Make the Most Unique Tie-Dye Bandanas for the Whole Family

JUL 16, 2021
Spoonflower Marketing team member Kristina and her niece with matching tie dye bandanas

Summer is the season to break out your tie-dye—we are seeing it everywhere and on everything! The process produces one-of-a-kind results, but have you ever found yourself wanting to take the customization even further? Enter: Spoonflower and millions of digitally printed custom fabric designs!

Ace from Spoonflower’s sewing team had the brilliant idea to add color to black line art designs from our Marketplace by tie-dying the fabric. We’ve tested the process and are excited to share the results with this tie-dye bandana DIY project!

We’ll show you how to best tie-dye your fabric and then how to use your tie-dyed fabric to make a sewn or no-sew bandana. Everyone in the family—kids, adults and even pets—can show off their unique style.

Looking for other ways to use your tie-dyed fabric? Stick around after the tutorial for more project recommendations on the blog.

How to Make a Tie-dye Bandana

Tie-die bandana supplies: a tie-dye kit, scissors, a pencil, a ruler, and fabric

Materials List

  • 1 yard/meter of fabric (or 1 fat quarter for 1 kid's bandana)
  • Tie-dye kit
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Tailor's chalk, fabric pencil or other marking tool
  • Plastic covering for your work table (i.e. trash bag or tarp)
  • Spray bottle with water (optional)
Skill Level

Beginner

Spoonflower Suggests:

Spoonflower’s Cotton Poplin or Cotton Lawn will work great for tie-dye bandanas and are featured in this tutorial. Cotton Spandex Jersey is a knit option that would also work for a bandana with a slight stretch. Our Sample Pack is a great way to feel for all the fabrics we offer!

Pick Your Kit!

The Tulip One Step Tie-Dye Kit we used included everything we needed —dye bottles, dye powder, rubber bands, and plastic gloves. This kit has already mixed in soda ash, which can help achieve more vibrant colors. If your kit doesn’t include soda ash, you can buy it separately and follow these instructions if you’d like, but it’s not required.

Additional Materials:

 

For a no-sew bandana:  Pinking shears. Sullivan’s Fray Stop or another fray preventer is optional.

 

For a sewn bandana: Fabric scissors, 100% cotton white thread and a sewing machine. Optional materials include: a rolled hem foot, an iron and an ironing board.

Find the Perfect Spoonflower Fabric

This project uses fabric designs that have black line drawings on a plain white background. Designs that don’t have large areas of black ink will work best. Think of what you find in coloring books as an example! To get you started, we gathered a collection of black and white surface designs that we think will work well.

For this tutorial, we used two of our cotton fabric offerings—Cotton Poplin and Cotton Lawn. We’ll fill you in at step 3 with tips on how to best tie-dye each, but when ordering you’ll want to think about characteristics you want your fabric bandanas to have.

Poplin is a crisp, soft, and durable cotton. Lawn is is a bit lighter than Poplin and has more of a silky feel and delicate drape.

How much fabric will you need to order? If you’d like to just make one kid-sized bandana, order 1 fat quarter. To get more bang for your buck, order a full yard. This way you’ll be able to make at least 2 bandanas (kid and/or adult sizes) and have some left over.

 

Don’t forget about your furry friends! With your extra fabric we recommend using the free pattern from one of our most popular DIY projects—a pet bandana!

Stella the black and white dog with her green tie dyed bandana

Stella styling in her tie-dye dog bandana!

Stella the black and white dog with her green tie dyed bandana

Wash Your Fabric

Wash your fabric alone (or with other white laundry) with cold water and on a gentle or delicate setting (read more about caring for your fabric). This step softens it and will help the dye to penetrate the fabric better.

Tie Up Your Fabric Before Dying

Prepare your work surface with a plastic covering. A trash bag, tarp, or plastic table cloth all work great. We recommend working outside and if it’s a windy day, make sure you tape or weigh down the plastic covering.

While you could make and then dye your fabric bandanas, we got the best results by dying larger pieces of fabric and then making bandanas and any bonus projects with the larger piece of tie-dyed fabric.

Our kit came with instructions for different techniques for tying up your fabric. We used the ″Bullseye″ and ″Crumple″ methods to achieve classic tie-dye patterns:

 

Bullseye: For a fat quarter of fabric, you could try this method. Pinch the center of the fabric and then bind it together into a cone with rubber bands about every inch or so. Between each segment, you can twist the fabric before binding it with the rubber bands.

Crumple: This is another technique that works well, especially for dying an entire yard of fabric. Lay your fabric out and bunch it together into compact mounds. Bind the fabric mounds together in segments as you go with rubber bands.

 

After you tie up your fabric, decide if you want to use the wet or dry tie-dye method. The wet method allows the colors to bleed together with a smoother transition between colors (shown on Cotton Poplin in the left photo). To do this, dampen your fabric with water from a spray bottle. Adding a little water helped the colors spread for the slightly thicker Poplin.

If you keep your fabric dry before dying, your colors will stay more separated and have a bolder contrast. We found that the dry method worked well for Cotton Lawn (right photo).

Finished tie dyed fabric, green and blue with printed fish

Cotton Poplin dyed using the wet crumple technique

Finished tie dye fabric, pink and orange on printed swirls

Cotton Lawn using the dry crumple technique

A fat quarter of fabric wrapped with the bullseye technique

Bullseye technique with one fat quarter

A yard of fabric wrapped with the crumple tie dye method

Crumple technique with 1 yard

Dye Your Fabric

Now that your fabric is prepped you can mix your dyes according to your kit’s instructions. The selection of colors in Tulip’s neon or pastel tie-dye set works well for this specific project. Darker colors in some of their kits, like deep purple for example, can make it hard to see the black lines on your printed fabric.

