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I Turned a Tie-Dye Hobby Into a Side Hustle. Here’s What I Use to Dye at Home.

One of the author’s tie-dye creations, in front of a very familiar print. Photo: Ali Eisner

Four years ago, one of my favorite sweatshirts got a very bad oil stain on it. Instead of throwing it out, I decided to tie-dye it, drawing on techniques and muscle memory from my days tie-dyeing at day camp as a kid. The process from start to finish was simple enough, and I was honestly surprised by just how much I loved the end result. It looked so good, I was inspired to tie-dye other forgotten clothes in my closet, from silk blouses to socks to sweatpants, to give them a second life.

My friends started to ask me about where I got my new tie-dyed wardrobe, and soon enough were commissioning me to dye things for them, both old and new. Suddenly, a hobby became a side hustle. I began to share my custom pieces on Instagram, where even more clients crawled out of the woodwork, from influencers to yoga instructors to Ultrafragola-mirror owners to editors at Vogue (and the Strategist). But beyond being trendy and sustainable, tie-dying can also be a wonderfully meditative process as well as an effective stress reliever — especially these days, when productive, time-sucking hobbies are a holy grail for anyone looking to break up the monotony of sheltering in place. It’s relatively simple once you get the hang of it (though to this day I’ll still consult the occasional YouTube how-to), and relatively low-mess, too, providing you have the right setup. Below, I’ve listed everything I use to tie-dye, as well as my favorite “blanks” for those in need of garments to start with. And one piece of advice in choosing things to tie-dye: Whatever the item is make sure that its fabric is as natural as possible to ensure the color bonds to it well. I prefer to use items that are 100 percent cotton, linen, or silk, but have tie-dyed a cotton-jersey shirt for a client, too (it just ended up lighter than anticipated).

The supplies I use to tie-dye

A dyeing vessel

As a New York City resident without private outdoor space, I’ve learned to dye in my kitchen sink. But if you aren’t comfortable with using your sink, or would prefer to dye outdoors, a large plastic bin like this would work. No matter the vessel you use, the most important thing is to have a contained space to tie-dye so clean-up is easy. If you don’t like the red, Amazon has it in a few other colors, as does Home Depot.

Rubber gloves

I use longer dishwashing gloves like these to prevent the dye from getting onto my hands or forearms. And to prevent dye from staining my actual clothes, I usually wear an old short-sleeve T-shirt.

Rubber bands