How to Tie Dye Scarves and Playsilks
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How to Tie Dye Scarves and Playsilks


Step by step instructions on how to tie dye scarves and playsilks, including how to make tie dye hearts, sunbursts, and other fun designs.

How to Tie Dye Playsilks Cover 1

We made tie dye scarves and playsilks a couple weeks ago with friends. The same friend for whom we made the melted bead suncatcher mobile, in fact (and she’s since given birth to a beautiful baby girl!). Tie dying the playsilks was a lot of fun and the results are just beautiful. Since we didn’t find instructions online and had to cobble together our own from a couple of different sources, I thought I’d give you the step-by-step instructions on how to tie dye playsilks.

We’ve dyed playsilks with Kool-Aid in the past (and still use and love them!), but were ready for a fresh influx of playsilks. As far as pretend play and dress up accessories go, playsilks are the best. Really.

Our playsilks are used all the time for just about everything.

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They are used for capes, hats, dancing scarves, belts, casts for broken arms, skirts, dresses, forts, baby blankets, baby carriers, roofs for dollhouses and horse stables, floors for the same, and more.

We really love playsilks. You can buy playsilks that are already colorfully dyed. Or you can buy plain white playsilks and dye them yourself —either with Kool-Aid or, as we did this time, with a tie dye kit. This is a good project to do with friends —you can go in on the materials together and have fun dyeing them together. Kids can even help with the fun parts, as ours did.

How to Tie Dye Playsilks

This post contains affiliate links. MATERIALS if you want to use a KIT

MATERIALS if you want to buy the dyes separately

  • White playsilks (I ordered 12 undyed Habotoi 30″ silk scarves from Dharma Trading Co.)
  • Distilled White Vinegar (buy the gallon bottle)
  • Large pot
  • Fiber reactive procion dyes in the colors of your choice
  • Urea to mix with the dye
  • Squeeze bottles (we used cheap ketchup and mustard bottles that had previously been used for another art project)
  • Rubber bands
  • Cheap plastic tablecloth (I bought one for $1 at the dollar store)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic Storage Bags, Gallon Size
  • Microwave
  • Synthrapol detergent (buy the smallest container; you don’t need much)

Tie Dye Playsilks


Note: If using a tie dye kit, follow the instructions on the kit for dying silk.

1. Submerge your playsilks in warm distilled white vinegar for 30 minutes. We had twelve playsilks in a stock pot over a low burner. Since we didn’t have quite enough vinegar to submerge them completely, we set a heavy glass bowl over them which did the trick.

2. Mix up your tie dye colors with the urea following the product instructions.

3. Pour your tie dye colors into squeezable containers and assemble your materials :: dye, rubber bands, playsilks, plastic tablecloth, rubber gloves, and plastic bags.

Tie Dye Playsilks 2

Steps 4-6 show how to create a spiral tie dyed playsilk

4. Twirl the fabric around a chopstick by holding a chopstick or pencil in the center and twirling it slowly so that the fabric begins to twirl around the chopstick. Continue until the fabric has spiraled into a circle.

5. Place a rubberband around the spiraled fabric circle to hold it in place.

6. Place a second rubberband around it at 90 degrees to the first.

Tie Dye Playsilks 3

Steps 7-8 show how to create a heart tie dyed playsilk

7. Fold the playsilk in half and draw a half heart with a washable marker.  As you can see in the photo, Daphne is drawing more, but since it was a washable marker, I didn’t worry about it.

8. Starting from one end, fold the fabric into an accordion fold, lining up the marker line as much as possible. This really works! I was skeptical about getting the curve of the heart and everything into one straight accordion fold but was able to do it without problem. Holding the folded fabric together in one hand, pull a rubber band around the marker line.

For other tie dye techniques to try with your playsilks, search YouTube. There are lots of tutorials!

Tie Dye Playsilks 4

Steps 9-12 show how we applied the dye to the playsilks

Note: Cover your table with the cheap plastic tablecloth before starting this step and put your rubber gloves on.

9. Apply the dye to the sections of the playsilk as desired, keeping the dye colors separated by section as much as possible.  As you can see in the photo, Sarah used the spiral tie dye technique from above, but added extra rubber bands to create extra sections.

10. Continue until all the sections are “painted” with the dye colors.

11. Kids can do this too! All three girls had fun choosing and applying dye colors to their playsilks. (The gloves were way too big on Daphne and she just took them off.)

