Tie-dye is one of the oldest forms of fabric manipulation and design. The concept is simple: dye can only penetrate loose fabric, and when portions are bound off by string, rocks, clothes pegs, or rubber bands, the dye cannot reach that part of the fabric.
That untouched section could remain the original colour, or you could then dye the pristine sections a separate colour to create works of art.
Japanese kimonos were famous for their tie-dye, where small puckers of fabric were tightly bound with thread and then submerged in dye to achieve partial saturation.
Nigerian women tied fabric in knots before dyeing their cloth a deep blue indigo, and when the fabric was unknotted, that portion would remain the original colour, while the rest would be a beautiful blue.
During the 60s, the hippies‘ revival of old ethnic crafts resurrected the art and put a new spin on tie-dye. The hippies’ tie-dye was no subtle handicraft – they tie-dyed with several colours, layering one on top of the other for wild bursts of colour and crazy visual trips.
Hearts, peace signs, bullseyes – anything could be done with a little creativity. Tie-dyeing became the ultimate sign of the times.
Rit Dye, the best in do-it-yourself home dyeing, supported the fad with handy “how-to” instruction booklets inside each box. It was exceptionally simple, and the only limitations were your own mind and creativity.
All you needed was a t-shirt, a few packs of dye, and some rubber bands to create modern Picasso paintings for your clothes.
The 80s returned to tie-dye when a new generation pulled out the crazy Dead Head shirts their parents wore when they were kids. Parents passed down the knowledge by turning t-shirts, sheets, socks and more into colourful pinwheels of fun.
Even when it wasn’t a widespread fad, tie-dye remained a style of choice for 60s holdovers and people who just wanted a little psychedelia in their wardrobe.