Quadrants Feb. 20, 2010

What child of the ’60s and ’70s doesn’t remember crumpling up white T-shirts, tying off sections with rubber bands and sticking them in a bucket filled with dye? The result: tie-dye, the fashion of a generation.

Tie-dye was a way to express yourself and set yourself apart from your parents, said Ingrid Johnson, assistant chair for textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Each shirt was an original. “It was so anti-culture,” she said.

Today, tie-dye abounds, but much of it is mass-produced. “It just litters the Earth in comparison to a real piece of artwork,” said Tom Rolofson, who has produced a series of instructional videos on tie-dye.

For those who still do it by hand, it can be an art form. You have to decide whether you’re a folder (more exact patterns) or a crumpler (more abstract). Either way, here are a few tips:

WHAT YOU’LL NEED: White cotton fabric, fabric-reactive dye, a squirt bottle or brush or something to apply the dye with (you also can soak it in a bucket if you’re doing a single color), rubber bands and rubber gloves.

DYEING THE FABRIC: The fabric should be damp enough to fold easily. Apply the dye to the folded and tied fabric using a squirt bottle or other means. You can use multiple colors or different concentrations of the same color to get varying effects. The dyed fabric should be allowed to cure for a minimum of four hours. To do this, you can put it in a plastic bag so it will stay damp.

RINSING: Use cold water to rinse off the excess dye from the folded fabric. Run it under warm water as you untie it. Wash in hot water once the fabric is thoroughly rinsed.

— The Associated Press