12. Place each dye-covered playsilk into a gallon-sized plastic ziplock bag. Close it most of the way, leaving an inch or so open for ventilation. Microwave each on high for two minutes. The bag will puff up, but if you left the ventilation hole, you won’t have any exploding messes in your microwave. (We did twelve playsilks without any problem.)

How to Tie Dye Playsilks Jeans

Steps 13-14 tells how to wash the playsilks

(You can just admire the tie dye loveliness above since I didn’t take any photos of the washing steps.)

13. Once the bag with the playsilk has cooled down, take out the playsilk, remove the rubber bands, and rinse it out under cold water. There might be a small amount of dye that comes off under the water, but the silk really soaks it up. I think I only had one that had any extra dye at this point.

14. Wash the playsilks in the washing machine with a teaspoon or two of Synthrapol which helps to set the dye. Hang to dry.

Step by step instructions on how to tie dye scarves and playsilks, including how to make tie dye hearts, sunbursts, and other fun designs.

Aren’t they beautiful?! We were amazed at how well they worked and kept exclaiming over each new one as we took off the rubber bands and had a chance to see them. I know it sounds like a lot of steps to make them, but it was all really easy.

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Our new tie-dyed playsilks are already in heavy rotation with our dress-up and pretend play things. (I also dyed two really large silks that I plan to turn into butterfly wings for the girls—maybe as a birthday gift, so sshh….)

What do you think? Would you tie dye playsilks? If so, I recommend going in on the project with a friend or two and make an afternoon of it. It makes it more fun, of course, but also helps cut costs if you can share the dyes and materials.

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Step by step instructions on how to tie dye scarves and playsilks, including how to make tie dye hearts, sunbursts, and other fun designs.

How to Tie Dye Scarves and Playsilks


  • Reply
    August 1, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I’ve been wanting to do this for such a long time. I really need to try to find these supplies and just do it! Thank you for the inspiration and the tutorial!!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I loved doing tie dye at camp every summer. We always dipped the shirts in the dye; I like the idea of using the squirt bottles better. I’m definitely going to do this with the kids. We may also be making shirts!

  • Reply
    Simply Montessori
    August 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    We’ve been planning on doing this for a while now! We tie dyed shirts last summer and it was so much fun! Thanks for your photos!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Love these. I’ve been thinking we need some new ones around here too. And, maybe some to give as gifts. :)

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Go for it, Elizabeth! You can get all the supplies through Dharma Trading Co which makes it extra easy. I’ve been ordering stuff from them for years and they are a good company.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    August 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Shirts would be fun! If you do shirts, though (or anything besides silk) the method is a little different. You use a soda ash soak instead of the vinegar and microwave combo.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    August 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Let me know if you try it!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Thanks so much for bring together all this information & resources in such a colorful & delightful post. It has be a few years since I’ve dyed silk, so it is great to have updated resources.
    The last time I played with dying silk, I painted a three yard long length of silk in rainbow stripes to make a rainbow for a Waldorf play. We painted the silk outside on the grass on a lovely sunny day. Just as we finished the last stripe of color, a huge grey storm cloud came over us & it began to rain. We grabbed the corners of our long rainbow and ran with it into the house, bringing a rainbow on a rainy day! You never know what adventures these lovely dyed silks will bring.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I am wondering where else I can get play silks??? Let alone what they are!??? Can other material be used.?? Also on coffee filter painting could one also use fabric softener sheets??? Perhaps sharpies with a little rubbing alcohol??? Just a thought. Happy in darboy WI.i have done so many fun things with my grandchildren because of pintrust.we have nicknamed it clemtrist.happy day.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Is there a work-around for no microwave? We don’t own one, and I’m not sure I can convince a friend to use theirs.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    November 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I’m not sure. We don’t have a microwave either, but did that part at a friends house. The heat setting is the important part, but if you used an oven, for example, I don’t know what the temperature or duration would be. And what you would use to hold it instead of a plastic bag. Sorry I can’t help! Maybe google the question?

  • Reply
    March 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! We are so excited to get started on this project.
    One question though, is there a particular amount of urea to add? I see on the Dharma site it is a powder & I’m just not sure if I would ruin the silks by adding too much or not enough urea.
    Thanks so much!!

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