Tie-dyeing is a process of coloring fabric to create designs, patterns or random color combinations. You achieve the look by tying objects around the fabric at intervals, which results in a broken color effect. Although the popularity of tie-dyed fabric rises and falls, the technique is constantly visible in a variety of clothing and accessories. The look also works well when applied to household items such as bed sheets.
Prepare your work area by spreading a plastic tarp or newspapers over a table or on an outdoor porch. Put on old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained and plastic gloves to protect your hands.
Place two to three 3-gallon tubs on top of the plastic. You need one tub for each dye color that you use.
Calculate the amount of water you need, which is two gallons for each tub. Pour the water into a large pot on the stove, and heat it on high until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a candy thermometer to measure the water temperature. If you don’t have a pot large enough, you can heat additional water in the microwave, testing the temperature periodically with the thermometer.
Pour two gallons of hot water into each tub, using caution not to burn your skin.
Add one color of dye to each tub. Read the instructions on the package of the dye you are using to determine how much to add. In general, you will use 1/2 cup of liquid dye and an entire package of powdered dye. Stir each tub thoroughly using a long-handled spoon to dissolve the dye completely.
Twist the sheet one to two turns clockwise at the locations where you want a color transition to occur. Wrap a thick rubber band around the sheet just below and just above this location to secure it. Add additional twists and rubber bands as needed until you achieve the desired coloring effect.
Insert the entire sheet into the tub with the lightest-colored dye in it. Push down on the sheet to submerse it completely. Let the sheet soak for seven minutes, stirring the water occasionally with the spoon. Remove the sheet, and then wring out as much of the dye solution as possible.
Move to the next colored tub and insert the portion of the sheet where you want the color located. For example, you may want only the top portion or bottom portion of the sheet to be a certain color. Allow that portion of the sheet to soak for seven minutes, and then wring out the dye solution.
Insert the other end of the sheet into the final tub of dye solution and allow it to sit for another seven minutes. Remove the sheet and wring it out as much as possible.
Set the sheets aside and leave them for 24 hours.
Rinse the sheets with cold water in a sink until the water runs clear and no more dye comes out of the fabric. Wring the sheets dry, and then cut off the rubber bands using scissors.
Place the sheet into a washing machine filled with warm water, and then add the amount of detergent specified on the bottle. Turn the washing machine on and let the cycle complete.
Dry the sheets in the dryer with low heat, or hang them to air dry.