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What is the history of tie-dying?

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Quick Answer

Tie-dying developed in Japan and China during the Nara Period and T'ang Dynasty respectively. In the 1960s, tie-dying became a part of youth culture and has been popular ever since.

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Full Answer

Tie-dying requires gathering and twisting fabric before applying different color dyes. When the fabric is dried and opened up, the dyes form colorful patterns. In the United States, tie-dying has a strong association with the counter-culture movement. However, its history extends thousands of years back.

The earliest examples of tie-dying have been found in Peruvian artifacts from between 500 and 800 A.D., but this technique did not spread beyond the South American continent. Forms of tie-dying also originated in Asia and Africa. In fact, Shibori dying, which was developed in Japan, has been in use since the 8th century. With this technique, elaborate patterns are stitched into the fabric, or it is tightly wound around a length of wood or rope. This technique is much more involved than the type of tie-dying that developed in North America.

There are examples of this method in Western culture and art from the 1900s forwards. However, the practice did not really take off until the 1960s. During this time, a Best Foods executive named Don Price used tie-dye fabrics crafted by artists Will and Eileen Richardson to popularize Rit Dyes. His efforts worked, and modern tie-dying took off.

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