Dyeing scarves with silk ties revisited

Last year I wrote this post on dyeing silk scarves with silk ties. I thought it was time for an update especially since I was going to be demonstrating the technique on one of our local television stations.

Here I am on the set of the WEHT Local Lifestyles with Ange, the host, yesterday before my segment.

angeandmeIf you’d like to see my dyeing silk scarves with ties tutorial on WEHT, here is the link to the segment.

Hubby was also on – making mustard!

img_1970Ron and Ange taste the mustard while Dave looks on. Here is the link to Dave’s segment:

So let’s get to the tutorial on dyeing scarves with silk ties.


First of all, you have to use silk ties. Be sure and check the small end of the tie which shows the fabric content. Polyester ties will not work. You can find lots of ties at thrift stores.

menstiesNext, I highly recommend testing your ties before you use them. Follow the same procedure I’ve outlined below, but just cut small pieces of the ties and use a piece of silk. Here is an example of how different ties look when dyed. This will help you in designing your scarves.

sampletiesresultThe black and white tie at the top printed mostly light with some green. The purple and blue tie ended up bright blue circles. It’s amazing how they dye.

Here is a list of what you will need:

  • silk ties
  • silk scarf or fabric (dharmatrading.com)
  • cotton fabric cut a little wider and longer than the silk  you are dyeing
  • scissors
  • string, rubber bands, or sinew
  • dowel, stick or skewer
  • pot for water
  • water
  • white distilled vinegar
  • weight for holding down fabric in pot
  • towel

Let’s get started. Cut your cotton fabric a bit longer and wider than your silk piece. It will serve as the carrier for this project. This “carrier” can be used over and over again so hold on to it after you are finished dyeing. Place silk scarf or silk fabric right side up on top of the cotton carrier.

silkoncottonFold the silk scarf  in half and put a pin on the carrier at the fold. This will show you how far you will be placing the ties.

pinningcenterUnfold the scarf, cut your ties and place on the silk scarf.


Continue placing your scarves until you get to the halfway mark and your pin.


Now cover the cut ties with the other half of the scarf.

silkcoveringtiesThen cover that part of the scarf with the other half of the carrier fabric.

coveringwithcottonNow take your dowel or skewer and slowly rollup the fabric.

rollingTake your time doing this. The ties will shift, but the slower you roll, the less shift. (I need to add here, if you are into perfection, this is not the art for you. It’s pretty impossible for the ties not to shift a bit when rolled.)

Once rolled, tie to keep together. I use artificial sinew, but you could use string or rubber bands.

tieingupRemove the dowel.

removingdowelTie a few more times and the bundle is ready to be dyed.

tiedupbundleAdd water and 2 – 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar to a pot and bring it to a boil.

addingvinegarOnce you have a boil, add your fabric bundle.

dyeingwties1Use something to push it to the bottom of the pot so it’s completed covered with water. I use a piece of pvc pipe I also use for indigo dyeing, but you could use a spoon or a stick.

pushingdownIf the bundle floats, put something on top of it to keep it under water. I used a glass pie plate and a glass measuring cup.

panontopBefore I go any further, any thing you use for this technique – pan, glass pie plate, measuring cup, spoon – never can be used in the kitchen again. They will be part of your dyeing equipment.

Now let this bundle boil for 20 minutes. Of course, you can go longer if  you’d like, but I found 20 minutes was adequate.

Pull the bundle out of the hot water – be careful – and put on an old towel.

bundleoutofwaterAt this point the bundle is really hot. You can let it cool down, but if you are like me you want to see it right away!

Cut your strings.

cuttingstringsAnd then unroll your surprise.

unveilingscarfLet the scarf dry and then iron. With the ironing you have set the dye so it’s safe to wear. However, I like to hand wash it in mild detergent, rinse, let dry and iron again.

newsilktiescarves1Here is the above scarf on my mannequin.


That’s it – easy peasy! As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, do a test dye with small pieces of your ties. It’s well worth the time and effort. Otherwise you might end up with a scarf like the one above. It’s pretty, but too light.

Lastly, if you have a silk scarf that you don’t particularly like, you could dye over it with these ties. Here is a scarf I had dyed green and really hated it. Then I dyed it with ties and it changed completely.

greentiescarfThis is such a fun technique. It would be a great gift and a good way to recycle those unwanted ties. Thanks for dropping by.