How To: Dyeing silk with ties

I love ties. When I’m trolling local thrift stores I always have to stop by the tie rack and see what lovelies I can find. Until recently I really didn’t know what to do with them but add them to my stash.¬† I thought about cutting them up and making something, but then I ran across this idea – dyeing silk with these lovely ties.

I found a tutorial in Quilting Arts October/November 2010 issue, but didn’t find much information online so I thought I’d share my tutorial.

So here is what these silk scarves look like dyed with silk ties.

threetiescarvessilkfromtiesSo let’s get started.

First of all you need to use silk ties and silk fabric. This technique will not work on any other fabric.

You will need the following:

  • silk ties
  • silk scarf or fabric
  • cotton fabric cut a little larger than the fabric you are dyeing
  • scissors
  • string, rubber bands, or sinew
  • pot for water
  • vinegar
  • weight for holding down fabric in pot

Place cotton fabric on table and lay the silk fabric face up on top of it. In this tutorial I used a previously dyed scarf which also works. In fact, the middle scarf in the above picture of three was a mistake and the ties covered my mistakes! But you can start with just a white one too. I didn’t iron this scarf before “dyeing” it, but you might want to do that.

howtodyewithties1Pin the halfway mark of your silk. Now cut the ties and place them face down on the silk up to that pin. You can cut and place the ties anyway you want to.

howtodyewithties2Now, bring the other half of the silk over the ties.

howtodyewithties3And then cover that silk with the cotton.

howtodyewithties4Now starting at the open end, roll up the fabric.

howtodyewithties5Then tie up. I use sinew because it’s what I use for other dyeing. If you don’t have sinew you can use anything that will keep this bundle tied.

howtodyewithties6Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add 2 – 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar to the water and then place the fabric bundle in the water. To keep the bundle from floating, place some type of weight on top of it. Anything you use for dyeing should never be used again for cooking.

howtodyewithties7Let it cook for 20 minutes, then take out of the water and put directly on a towel. Don’t rinse it. Cut the ties and open your surprise.

howtodyewithties8Hang the scarf until dry and then heat set with an iron. I also then hand wash again, dry, and iron to make sure there is no vinegar smell and that I feel the dye has set.

Here is the result from that dyeing.


Here are some closeups of my other scarves. This first scarf was the scarf that I had previously dyed and didn’t like. The ties covered up my mistakes.


The following two scarves were white to start.



It’s a fun technique. Be sure you use ties that are dark. Light ties won’t dye. The ties also have to be silk. Supposedly the ties can be reused a couple times, so I have a bin of them waiting.

If you try this, I’d love to see your results. Have a creative rest of the week.

UPDATE: See my new tutorial on dyeing silk scarves with ties HERE.