Tie Dye History

Tie dye history is the story of Bandhani, Shibori, and Adire These tie dye or tie and dye traditions from India, Japan, and Africa survived and are thriving today.

When was tie dye invented is hard to determine because unlike stone, natural fabrics disintegrate. Tie dye or tie and dye artifacts are rare.

The history of clothing and dyes are part of tie dye history. For more on those topics see History of Clothing and the Evolution of Textile Dyes.

Tie Dye as Art

Art may have started as designs on cave walls, but it eventually included designs on clothing. Art and clothing advanced based on locally available materials and weaving and dyeing traditions of local elders.

When was tie dye invented and who invented tie dye are open questions. India, Japan and Africa are most commonly mentioned in written tie dye histories.

Indian BandhaniTie_Dye History Bandhani Fabrics

Bandhani is the oldest known tie dye tradition. Its designs are dots made by plucking and tying many small points with thread before dyeing. It’s also known as Bandhni, Bandhej, and Plangi.

Bandhani dates to the Indus Valley Civilization in the Bronze age. The earliest illustrations are paintings on Ajanta Cave walls depicting the life of Buddha.

Japanese Shibori

Japanese ShiboriShibori is the second oldest known tie dye tradition still practiced.

There are four Shibori techniques

  1. Arashi is a pole wrap resist technique.
  2. Kumo is a pleated and bound resist technique.
  3. Itajime is a shaped resist technique.
  4. Kanoko is a modern tie dye technique.

African Adire 

African Adire Adire is the third oldest known tie dye tradition still practiced.

Google Arts and Culture has a pictorial Adire: the Art of Tie and Dye that is beautiful.

Other Cultures

Most cultures experimented with art and bindings to create designs with dyes on clothing. Some say the earliest surviving examples of tie dye are pre-Columbian alpaca from Peru and silk from China.