble dry it on low heat to prevent colors from fading or bleeding. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight, which can also cause fading over time.

FAQs about Tie-Dyeing:

1. How do I care for a tie-dyed sweatshirt to ensure the colors stay vibrant?

To keep tie-dye colors vibrant, it’s best to wash the sweatshirt separately in cold water with a mild detergent. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, as they can cause colors to fade. Additionally, air drying or tumble drying on low heat can help preserve the vibrancy of the colors.

2. Can I tie-dye a sweatshirt that’s already been washed or worn?

Yes, you can tie-dye a sweatshirt that’s already been washed or worn. Just make sure to launder it without fabric softener before tie-dyeing to remove any residue that may interfere with dye absorption.

3. Can I mix different colors of dye when tie-dyeing a sweatshirt?

Yes, you can mix different colors of dye to create custom shades and hues for your tie-dyed sweatshirt. Experiment with different color combinations and application techniques to achieve unique and personalized designs.

4. Can I use a tie dye kit for other fabric types besides cotton sweatshirts?

While tie-dye kits are primarily designed for use on cotton fabrics, they can also be used on other natural fibers like linen, rayon, or hemp. However, results may vary depending on the fabric type and its ability to absorb dye.

5. Are there any safety precautions I should take when tie-dyeing a sweatshirt?

Yes, it’s essential to take safety precautions when tie-dyeing to protect yourself and the environment. Wear gloves and old clothing to avoid staining your skin or clothes with dye. Work in a well-ventilated area to minimize exposure to fumes, and avoid ingesting or inhaling dye particles.