How To Spider Tie Dye

Spider tie dye technique

If you’re looking for a tie dye design that is both bold and not one of the most common (spiral, crumple, etc), then this one is for you. The spider tie dye uses a bit of the spiral technique along with black dye to create a pattern that looks a bit like a spider, hence the name. It looks complex, but is really quite easy for beginners!

For those of you interested in a bit of science, or the why this works, here it is. Tie dye uses both resistance dyeing and over-dyeing. The resistance dyeing is when parts of the fabric are restricted when tied up with rubber bands (so they stay white). Over dyeing is when fabric can only take so much dye and it’s like first come, first serve. This is why we always dye the weakest color (yellow) first.

In the case of spider tie dye, the colors are applied first and then the black dye is applied last, so it cannot take over the shirt. It only appears where the other colors don’t saturate the fabric completely or where there’s white fabric.

I will show you how to create a 4 color crumple design. For this design, I am using an Adult Medium 100% cotton t-shirt, but any size shirt will work. I am also using Tulip’s one step dye which I love for its ease of use and bold colors.

Ready to create a beautiful crumple design? Let’s go.




What you’ll need:

Creating The Pattern

1. Start with a damp, but not wet, shirt for this design. The shirt could be fresh out of the washing machine. If you washed it a different day, like I usually do, then just dunk the shirt in a bucket of water or sink and wring it out before starting.

2. Fold the shirt in half length-wise and lay it down on the work surface.

Shirt folded in half lengthwise
Shirt Is Folded In Half Lengthwise

3. Using your fingers, pinch where the center of the spiral should be and start twisting. Keep twisting while the shirt winds up around the center.

Twisting shirt into spiral for spider tie dye pattern
Twisting The Shirt Into A Spiral For The Spider Tie Dye Pattern

4. Once the shirt is completely twisted up, you’re ready to secure the shirt with rubber bands. Place the first rubber band around the spiral by carefully sliding it under/over the shirt and across the center of the spiral. Add the second and third rubber bands as shown below, so it resembles a 6 slice pizza. Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy. We’ll fix that in the next step.

Securing shirt with rubber bands
Securing The Shirt With Rubber Bands

5. Once you have the 3 rubber bands on, now is the time to adjust them, so that they are evenly spaced around the shirt. You can also tuck any loose ends into the rubber bands, so the circle shape is nice and tight.

Dyeing The Shirt

Baking sheet/rack versus just a workspace covered in plastic: I have dyed MANY shirts on just a covered workspace. As long as you have a ton of paper towels and are careful, you will be fine. It is, however, MUCH easier and more environmentally friendly (i.e. paper towel usage) if you use a baking sheet and rack because any excess dye goes directly onto the pan, away from your shirt, and you barely need to use any paper towels. If you plan on tie dyeing a number of items now or in the future I strongly suggest the investment.

6. Set your shirt on the baking sheet/cooling rack or covered workspace and put on your gloves. Start with your lightest or weakest color which is yellow or light pink and fill in a wedge of the shirt. Make sure to add extra dye and let it soak in, so it can get to the center of the shirt. Continue to add the rest of the colors, working your way around the shirt. TIP: If you are using the baking sheet, you can turn the sheet and not have to touch the shirt while dyeing.

Adding dye to first side of shirt
Adding The Dye To The First Side Of The Shirt

7. When you have finished dyeing the first side of the shirt, carefully turn it over. You will want to wipe up any access dye on the rack or workspace before laying the shirt down. Repeat the dyeing process.

Adding dye to second side of shirt
Adding The Dye To The Second Side Of The Shirt

8. Once both sides of the shirt have been dyed in your design colors, add black dye to the second side of the shirt (no need to flip over again). Be sure to cover the entire side in black.

Adding black dye to second side of shirt
Adding The Black Dye To The Second Side Of The Shirt

9. Once both sides of the shirt have been dyed, carefully place it in the gallon plastic bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Personally I prefer the plastic bag as you can easily seal it, label it (if you are dyeing more than one item) and move it if needed without worrying about dye leaking out.

10. Let the shirt sit for minimally 6-8 hours and up to 24 hours max, so the dye can cure. This will help produce the brightest colors.

Rinsing And Washing

Once the dye has cured, it’s time to rinse and wash the shirt. This is an important step as, if done in the wrong order or rushed, it can muddy up the nice colors and pattern you created.

11. Take the shirt out of the plastic bag and put it in a sink or bucket (something that can get dirty and won’t stain). We have a stainless steel kitchen sink, so I use that. You can cut/take off the rubber bands and then rinse the shirt in COLD water. The cold part is critical because it allows excess dye to wash out slowly while not dyeing the remaining white parts of the shirt.

12. Repeat this rinse process several times until the water is fairly clear.

13. Once the water is fairly clear, repeat the rinse process once more, but with luke warm water (not HOT). This should get the last bit of excess dye out before putting it in a washing machine.

14. Once the shirt is thoroughly rinsed, you can wash it in the washing machine either by itself or with several other rinsed tie dye items. If I’m tie dyeing a bunch of shirts, I will put up to 6 in one load. Wash on warm or cold with a bit of detergent.

15. Dry the shirt(s) in dryer or let air dry. Personally I prefer air drying as it extends the life of the dye color (as they will eventually fade a bit with washing and wear).

NOTE: Wash the shirt by itself or with other tie dye items for the next few washings before adding it in with your other clothes.

And tada!! A really fun, colorful spider tie dye shirt that is truly one of a kind!

Side note, this shirt turned out very different than I thought it would because the pink and green didn’t pop as much as I thought they would. I still love it, but it just shows how unique and surprising each tie dye project is (which is why I love it so much).

Finished spider tie dye shirt
Finished Spider Tie Dye Shirt

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