Tops are such a common item to tie dye these days that it’s time to take on a different challenge: tie dye sweatpants! They are still very easy to make, even for a beginner, with a bit more dye and a few tips for working with this different shape. Any knit fabric pants, such as sweatpants, joggers, or leggings, can be used. For this step-by-step, I used a pair of sweatpant joggers, but you will also hear me refer to them as sweatpants, joggers and pants.
What type of tie dye pattern to use on sweatpants? While you can use several different patterns like spiral or bullseye, I prefer to use the crumple technique (which I will show you below). Patterns that have a focal point like a spiral tend to have that point start at the crotch of the pants. Personally, I think an allover pattern like crumple, or some shibori techniques, are more flattering on the body.
Ready to make some colorful comfy pants? Let’s go!
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Tie Dye Sweatpants
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- White Sweatpants OR Joggers (In this case I chose these joggers)
- Rubber Bands
- Dye Kit (Which Includes Rubber Bands, Gloves, And A Plastic Sheet)
- Plastic/Rubber Gloves
- Plastic Covering For Work Surface
- Painter’s Tape (optional)
- Baking Tray With Rack (optional)
- Paper Towels/Rags
- Plastic Garbage Bag or Plastic Wrap
SWEATPANTS BUYING NOTE: When you are looking for sweatpants to tie dye, you will need a pair that are a high cotton blend. I try to only use 75% cotton or more because the color will hold much better and be more vibrant. Here are my picks for sweatpants/joggers/leggings by size (Womens Sweatpants) (Womens Joggers) (Girls Leggings). As for men’s sweatpants options, it is challenging to find a blend with a high amount of cotton. These 2 however, from Fruit of the Loom and Progo USA, have 60% and 65% respectively and will still tie dye well (though your brightest colors may be slightly softer).
CREATING THE PATTERN
Start with damp, but not wet, sweatpants for this design. They could be fresh out of the washing machine. If you washed them on a different day, like I usually do, then just dunk the sweatpants in a bucket of water or sink and wring them out before starting.
1. Lay the sweatpants flat on the work surface.
2. Using your fingers, scrunch the legs of the sweatpants up towards the top. Once the legs are gathered up, scrunch everything towards the center. Add 3 rubber bands, one around each leg and another across the sweatpants, so it creates an H.
3. Typically this is when I would advise adding more rubber bands in a particular pattern, however, not in this case! Pants, in general, are a bit odd shaped and don’t always like to be tied up in rubber bands, so add as many as you need in any direction to get a tight shape.
DYEING THE SWEATPANTS
Baking sheet/rack versus just a workspace covered in plastic: I have dyed MANY items on just a covered workspace. As long as you have a ton of paper towels and are careful, you will be fine. It is, however, MUCH easier and more environmentally friendly (i.e. paper towel usage) if you use a baking sheet and rack because any excess dye goes directly onto the pan, away from your item, and you barely need to use any paper towels. If you plan on tie dyeing a number of items now or in the future I strongly suggest the investment (and the ones I purchased are not expensive).
How much dye is needed?
For this project, I used Fuchsia, Violet, Green, Turquoise, and Blue from Tulip’s One Step Dyes. As a guide for figuring out how much dye you’ll need, for my adult jogger sweatpants I used about 4 oz Fuchsia, 2.5 oz Violet, 4 oz Green, 4 oz Turquoise, and 2.5 oz Blue (17 oz of dye). If you are looking to keep some of the white, which I didn’t do, then plan for a bit less.
4. Set your sweatpants on the baking sheet/cooling rack or covered workspace and put on your gloves. Start with your lightest or weakest color which is yellow or light pink and create spots all over the sweatpants. In this case, it was the fuchsia, but I started with the turquoise because I wanted a more blue-ish pant. Make sure to add extra dye and let it soak in, so it can get to the center of the sweatpants.
5. Continue to add the rest of the colors, working your way around the sweatpants. I chose to add 5 colors total, but you can use more or less. TIP: If you are using the baking sheet, you can turn the sheet as you work, so you do not have to touch the pants while dyeing.
6. When you have finished dyeing the first side of the sweatpants, carefully turn them over. You will want to wipe up any access dye on the rack or workspace before laying the sweatpants down. Repeat the dyeing process starting with the lightest color again.
7. Once both sides of the sweatpants have been dyed, carefully place them in the plastic garbage bag or wrap them in plastic wrap. Personally I prefer the plastic bag as you can easily seal it, label it (if you are dyeing more than one item) and move it if needed without worrying about dye leaking out.
8. Let the pants sit for minimally 6-8 hours and up to 24 hours max, so the dye can cure. This will help produce the brightest colors.
RINSING AND WASHING
Once the dye has cured, it’s time to rinse and wash the sweatpants. This is an important step as, if done in the wrong order or rushed, it can muddy up the nice colors and pattern you created.
9. Take the pants out of the plastic bag and put them in a sink or bucket (something that can get dirty and won’t stain). We have a stainless steel kitchen sink, so I use that. You can cut/take off the rubber bands and then rinse the sweatpants in COLD water. The cold part is critical because it allows excess dye to wash out slowly while not dyeing the remaining white parts of the pants.
10. Repeat this rinse process several times until the water is fairly clear.
11. Once the water is fairly clear, repeat the rinse process once more, but with luke warm water (not HOT). This should get the last bit of excess dye out before putting it in a washing machine.
12. Once the sweatpants are thoroughly rinsed, you can wash them in the washing machine either by themselves or with several other rinsed tie dye items. If I’m tie dyeing a bunch of items, I will put up to 6 in one load. Wash on warm or cold with a bit of detergent.
13. Dry the item(s) in the dryer or let air dry. Personally I prefer air drying as it extends the life of the dye color (as they will eventually fade a bit with washing and wear).
NOTE: Wash the sweatpants by themselves or with other tie dye items for the next few washings before adding them in with your other clothes.
THE FINISHED TIE DYE SWEATPANTS
And here we are. Colorful, comfy sweatpants (joggers in this case) that are one of a kind! And in the case of these joggers….super comfy! It’s hard to take them off.