If you’d like to use deep purple or other dark/saturated colors, you can dilute the bottle by using less dye powder and more water. Alternatively, green dye tends to be lighter than other colors in common dye kits.  You can concentrate colors and make them more pigmented like this by adding less water to your bottle.

 

This part can get a bit messy! Everyone should have on clothes they wouldn’t mind getting accidental dye splatters on and disposable gloves to apply the dye.

 

Dye the various sections of your rubber-banded fabric using different colors with the bottled dyes. Drip the dye slowly onto a small area of your fabric to get a feel for how far it spreads. If your fabric is slightly wet from the spray bottle, it will spread further and quicker.

Depending on what kind of look you want, you can leave some white in between the areas of color and/or sometimes allow the colors to meet and mix together. You can also put the bottle’s nozzle into the creases of the fabric to thoroughly apply the dye within any hidden folds.

When you are done, wrap each piece of your dyed fabric separately in plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag to keep it damp. Let these sit for about 6-8 hours. You can do less time for pale or pastel results and longer for more intense colors.

 

Tie-Dye Color Combos:

Since there is already a black line design on our printed fabric, we kept our color scheme simple with 1 or 2 color choices. Don’t forget to consider how the colors you chose will mix. Using blue and yellow together will give you a green where the colors intersect, but using complementary colors like blue and orange together will give you a muddier mix at the transition points.

Tie dying the yard of fabric

Rinse, Wash, and Dry Your Tie-Dye

While wearing your gloves, rinse the excess dye off until the water runs clear. You can use a hose outside with a bucket or a bathtub/sink (as long as they are not porcelain or fiberglass) for this step. Remove your rubber bands as you rinse.

Using a large load setting, wash your tie-dyed fabric separately on cold with a small amount of detergent (you’ll want to wash them separately the first few times just in case).

Then, dry on high heat or hang your fabric out to dry in the sunshine. Once your fabric is dry, you can begin to make your bandanas!

Tie dyed fabric sitting in a blue bucket
Pink and orange tie dyed fabric hanging

Decide on a Bandana Style

A no-sew bandana (left) is much quicker to make since you only have to cut out the squares. Cut using pinking shears to get the zig-zag edge that will reduce fraying, and for an extra hold you can use a fray preventer like Sullivan’s Fray Stop.

1 yard of Cotton Poplin (42 X 36 inches) will give you 4 kid-sized bandanas, 1 yard of Cotton Lawn (54 X 36 inches) will give you 6 kid-sized bandanas, and 1 fat quarter of any of these fabrics will make 1 kid-sized bandana.

 

A sewn bandana (right) is also a quick option and just requires you to hem the edges! This is a more finished look and the sewn edges will never fray.

1 yard of our 100% cotton fabrics will be enough to easily make 1 kid-sized and 1 adult-sized sewn bandana.

No-sew version of the bandana, with jagged edges, colored with blue and green tie dye
Sewn version of the bandana, with stitching on the edges, and pink and orange tie dye

Measure and Cut Your Bandanas

For no-sew bandanas, use your ruler and a marking tool to mark out 17.5-18″ * squares for kids bandanas, and 22″ squares for adult bandanas (46 cm for a kid’s bandana and 56 cm for an adult’s). Cut on top of your line with pinking shears. Use Fray Stop to prevent fraying even further.

For sewn bandanas, use your ruler and mark out 19″ squares for kids’ bandanas and 23″ squares for adult bandanas (48 cm for a kid’s bandana and 58 for an adult’s). Cut with fabric scissors.

 

*Your fabric will shrink in the wash an inch or so. Some of the measurements we recommend may need to be decreased by about a half-inch if you are wanting to fit the maximum amount of bandanas on a yard or fat quarter. For example, to fit 6 no-sew kids bandanas on a yard or 1 on a fat quarter of Cotton Lawn, you may need to cut out 17.5″ squares instead of 18″.

Pro Tip:

To easily measure a square, measure one side and cut your fabric to the desired length or width. Then fold over at a diagonal matching the two corners. Cut on the line where the two fabric edges meet for a perfect square.

Measuring the tie dyed fabric to cut
Cutting the tie dyed fabric with scissors

Hem Your Bandanas (for sewn option only)

There are two different ways you can hem your bandana:

  • Roll hem (left): Take the edges of the bandana with your thumb and pointer finger and roll them until you form the tiniest hem that tucks under itself. Pin or clip this in place and sew it down. You can also use a roll hem foot with your sewing machine, a useful tool that rolls and sews the hem for you at the same time!
  • Double hem (right): Fold the edges of your bandana in by 1/4″ (1/2 cm), or even smaller if you are able to. Iron this fold in place, and then make one more 1/4″ (1/2 cm) fold on top of that. Give it a final press and sew the hem in place with a straight stitch.

 

We recommend back-stitched folded corners for these bandanas. For this method, when you get to the final corner, hold your corner in place when your needle is still four or five inches from the end, so your corner will be nice and flush when you finish.

Now your bandanas are ready for you to tie around your neck or roll into a headband to help beat the heat!

A small rolled hem on the outer edge of the bandana
A double hem on the edge of the bandana
Kristina and her niece with finished bandanas

After you’ve used your tie-dyed fabric to make bandanas, we have plenty of other recommendations for stash busting projects to try with your fabric remnants.

We’ve mentioned pet bandanas, but more formal occasions might call for matching bow ties for pets and their owners. Your tie-dyed cotton could also make summer scrunchies, sunglasses cases, or fanny pack lining. You can also preserve your entire tie-dyed yard as art by making a large wall hanging.

Finished tie dyed fabric hanging on a clothes line

Black and White Fabric Designs

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  • Deb Stibich

    Great article. I’m thinking of doing something like this now that the directions are so clear.