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Sewing a Tie-Dye Reynolds with Geri: Part 5

We are back with the 5th and final installment of Geri’s Tie-Dye Takeover, where she walks us through maybe the coolest tie-dye pattern yet! I have had SO much fun learning the ins and out of tie-dyeing this week, and I hope you feel the same. Geri and her daughter created two amazing Reynolds Dresses using the techniques in this series, and this big reveal is definitely worth the wait. Are you feeling as inspired as I am to tie-dye your next Reynolds?!

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

5th Installment – Mandala & Full Reveal

In this last installment of the tie-dye series, my daughter and I are going to reveal our Reynolds Dresses, which were dyed using all the techniques that I’ve shared thus far. The techniques covered in the previous installments include crumple dyeing, creating shapes with rubber bands, spiraling, and fan-folding. However, there is one more technique to share with you before the full reveal—and that is creating Mandala patterns. This is my absolute favorite technique of them all. Many intricate and kaleidoscopic patterns can be produced with this folding and binding method. Here are close-ups of the Mandala patterns that we were able to create on our dresses:

For full details on how to add a center front seam to your Reynolds, as well as how to prepare the separate fabric pieces before dyeing, please refer back to the 1st installment of this series. I also share many tips and tricks on how to set up your tie-dye workstation. 

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 colors 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

Mandala Tie-Dye Patterns

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

Binding Tools:

  1. Sinew for tie-dye, string, or rubber bands
  2. Erasable or washable marker

In the 4th installment, we used sinew as one of the binding options for the fan-folding technique. We will do this as well for creating Mandala patterns. Although rubber bands and string can be used, sinew is the best choice for this technique because it has the ability to bind thick layers of fabric and keep the thick folds in place. It also provides an excellent dye-resist, and keeps the undyed areas more clearly demarcated for more controlled patterning.

Sinew (also known as artificial deer sinew or waxed polyester thread) is used for beading and leatherwork, and can be found in craft or beading stores. It can also be purchased online through Amazon

As for the erasable or washable markers, take note that some may interact with the dyes or color fixative and become permanent on the fabric. To be safe, I recommend using a marker that is one of the colors in the palette you have chosen. You may also use Pilot Frixion Pens. These wash off completely and work quite well on dampened fabric.

Folding

Lay the fabric piece on your work surface right side facing up. There is a right and wrong side when creating Mandala patterns, so it is important that the right side is facing up when we begin the folding process. Use a spray bottle to dampen it with water. 

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

Decide where you want the center of the Mandala to be, and with an erasable or washable marker mark this point clearly on your fabric. 

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

The first fold we are going to do is a horizontal fold. Make sure the crease crosses the center point you just marked. 

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

The second fold is a vertical fold, and this fold should cross the center point as well. 

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

When this is done, you should have two flaps of fabric. Position the vertical fold line closer towards you. With one finger stabilizing the center point, fold the top flap towards the vertical fold line so that the horizontal fold line matches up with it. 

A diagonal fold line is created. Make another fold, bringing the diagonal fold line to line up with the vertical fold line. This folding pattern is reminiscent of folding paper planes. 

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

When this fold is completed, flip the fabric over, being careful not to undo the creases you’ve just made. The vertical fold line will now be positioned further away from you. 

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

We will now repeat the folding pattern on the second flap the same way we did to the first flap. Again, take the horizontal fold line of the second flap and bring it towards the vertical fold line.

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

Then make another fold, bringing the diagonal fold line to line up with the vertical fold line.

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

Turn the folded fabric piece around so that the center point is pointed towards you.

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

With an erasable or washable marker, mark lines to create the patterns on the Mandala.

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

Here are some suggestions for the different lines you can make. Let me walk you through some options, and you can use the picture below as reference. A short “horizontal” line close to the center point will create a circle in the center of the Mandala; the zig zag lines will create star formations; the “teardrop” curves will create teardrop shapes; and the large convex curve will create a big star boundary. 

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

Binding

Keep the sinew attached to the spool, and make a slip knot on the end of your sinew. To make a slip knot, form a loop. Then feed more sinew (still connected to the spool_ through the first loop you made. This will create another loop. Pull the second loop through, and you have created a slip knot. 

This loop can be made larger or smaller, and the slip knot will shift up and down the sinew as you pull on it. 

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

Position this loop over the “circle” marking close to the center point on your folded fabric, and pull the sinew tight. Then wind the sinew around the same spot at least 3 more times. Pull tight again.

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

On the first zig zag line, do your best to pleat up the fabric as much as you can, lining up the pleats with the marked line. These are thick layers of fabric, so you may only be able to make one or two pleats.

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

Bind the pleats at the marked line by winding the sinew at least 3 times around the fabric. Pull tight.

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

Continue this process with the rest of the zig zag lines, changing the directions of the pleats according to the zig zag lines. You will be using a continuous length of sinew as you are winding and binding.

