Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

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Sewing a Tie-Dye Reynolds with Geri: Part 2

We are back today with Part 2 of Geri’s Tie-Dye takeover! In case you missed yesterday’s post, Geri has already shown us how to prep the Reynolds Top and Dress for tie-dying, and the basic crumple dying technique. Today she is going to expand on yesterday’s post and show us even more amazing options for easy tie-dye designs. If you are ready to get inspired to dye some of your own garments, read on!

Geri showing off tie-dye designs on her new Reynolds Top.

2nd Installment – Shapes Created with Rubber Bands

In the 2nd installment of the Reynolds Top and Dress Tie-Dye Series, we are going to look at some different tie-dye patterns that a simple binding tool like a rubber band can produce. 

But before we begin, please refer to the 1st installment of this series for basic information on dyeing, as well as details on how to create a center front seam in the Reynolds Top and Dress (this will give you the option to mix tie-dye patterns or color-block the front of your pattern like I did). It will also guide you through your options for how to prepare the fabric before dyeing. 

I personally like dyeing the garment in separate fabric pieces before sewing them together, because I can show different patterns or color combinations on a single garment. However, you may choose to apply just one technique, in which case you can tie-dye your garment after it’s completely sewn up. The binding techniques that we are going to cover today can definitely be applied to a completed garment or to your Reynolds Top and Dress muslin. 

Basic Materials and Tools Required For Dyeing:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog
  1. Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye in your chosen colors.
  2. Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative
  3. Squeeze bottles, with a volume of 125ml or 250ml. I use the smaller bottles for the dyes and the larger one for the ColorStay Dye Fixative
  4. Measuring cup and measuring spoons
  5. Large wire rack
  6. Large plastic container that the wire rack can sit on
  7. Large plastic sheets/covers or dollar store shower curtains to protect your work surface 
  8. Salt for cotton, linen, rayon, viscose; vinegar for silk and wool
  9. Gloves
  10. Plastic wrap
  11. Microwave-safe container or microwave-safe plastic bag
  12. Spray bottle to dampen the fabric
  13. Paper towels to keep things tidy
  14. Large pot to boil water

Binding Tools:

Many tie-dye designs can be created with simple tools like rubber bands and wooden beads.
  1. Rubber bands
  2. Beads 
  3. Erasable/washable marker
  4. Ruler

Folding & Binding:

The main folding technique applied here is essentially pinching the fabric and then binding a section of it with rubber bands. The tighter the fabric is bound, the more that section of bound fabric will resist the dye. In addition, rubber bands help demarcate different sections of the pattern for contrasting colors. 

When the fabric is pinched and bound in this way, the patterns that emerge after tie-dyeing are usually amoebas, circles, or squares with rounded corners. You can achieve endless pattern possibilities using this basic binding technique, and today we will cover three of them: random amoebas, bullseyes or concentric circles, and circles or squares on a grid.

1. Random Amoebas

This is one of the easiest techniques to tie-dye, but also produces one of the most unexpected and beautiful patterns. 

Lay the fabric flat on your work surface, and dampen it with water with the help of a spray bottle. Make sure that the right side of the fabric is facing up. There is a right side and wrong side to the tie-dye pattern that is produced by these techniques, so it is important that the right side of the piece is facing up in order to achieve more clearly defined lines on the right side of the fabric. If you want to plan exactly where the amoebas appear on the fabric, then use an erasable marker to mark a pathway or placement for them. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

You can also randomly pinch a section of fabric and then bind it with a rubber band.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Warning: I used a red washable marker that would show up better in these pictures, but the marker ink reacted with the ColorStay Fixative and traces of it stayed somewhat permanent on my fabric. I recommend using either a washable marker that is a similar color to your dye, or using Pilot Frixion pens. I’ve had good results with the latter, and these pens make good markings on damp fabric as well. 

Continue to bind up as many amoebas as needed for your tie-dye design. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

After I finished binding up my desired number of amoebas, here is what my fabric looked like:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

2. Bullseye or Concentric Circles

Determine the center of the bullseye on your fabric and pinch that piece to bind it with a rubber band. This first binding will create the innermost ring of the bullseye.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

With another rubber band, pinch and bind another section away from the center.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Keep doing this until you have the desired number of concentric circles for your bullseye design. Remember that each rubber band will demarcate another ring on your fabric.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

On a different piece of fabric, I chose to mark two center points. I bound them up at each end for two juxtaposed bullseyes on the same fabric.

3. Circles/Squares on a Grid

Tie-Dye Designs: Circles or Squares on a Grid

If you desire a more orderly pattern, these amoebas, circles, or squares can be placed on a grid. 

With an erasable or washable marker, draw a grid on your piece of fabric on the right side of the fabric. I used a grid that is based on a 1.5” (3.8 cm) square. This provides enough space between the shapes to see them clearly. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Grab a piece of fabric at the crosspoints of the horizontal and vertical lines, and bind it with a rubber band.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Beads can be used to help maintain regularity of the shapes throughout. Place a bead on the wrong side of the fabric, and wrap the fabric around the bead. With a rubber band, bind the bead securely within the pocket of fabric. I used round beads that are 1cm in diameter, and they will produce shapes that are 3-4 cm in diameter. Round beads will usually create squares with rounded corners.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

To create more circular shapes, use flat round buttons instead of beads. 

