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Tie-dyeing is making a comeback on Long Island: DIY in 10 easy steps

The tie-dye trend is making a comeback here on Long Island. Dakota Skye Ejnes, 20, of Long Beach, is starting her own business Skye Dyes, as a result of quarantine boredom. She spoke to Newsday to explain her custom designs.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

It looks like this will be the Summer of Love on Long Island with the return of tie-dye fashions reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s. Only this time, it’s DIY tie-dyeing at home to lighten moods during the pandemic that has become the newest thing.

“The trend is huge,” says Gabrielle Banschick, 28, who owns the Penelope women’s boutique in Woodbury, where half of the store window is currently tie-dye fashions, some of which Banschick dyed herself.

The current tie-dye moment started trending in 2019 with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, says Durand Guion, vice president of Macy’s Fashion Office. “Over the past year it has exploded," he says. "There is no doubt as people have had more time at home and the weather has started to get warmer that this created the ideal condition for DIY projects.”

Stitch Fix Color Expert Ryen Anderson agrees. “While tie-dye has been present on the fashion scene for several seasons now, the uptick we’re seeing is, at least partially, in response to the social distancing we've been experiencing. There's also a simple joy in tie-dye; this is a time when people are looking for bits of joy in their lives, and tie-dye offers that.”

There are many different DIY techniques of tie-dye (used widely in Japan, Nigeria, India, Indonesia and Peru), which involve binding areas of fabric before dyeing to create largely unpredictable designs. Techniques range from stripes to spirals and bullseye patterns. Pinterest's experience researcher and in-house stylist, Larkin Brown, says that by April, searches for "tie-dye at home" were up more than 400% on the site and searches for "how to crumple tie-dye," a popular technique, were up around 400% as well.

“Everything is unique to itself,” says Dakota Skye Ejnes, 20, of Long Beach, who’s become an avid tie-dyer while in quarantine and now makes pieces as gifts for friends and family. She makes a lot of sweatshirts and sweatpants these days as sweat outfits have become the at-home uniform. “It’s easy,” she says of the process, “but you can’t expect it to come out a certain way, you have to have an open mind.” She was introduced to tie-dye by doing it as a child with her sisters and their mother, Carolyn Ejnes, who was born in 1968.

Carolyn says it’s surprising that she has personally gotten into tie-dye as a hobby in more modern times.

“My parents weren’t so cool, so I always wore nerdy clothes,” she says. “I guess I started liking it after my older girls were babies and they had a lot of tie-dye clothes from the Hamptons and Queens.”

Carol Caravella, 59, a library clerk from Shirley, says she was happy to turn to tie-dye to entertain her bored two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Gaetano Caravella, when she was babysitting him along with another grandchild, one-and-a-half-year-old Brielle Rodriguez. Their parents had to go to work during the quarantine. 

“Day care was closed and every day I said, ‘I’ve gotta do something with these kids. My daughter (Gaetano’s mother, Marissa Rodriguez) and I went to Walmart and she came out with white shirts and a tie-dye kit." They tie-dyed pieces for the family and found it a lot of fun. "It brought me back to the ‘70s when I had tie-dye shirts,” Caravella says. “I like the brighter colors and with tie-dye you can’t make a mistake.”

In today’s world of uncertainty, Stitch Fix's Anderson says it’s likely we’ll be tied to tie-dye for a while.

“Tie-dye has definitely stood the test of time,” he says, adding he expects it “will stick” for the foreseeable future. “We use style to boost our moods and tie-dye has that mood-boosting effect that we’re all craving given that it’s both colorful and playful.”

Tie-Dyeing 101

Dakota Skye Ejnes, 20, of Long Beach shares 10 quick steps for tie-dyeing at home.

1. Prepare your tie-dye station on a table with newspaper or tarp (covering the table).

2. Wet the piece of clothing you want to dye so it’s damp. Put it in a container or a pot filled with water.

3. Fold it/roll it up in a spiral motion.

4. Put rubber bands around the clothing. By doing so, you’re able to add a variety of colors and the rubber bands will help in forming the end result pattern.

5. Take an old water bottle with a squeeze cap and fill it with 1/2 cup of water and 8-10 drops of the color dye you wish to use. If you want to use different colors, be sure to clean out the bottle after every individual use and refill it with new colors. After you fill your water bottle with dye and water, start placing the dye on the shirt using rubber gloves to not stain hands with dye.

6. When you are satisfied with your design, let the clothing dry on a table, inside a plastic bag or drying rack for 8-24 hours to let dye set.

7. Rinse the shirt in warm water with the rubber bands still on it to remove any loose dye.

8. Take rubber bands off and rinse again with cold water until water is completely clear. Put item in the washing machine on cold cycle with no other clothing in the washer.

9. After it’s washed, place item in the dryer on tumble-dry or let it dry outside on a drying rack.

10. Once it’s dry, it’s ready to wear! Make sure you wash your tie-dyed items separately for the first few uses so dye doesn’t stain other clothes.

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