The teardrop lines are longer, and it is easier to create more pleats on these lines. Like before, fold the pleats, lining them up with the marked line, then wind the sinew around the marked line and pull tightly to bind.

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

There is “excess” fabric in the center of the teardrop shape, and I like to bind that up with sinew as well to create more patterning there. 

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

Pleat and bind up the convex curve the way you did the other marked lines. To add some variation, I crumpled up the remaining fabric at the end of the piece and bound that up randomly with sinew as well. You may now knot up the sinew to end off the bind. Crumple dyeing is covered in the 1st installment, so visit that post for full details on that technique. 

When the fabric piece is fully bound, it will resemble something like this:

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

The piece is now ready to be dyed. 

Please refer back to the previous installments for detailed information on the dyeing process, including the dye recipe and how to set up your dye station. There really aren’t any rules for how to apply the dye on this Mandala bound fabric piece, except that you may want to alternate the colors for better contrast between the bound sections. Also, be careful not to oversaturate the dyes, which will create a murky colors rather than an ideal balance of blending and contrast. 

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

The picture above shows all of the fabric pieces that I dyed for my dress. Immediately after dyeing, they were soaked in ColorStay Dye Fixative for 20 minutes. There were then wrapped in plastic wrap and zapped in the microwave oven on high for two minutes to set the color. 

Once cool, pieces should be placed through a cold water rinse, laundered, and pressed. They can then be sewn up according to Helen’s instructions for the Reynolds Dress and Top. Again, for information on the whole process I just described, please refer back to the previous installments (especially the 1st one) for full details. 

After dyeing, the following picture shows the results of the Mandala pattern:

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

From the picture, you can clearly see how the marked lines that we made on the folded fabric produced the corresponding patterns for the Mandala. Meanwhile, the crumple dye at the edges of the fabric piece looks like this:

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

We did a slightly different patterning for my daughter’s dress, with a larger portion of the fabric being crumple-dyed:

My daughter was thrilled with her tie-dye Mandala pattern, and when this panel was sewn up with the others for her Reynolds Dress, she literally jumped for joy.

And I jumped along with her because this tie-dye project not only provided a fun and creative outlet for us, it also gifted us with precious bonding time during the summer holidays. 

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

We did a photoshoot at the beach because some of these tie-dye patterns remind us of patterns that can be found in nature. These organic designs look like waves and ripples, sea foam on the sand, or rock and geode formations.

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

We incorporated all the different tie-dye techniques that were covered in this series on our dresses. On the right front panel is the Mandala patterning that we presented earlier in this post.

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

On the left front panel, is the fan-folding technique featured in the 4th installment

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

On the left back panel, we created spiraling swirls, which is fully detailed in the 3rd installment.

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

On the right back panel, we made random amoebas with multiple concentric rings, and this technique can be found in the 2nd installment of the series.

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

Crumple dyeing was incorporated into the the straps and facings, and also worked into the patterning for the edges of the Mandalas. This technique can be found in the 1st installment.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if all the tie-dye technique pattern-mixing would result in a pattern clash. I had a vision of what the dress looked like in my head, and my only fear was that all these patterns together would create a mess rather than a blended, unified whole.

The only way to find out was to give it a go, and make an attempt to bring the vision in my mind to fruition. I am happy to report that the concept of “more is more” worked out in our favor with this tie-dye project—both with my dress and my daughter’s. We were able to integrate all of these techniques into one dress mainly because all of the techniques are based on circular patterns, which I believe was the unifying element. We also used the same color combinations in all of the panels. 

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

If you want to add color-blocking to your tie-dyed garment, then I suggest reducing the number of techniques used. This is what I did for the top that I made in the first installment. That top used only the crumple dye technique with contrasting colors on the separate panels. 

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

I love tie-dye because it encourages a heightened sense of curiosity in me to try out different variations of techniques and different combinations of colors. I hope this tie-dye series will inspire the same sense of adventure within you to create your own unique, one-of-a-kind tie-dye patterns for your custom-made fabrics or garments. Many of the techniques I shared can be modified to your liking. Through the process of trial and error, I understood my own preferences for which folding methods and binding tools to use. Through the same process of experimentation, you will also begin to develop your own style with tie-dye. 

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

It is a craft that never ceases to instill in me a sense of wonder and awe, especially when the dyed fabrics are unbound to reveal patterns that are created. Even though I have a general idea of what the technique will produce, there will always be an element of surprise for discovering something new, unplanned, unintended or unexpected. That is pure fabric alchemy to me. And it requires a feeling of surrender to the “Tie-Dye Gods”. Best of all, it is a never ending journey of learning, experimentation, and discovery. 

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

The Reynolds Top and Dress is the perfect sundress for tie-dye exploration. Its clean, simple, and classic lines make it an ideal frame to showcase tie-dye patterns. 

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

My daughter and I shared a wonderful week of playfulness and creativity with this project, and I hope you will try it out as well. Happy summer and happy tie-dye season!

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