Warning: Beads or buttons that will be bound into the fabric must be made out of materials that can be safely placed in the microwave oven when we are setting the color. Do NOT use metal beads or buttons for this reason. In addition, do not use beads or buttons that may bleed color onto your fabric.

After binding all of the cross points on the grid I drew, my fabric piece looked like this:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Here are all the fabric pieces bound and ready to be dyed:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

In the photo above, I am holding the facing and strap pieces in my hands. I used a combination of all the above techniques to create the tie-dye patterns on these. 

Just before dyeing, dampen the fabric pieces again if they have dried up. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Dyeing:

The dyeing technique with squeeze bottles is basically the same as the one I detailed in the 1st installment of this series. Please refer back to that installment for tips on setting up the dyeing workstation. I am using squeeze bottles to apply the dye, since I am dyeing relatively small pieces of fabric. 

The colors that I am using for this version of my Reynolds Top are Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dyes in Aquamarine and Indigo:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Dye Recipe:

It is ideal for the water used in the dye solution to be at least 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer to work with water that is almost at boiling when mixing the dyes. 

  1. ½ tbsp salt
  2. 125ml (4 ¼ oz) of hot water
  3. Add at least ½ tbsp of dye color. You can intensify or darken the color by adding more dye. Use small fabric scraps or paper towels to do a quick color test.

Prepare the different dye colors separately in different squeeze bottles. I am using a small squeeze bottle with a smaller opening at the nozzle, so I am mixing the dye solution in a measuring cup before I pour it into the bottle. I find that the smaller the nozzle opening, the more precision there is when applying the dye. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

When dyeing, keep in mind that oversaturation will cause the colors to blend and will reduce the overall contrast between them. It is always better to practice some restraint with dye application with a squeeze bottle, especially when you want to keep some white space left in the tie-dye design. 

Position a large wire rack on top of a large container to catch the extra dye or fixative that drips into it. Position your fabric piece on the wire rack and start dyeing.

I am planning on a design with minimal white space, so keep that in mind for the following photographed examples. If you plan for more white space, definitely do not dye the fabrics as much as I have. Leave more visible spaces of white fabric undyed.

Remember to flip all of the fabric pieces to the other side to make sure that enough dye is applied to the other side as well.

Do the same for all of your fabric pieces. Here are my finished dyed pieces:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Notice that for the bullseye bundle (on the bottom right hand corner) I alternated the two colors on the different sections to better define the concentric circles. 

ColorStay Dye Fixative:

After dyeing, immediately saturate the fabric pieces with ColorStay Dye Fixative.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

ColorStay Dye Fixative Recipe:

  1. 250ml (8 ½ oz) of hot water in a squeeze bottle
  2. 2 tbsp of ColorStay Dye Fixative 

Shake the bottle to mix well, then squirt the fixative all over the fabric pieces. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Turn the pieces over and saturate them on the other side as well. Leave the fabric pieces to marinate in the fixative for 20 minutes. Then wrap the fabric pieces separately in plastic wrap.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Place the wrapped-up pieces in a microwave safe container to catch the excess dye solution that may flow out of the wrapped pieces. Alternatively, you can place the pieces in a microwave-safe plastic bag. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Zap the fabric pieces on high for two minutes. The heat of the microwave will help set the dyes. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

If you do not have a microwave, you can also use a hairdryer to create the same amount of required heat. Alternatively, you can leave the wrapped pieces in the plastic bag and place them in the sun for 2 hours. 

Be very careful when removing the fabric pieces from the microwave, because the steam may burn your hands. Keep your gloves on to handle them. 

Allow the fabric pieces to cool completely before removing the plastic wrapping. Rinse the fabric pieces in cold water. While you are rinsing, remove the rubber bands and beads. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Continue rinsing until the water runs clear. 

Wash the fabric pieces quickly in a gentle detergent solution, without soaking them in the soapy water. Squeeze out the excess water and then toss them in the dryer to dry. If your fabric is too delicate for the dryer, hang dry out of direct sunlight. Once dry, give the fabric pieces a good press and voila— you can finish sewing these fabric pieces together following Helen’s instructions from the top. 

The photos above show all of the fabric pieces after washing and drying. These are the patterns created with the humble but mighty rubber band!

While working on this project, my daughter started to take a deep interest in what I was doing and requested that I let her be my assistant. She also coveted a Reynolds Top and Dress for herself, and wanted to be in on the tie-dye action as well. I couldn’t possibly say no, so I did a quick hack to convert the sewing pattern to a girl-sized pattern for her. We dyed these Reynolds Tops, and it turned out to be a fun way for us to spend some quality time together while creating matching mommy-and-me outfits. 

Geri and her daughter model their matching Reynolds Tops, which feature a variety of tie-dye designs.

Tune in for the next installment where we will dive into spiralling tie-dye patterns, and I share the quick hack that I did to make a Reynolds Top and Dress for my daughter. 

Geri and her daughter model their matching Reynolds Tops, which feature a variety of tie-dye designs.
Geri and her daughter model their matching Reynolds Tops, which feature a variety of tie-dye designs.
Geri and her daughter model their matching Reynolds Tops, which feature a variety of tie-dye designs.
About the author

Helen

Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

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