What’s more summertime than tie-dye? But, brace yourselves—while you might remember throwing a bunch of rubber bands on a ratty t-shirt at summer camp, we’re about to elevate the pastime in a major way. After all, designers from Isabel Marant to Stella McCartney to Raquel Allegra have been favoring the print lately, proving that with the right pattern and certainly with the right garment, this craft can look a lot less kitschy and a lot more chic.
What you probably didn’t know when you were 12 is that what we call “tie dye” actually stems from an ancient Japanese practice called shibori, which traditionally calls for natural indigo dye and is an umbrella term for a variety of patterned dyeing techniques. All of them are variations on folding, twisting, and tying a garment before dipping it into the indigo dye. But what sets apart traditional shibori from the rubber-band-and-dump technique we know (and love) is that it tends to be very precise, ensuring a beautiful pattern that is equal parts uniform and unique.
With a cool-girl dress from Madewell as our perfect base garment, we opted to try Itajime shibori, which involves folding the fabric into an accordion pleat before binding it between two squares of wood and securing it with rubber bands. The resulting pattern? A beautifully abstract take on the windowpane trend.
It sounds complicated, but it’s not (though it is a little messy).
WHAT YOU NEED:
-Indigo tie dye kit
-White base garment (TIP: use cotton, linen, and rayon fabrics for the best results)
-Large basin or bucket
-Rubber gloves, rubber bands, and two small wooden blocks or squares (all included in the kit we used)
Fill the basin or bucket with about four gallons of warm tap water, and pour in the indigo dye.
Begin stirring slowly in a clockwise direction. While stirring, pour in the reducing agent.
Continue stirring in the same direction until everything seems well mixed. Stir in the opposite direction a few times, and then cover the basin and let sit for at least 20 minutes (or up to an hour).
While the dye is sitting, prep your garment! To do the Itajime shibori technique we used, fold the item lengthwise like an accordion.
Then, accordion-fold it crosswise until you have a square. Try to keep the pleats as tight as possible!
Sandwich your folded garment between the two squares of wood. Secure with rubber bands in a grid-like pattern.
After at least 20 minutes, remove the cover from the vat of dye. There should be a foamy “skin” on top, and when you push it aside with a spoon, the liquid should be a clear green. This means it’s ready! Rinse or soak the bound garment, squeezing it to disperse the water and dispel any air. With your rubber gloves ON (unless you’re really into Lorde fingers), push aside the skin and dunk the garment in. Hold it beneath the surface for a few minutes (but don’t let it sink to the bottom—the residue there can alter the color).
Remove the garment and place on a mess-proof surface. It should be green, but get ready for some cool science: As it’s exposed to oxygen, the color will transform before your eyes. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes, and it should look completely blue.
Rinse the garment (still bound) of any excess dye until the sink water runs clear. Then it’s the moment of truth—cut or undo the rubber bands and pieces of wood, and unfold your transformed, chic new ‘fit.
Wash, line dry, and wear!