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How to Tie Dye Sweatshirts & Sweatpants

If there’s one look that totally represents Covid-era lifestyle, it’s the tie dye sweatsuit. With so many of us staying home these past ten months (omg, has it really been that long?!), comfort is key–so what better way than to add a little personality to our sweatshirt and sweatpants uniform than with some joyful tie dye?!

Hooded sweatshirts & sweatpants are oddly-shaped items to tie dye, so we get lots of questions about the best approaches to get great results. We here at TNTP have done our fair share of experimenting (both on our own and for workshops!), so we definitely have a few tricks up our multi-colored sleeves!

In this post, I’ll break down for you:

  • tips for choosing sweatshirts and sweatpants to tie dye (& our favorite sources for them!)
  • our recommended supplies for tie dyeing these bulky items
  • the best tie dye patterns for sweatshirts & sweatpants
  • step-by-step instructions for our favorite sweatshirt & sweatpants tie dye patterns (as seen in my outfit above!)
  • and, finally, tips on how to rinse and wash them once the dye has worked its rainbow magic!

How to Tie Dye Sweatshirts & Sweatpants

CHOOSING THE RIGHT FABRICS

The most important tip for tie dyeing sweatshirts and sweatpants is to check the fabric composition before putting dye to fabric. When tie dyeing, natural fabrics such as cotton, rayon, silk, and wool, take dye, whereas synthetic fabrics such as polyester and acrylic resist it. (Anyone who’s dyed a 100% polyester item knows the disappointment of all your dye washing out in the sink, leaving you with a still-white garment!)

The ideal sweatshirts and sweatpants to look for are 100% cotton, however most sweatshirts and sweatpants are a blend of fibers. Blends totally work too as long as they are 50% cotton or more. Most well-known basics brands like Hanes and Gildan most commonly offer 50/50 cotton/polyester blends (or something close to that), but have some more cotton-heavy options as well!

Here are some of our favorite places on the internet (besides Amazon) to source dyeable sweatshirts & sweatpants:

  • Dharma Trading – this website is the best resource for all things tie dye on the internet! They source and produce tons of awesome dyeables in 100% all-natural fabrics, so they’re guaranteed to come out awesome. Their items are often sold out, though, so check back frequently or contact them to find out when more items will be in stock.
  • Bella + Canvas – a fabulous *wholesale* resource for dyeables, beyond just sweatshirts. you’ll have to have a business ID# and resale certificate to shop with them, so this is a great resource for small business owners! You can also purchase this brand retail from other shops, such as Dharma Trading–just search “Bella + Canvas”
  • Gap, Old Navy, Target & other familiar retailers – their selections change seasonally, but during the colder months these stores usually have a great assortment of cozy 100% cotton or cotton-blend items
  • Hanna Andersson – this beloved pj brand doesn’t offer sweatshirts & sweatpants, but their DIY pajamas deserve an honorable mention!

OUR FAVORITE TIE DYE SUPPLIES FOR BULKY ITEMS

When tie dyeing bulky items such as sweatshirts and sweatpants, you’ll want to be sure you have the right supplies to get the job done easily! These sorts of items are large and take a lot of dye, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right supplies on hand. Here’s what we recommend:

HOW MUCH DYE IS NEEDED TO TIE DYE SWEATS

Two packs of Tulip® One-Step Tie Dye® are plenty for a full 12 oz bottle. If you want your color more of a pastel, use just one packet with a full bottle of water.

Depending on the size of your item and the number of colors you’re using to tie dye each item, the amount of dye you’ll need may vary.

For example, when I tie dyed one women’s small sweatshirt and women’s medium sweatpants using 3 different colors, I used almost all of the dye in my three 12 oz dye bottles. That’s about 18oz of dye per item. If you were to use only one color, you’d need about a 12oz bottle and half of dye for one item.

