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In some parts of Africa people take pride in their cultural tie and dye techniques as a representation of identity and cultural creativity.

Commonly in the West, the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria are known for their old age tie and dye pattern called ‘Adire’. Adire was first applied to indigo-dyed cloth decorated with resist patterns around the turn of the twentieth century.

However, tie and dye go way back to the sixth century in China and Japan. The process was invented and used during the time of the T’ang Dynasty in China and the Nara Period in Japan. It all started with the use of natural dyes from berries, leaves, roots and flowers to color clothing. This was achieved through boiling the plants and soaking the clothing materials tied in different patterns into the hot colored content.

In the same century, Indians had a peculiar tie and dye clothing design called “Bandhani”. They use thread to tie off small pieces of fabric in intricate patterns before dipping the fabric in dye.

Tie and dye traveled across the world, and gained grounds in America as well. During the Roaring Period of the ’20s, it has become popular in the United States. During the Great Depression it was a cheap means to afford clothing designs and interior decor. Talk about the hippie era by the 1960s ๐Ÿ™‚

Africa and other parts of the world still practise tie and dye in their unique ways till today ๐Ÿ™‚

In this article, we will discuss 5 tie and dye patterns and how you can do it yourself:
  • Scrunch
  • Bullseye
  • Swirl
  • Triangles/Squares
  • Rainbow arc


First, you’ve to know the type of dye to use considering the fabric you intend to dye. And don’t forget to adhere to technical institutions on dye packages which may include soaking fabric in water and liquid dish soap, soda ash, and salt.

It is important to keep in mind that dye maintains its potency for only 48-72 hours.

We recommend that anything youโ€™re dyeing should be a natural fiber (100%) either cotton, wool, rayon, or silk are all great options but certainly not acrylic or polyester fabrics. Sorry, it just won’t work that way.

Right before we get stained, we will need some items ๐Ÿ™‚ you bet tie and dye can be messy!

Get your:

  • Apron
  • Tub or a large bucket of water (for wetting fabric and rising gloved hands between colors)
  • Table cloth (plastic preferably even when dyeing on grass)
  • Rubber gloves and bands
  • Squirt bottles
  • Metal rack & tray or absorbent paper towels
  • Ziplock bags or plastic wrap
  • Cardboard + scissors (for square and triangle patterns only)
  • Fabric pencil or washable markers (for rainbow arc pattern only)

Umm…I think that’s right about it.

Secondly, we recommend you wash the fabric with only detergent.

So let’s get to it!

Now that everything is ready, it’s time to tie the 5 different patterns mentioned above: Scrunch, Bullseye, Swirl, Triangles/Squares, and Rainbow arc.


The scrunch pattern is one of the simplest to create. Simply scrunch the fabric towards the middle or center to form a long snake-like shape or a round scrunched blob. Then secure the scrunched part with rubber bands.


To create one of the classics, pinch the fabric in the middle (it could be anywhere you want), then pull upward from that point to the rest of the fabric drapes down.

Scrunch and Bullseye

Done? Good!

There you go, wrap with a rubber band just below the center point, then tie additional rubber bands incrementally down the fabric until you get close to the bottom.

The middle or center point can be small or big depending on how it’s pinched. It’s either a small bullseye or a big bullseye ๐Ÿ™‚


Again, with the swirl pattern identity your middle, then pinch. Once that’s done, begin to twist gradually until a swirl is formed. Next, band the fabric to secure the swirl.

Triangles / Squares

Triangle pattern or square pattern, the method is the same but the difference is in the folds ๐Ÿ™‚

Fold the fabric into a long strip, and then use the accordion folding style to get a triangle or square shape going from front to back.

Cut two pieces of cardboard but smaller than the shape of the fold and then you sandwich the folded fabric between the two pieces of cardboard and wrap rubber bands around to secure it. The essence of the cardboard is to prevent dye from filling in the complete surface of the outside.

Small Bullseye, Swirl, Triangles/Square

Rainbow Arc

This is going to be fun. It’s time to get our washable marker ๐Ÿ™‚

As kids we like to draw, so it’s time to bring that kid back. Carefully, draw a rainbow on the dry fabric. Gather the fabric along the arc lines only using fan-folding style. Then, you secure by banding each of the arc lines. Continue banding incrementally between the two outside bands to identify space for each color of your rainbow arc.

Awesome! We did it!

Rainbow Arc


Now, it’s time to wait as everything soak gradually performing the magic.

Immediately the dyeing is done, place each fabric in a separate ziplock bag or wrap with a plastic wrap to keep the fabric moist while the dye sets, but make sure the colors don’t come in contact. For bullseye, it’s preferable you use the plastic wrap.

Allow the fabrics remain overnight to continue to absorb the dye, or see package instructions. The thing is, the longer the dye sits; the more intense the color.

With that done, it’s time to rinse the fabrics separately in hot water until the water runs clear.

One final thing  or everything becomes a futile effort, wash the fabrics after rinsing or dry flat to avoid wet colors messing up the fabric.

And there you have it!!

You might need a video to see the process done practically. So feel free to checkout YouTube. You can explore other patterns using these methods too.

By Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher

Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.