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The History of Tie-Dye

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What is Tie Dye?

Tie-dye is a typically brightly colored, patterned textile or clothing which is made from knit or woven fabric, usually cotton, through a resist dyeing process known as tie-dyeing.

This is a modern version of traditional dyeing methods used in many cultures throughout the world. Tie-dyeing became fashionable in the West in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of hippie style. It was popularized in the United States by musicians such as John Sebastian and Janis Joplin.

Tie-dyeing

The material to be dyed is first folded into a pattern, and tied or bound with string or rubber bands. Dye is then applied in such a way that it reaches only part of the area to which it is applied. The ties resist the penetration of dye, making tie-dyeing a form of resist dyeing. Designs are also formed by applying different colors of dyes to different sections of the fabric.

When reactive dyes are used, the folded and tied textile is usually treated with soda ash solution before dyeing, to prepare it to take the dyes, which may be applied while the fabric is still wet with this solution, or once it has dried. Soda ash, which has a high pH, prepares the cellulose fibers of the cloth for permanent chemical bonding with the fiber-reactive dye used in tie-dyeing.

Alternatively, the soda ash may be added directly to the dye solution rather than used as a pre-treatment. With this technique the dye must be used within one or two hours, as the dye will react with the soda ash.

After sufficient time has been allowed for the reaction between dye and fiber to go to completion, depending on the temperature and the specific dye, the fabric is unwrapped, rinsed in cool water, and finally washed in hot water. A detergent called Synthrapol is preferred by many dyers, although any neutral detergent may be used. During tie-dyeing, if a good fiber reactive dye is used, a chemical reaction takes place which permanently bonds the colorful dye to the fabric, making tie-dye safe to wash along with other clothing once the excess dye has been removed.

Dyes

Although many different kinds of dyes may be used, most tie-dyers now dye with Procion MX fiber reactive dyes. This class of dyes works at warm room temperatures; the molecules permanently bind with cellulose based fibers (cotton, rayon, hemp, linen), as well as silk, when the pH is raised.

Soda ash (sodium carbonate) is generally used to raise the pH and is either added directly to the dye, or in a solution of water in which garments are soaked before dyeing. They do not fade with washing, but sunlight will cause the colors to fade over time.

Traditional Tye-dyeing

The earliest surviving examples of pre-Columbian tie-dye in Peru date from A.D. 500-800. Their designs include small circles and lines, with bright colors including red, yellow, blue, and green.

Shibori includes a form of tie-dye that originated in Japan. It has been practiced there since at least the eighth century. Shibori includes a number of labour-intensive resist techniques including stitching elaborate patterns and tightly gathering the stitching before dyeing, forming intricate designs for kimonos.

Tie-dye techniques have also been used for centuries in the Hausa region of West Africa, with renowned indigo dye pits located in and around Kano, Nigeria. The tie-dyed clothing is then richly embroidered in traditional patterns. It has been argued that the Hausa techniques were the inspiration for the hippie fashion.

Plangi and Tritik are Malay-Indonesian words for methods related to tie-dye, and bandhna is a term from India. Ikat is a method of tie-dying the warp or weft before the cloth is woven.

Tie-dyeing was known in the US by 1909. Later in the 20th Century, tie-dye became associated with the Hippie movement.

Groovy!

References / Image Credits: Wikipedia ,Martin Lawerence ,Diy Talk

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  1. binaljavia saidWed, 31 Dec 2008 10:20:49 -0000 ( Link )

    In India, Tie-&-Dye is native to my state of Gujarat and neighboring Rajasthan. I have got tons of tie-dye outfits both traditional and contemporary. I just love it :)

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  2. oLahav saidFri, 27 Mar 2009 17:53:46 -0000 ( Link )

    Groovy! Hippie culture rules. Maybe not all of their ideas, but the culture. Tie-dying is fun, but you’ll never catch me wear anything that colourful. My hippie-ness is in my hair.

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  3. acrosstheuniverse saidFri, 27 Mar 2009 20:09:16 -0000 ( Link )

    Ha! Who knew there could be such an in-depth history to such a fun style of art. Also, I would have to agree with you Oren on the hippie-hair. It`s not a bad thing!!

    Also, are there any natural plant dirived dyes that still exist?

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  4. iya -aladire saidFri, 17 Apr 2009 08:14:35 -0000 ( Link )

    The Hausa people are best known for their plain dyeing and the few tie-dye patterns that they use are derived feom the Yoruba women of Nigeria who are experts in resist patterning dyeing. The hippie craze for tie-dying is more likely to be due to the Yoruba as dyeing with colours became fashionable among them in the mid 1960’s and may have reached America via the Peace Corps volunteers who were everywhere in Nigeria at that time. Even today the Yorubas still dye with indigo and colours but the Hausa dye with indigo alone.

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