THE BEST TIE DYE PATTERNS FOR: SWEATSHIRTS

The thing that most often trips people up when tie dyeing hooded sweatshirts is the hood itself. It’s an odd protrusion from the rest of the garment and people can easily be intimidated by it. The key is to remember that tie dye is all about surface area exposure, so lay your hoodie out flat — hood & all! — and choose a pattern or technique that can easily be incorporated into the pattern as a whole. Here are some of our favorite tie dye patterns for hoodies and crew neck sweatshirts, alike:

  • Swirl – see below for step-by-step tips!
  • Scrunch – see photo above!
  • Ice Dye – see second photo in this post!
  • Bullseye – safety pin the arms to the body first

THE BEST TIE DYE PATTERNS FOR: SWEATPANTS

When it comes to sweatpants, the legs are the trickiest part. There are two of them and they operate independently — so depending on the pattern you choose, it’s almost like dyeing two items side-by-side. Here are our preferred tie dye patterns and techniques for sweatpants with some additional helpful tips:

  • Swirl – pictured above – start your swirl in the crotch area, then keep swirling until both legs are worked into the spiral
  • Scrunch – scrunch up the entirety of the garment into one big scrunch pancake, or scrunch legs idependently for more surface area exposure
  • Ice Dye – this is a fool proof method! scrunch your sweatpants into a cardboard ring without rubber bands, and let the ice + dye work their magic
  • Accordion stripe — both ways! – accordion fold your pants horizontally (see step-by-step below!) or vertically for a tie dye stripe effect
  • Tuxedo Stripe – accordion fold your pants horizontally (as pictured below) and band & dye only the outsides of the pants with 1-3 rubberbands (if more than 1, band them close together)

DIY SWIRL PATTERN TIE DYE HOODED SWEATSHIRT

Dampen sweatshirt & lay flat, hood & all!

Swirl up sweatshirt following out Swirl pattern tutorial! Make sure to manually swirl the hood and sleeves around the outside to get them in the spiral.

Band up like a pizza & place on a tie dye rack!

Dye each “slice” front & back.

Carefully place in a plastic bag & let sit overnight. Tips on how to rinse & wash are at the end of this post!

DIY VERTICAL STRIPED TIE DYE SWEATPANTS

Dampen sweatpants, lay out flat, and accordion fold the top of the pants until the legs split.

Accordion fold each leg independently, creating two accordion fold stacks.

Band up your sweatpants, spacing rubber bands a few inches apart.

Dye each section a different color, using your tie dye rack to catch excess dye.

Wrap up in plastic wrap to prevent colors from touching each other and let sit overnight. Tips on how to rinse & wash are in the next section!

HOW TO RINSE & WASH TIE DYE SWEATS

When your items are done soaking, it’s time to rinse! Because these bulky items take a lot of dye, a lot also comes out when you rinse them.

Start by giving items a hearty rinse with the rubber bands still on. This helps get rid of a lot of dye without too much of a mess.

Next, remove rubber bands, continue rinsing and squishing out as much dye as possible. Ideally, continue rinsing until the water runs clear, or at least until the water is only slightly tinted.

Machine wash items separately from other non-dyed items. Tie dyed items in the same color(s) can be initially washed together. If items are dyed totally different colors, we recommend washing them separately from one another.

Dry in dryer and enjoy your new tie dyed cozies!!!

And there you have it! ALL my knowledge on how to tie dye sweatshirts & sweatpants! I hope this post inspired you to tie dye up some joyful cozies to keep your spirits high and your body toasty. Find all our tips on how to tie dye indoors in this post!

Happy crafting and be sure to share your tie dyed creations with us on Instagram @theneonteaparty!

Peace, love & neon,
Marisa

2 Comments

  1. Jessica on June 1, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    Hi! Love your tips and tutorials. Just did first tie dye project and wanted to do sweatshirts next time. But can only find mostly 50/50 blends. Are some of the example sweatshirts you picture 50/50 blends? If using blend, do you leave the dye on longer? Thanks!

    • the neon tea party on June 7, 2021 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Jessica! Totally! Sweatshirts are most often a blend of cotton and a synthetic fiber like polyester. As long as it’s 50% cotton, it will work just fine, the color just comes out ever-so-slightly duller than a 100% cotton item, but definitely still bright! This blog post has all the tips you’ll need so just read through, if you haven’t yet! No need to let sit longer than a 100% cotton item. Hope that helps! xx, Marisa

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