Ancient Tie Dye History

Ancient tie dye history is a collection of oral histories with different answers to questions like

  • When did tie dye start?
  • Where did tie dye come from?

When you start researching the history of tie dye you discover not one definitive history of tie dye, but a collection of histories from around the world.

Tie Dye Art

Art may have started as designs on cave walls, but it eventually expanded to include designs on clothing. Art and clothing advanced at different rates around the world with local materials for clothing and dyes and techniques from previous generations.

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

African Adire or Gara 

Adire and Gara are tie dye traditions from Africa. There are modern examples, but it's uncertain how far back they go. They may have come from India.

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 fourth century Chinese tombs.

Japanese ShiboriWoodstock Tie Dye 1969 John Sebastian

Shibori 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.

Clothing History 

The history of clothing is interlaced with the history of tie dye. A nice overview can be seen at History of Clothing 

Dye History

The history of dyes is interlaced with the history of tie dye. A nice overview can be seen at Evolution of Textile Dyes