Tic Tac Toe


  • 9 contrasting napkins, each 40 x 40cm
  • 1.3m of fleece (usually 150cm wide)
  • Co-ordinating threads for each napkin colour
  • White sashiko thread or top stitching thread for quilting

Finished Size

125 x 125cm

You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Tic Tac Toe

Marion Haslam made this oversized nine patch in an evening using bought, hand dyed napkins. The sewing method makes use of the fringed edges and simple quilting accentuates the tie dye resist patterns. Sam and Rosie Hodgson, our junior design team, give instructions for tie dyeing your own fabric in the garden - an ideal holiday activity.


  1. Sort out the arrangement of the napkin designs and press. To make a rectangular cloth, use a 3 x 4 format and increase the amount of fleece. Note: If you choose napkins that need fringing, select a larger size of 45/50cm, so that you can trim off the hems. Sew a line of zigzag stitching on all sides 1⁄2in from the edge. Fringe evenly up to the line of stitching. Press.
  2. Pin each row in turn. The napkins shown here were reversible, however, if they are one sided, pin with the WS together. Make sure they are pinned evenly along the stitched line. With a straight stitch, stitch along the inner side of the zigzag stitching. Do not extend the stitching beyond the zigzag.
  3. Pin the rows together, one at a time, with WS facing. Ensure that the corners match. Sew the seam in thirds, so that the correct top thread and bobbin colours match the fabric as before. Only sew up to the zigzag stitches so that you do not flatten the fringes. Repeat for joining the third row of patches.
  4. Press and pin to the centre of the fleece. Trim off any excess fleece. Pin and stitch around each square about 3⁄8in (1cm) from the first line of stitching. This secures the napkins to the fleece. Swap thread colours to match when necessary.
  5. Using thick thread, hand stitch through the two layers to accentuate the tie dye patterns. Stitch as much or as little as you wish

TIP! As the stitching will show, match the top thread to one napkin colour and the bobbin to the other. Make sure you sew each seam with the fabric the correct way up in the sewing machine.

Tie Dye Techniques

If you liked the effect of this simple tie dye picnic throw, why not have a go yourself at this dyeing method? This is an ideal project for all the family to try in the garden during the summer. The basis of tie dye is that string, thread or some other method is used to make a resist on fabric. This prevents the dye colour from penetrating the fabric. The resist creates the patterns in the undyed cloth.


Do you want all the squares the same colour? If so, then dye them all the same time in the same dye pot using the same fabric. If you want some variation, then add some fabrics to the dye pot at a later stage in the process to get paler fabrics. Even more variation can be achieved by using different coloured base squares and over dyeing with the same colour (or dipping in one colour then another or mixing the dyes at the end).

Health and Safety

Whether you are working with children or not, the following should be remembered. Dyes and the fixatives are chemicals, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and avoid inhaling dye powder or drinking dye liquid. Always wear plastic gloves and old clothes in case of splashes


  • 100% cotton fabric squares at least 45cm (18in) square
  • Quilting thread or fine string
  • Dylon cold water dyes (for all the family) or Procion dyes (for adults) and fixatives
  • Plastic gloves or rubber gloves
  • Dye bath (not used for food preparation)
  • Tongs or long wooden spoon for lifting out dyed fabrics

Preparing the fabric squares

  1. Weigh the fabric dry and write it down. It is easiest to weigh all the squares together. The Dylon dyes will dye up to 250g (8oz) of fabric to the colour shown on the tin. If you have more fabric, it will be uneven and a paler colour. If you have less fabric it should not be any darker.
  2. Cut your fabric into squares. We used 45cm (18in) squares to allow us to choose the best ones later from the wide selection of dyed fabric.
  3. Choose one of the design options described or make a sampler quilt with every square a different pattern
    • Small circles Find five buttons about the size of a 10p piece (or marbles). Tie tightly in place as close as you can to the button. Tie again about an inch away. You need to tie very tightly to get distinct rings. Looser ties will give a fuzzier effect.
    • Radiating circles Pick the fabric up in the middle of the square and shake to make even folds. Tie the centre and then working outwards make another tie about every 6cm (21⁄2in).
    • Straight lines These are done by gathering from one edge and then tying every 7-10cm (3-4in). Or you can sew rows of running stitch by hand, or machine stitch on the longest setting or tacking stitch setting if you have one. Gather and tie tightly.
    For children the following make good resists without the need to tie knots - rubber bands; clothes pegs or Bulldog clips - pegged onto pleated fabric; Klippits (from Lakeland, used for closing freezer bags). Use the largest size and clip over pleated fabric.

Dyeing the fabric

  1. Wet all the fabric in clean water. Dissolve the dye powder following the instructions and drop all the fabric into the bucket. Make sure you have added the fixative! Carefully push down to make sure the fabric is all below the surface.
  2. Keep stirring carefully for the first ten minutes and then stir occasionally for the next hour. If you don’t stir, the dye gradually settles out of the liquid and lands in the folds of your fabric and produces a more uneven result. Leave for enough time!
  3. When the fabric has dyed for enough time remove from the dye bath and wash in cold water until it runs clear. Then wash in hot water as well. Make sure all the loose dye has been removed before undoing the ties.
  4. Undo the string or thread, give the fabric one last rinse and hang to dry. Iron whilst still slightly damp

TIP! Remember that wet fabric is always darker in colour, so don’t be impatient and remove too soon from the dye bucket.

First published in Popular Patchwork August 2002