The spiral tie dye pattern has been around for what seems like forever. It’s one of the most recognized designs in tie dye because of the bold beautiful swirl as well as how easy the technique is.
I will show you how to create a 6 color spiral, but you can use fewer colors as well and still get great results. 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 spiral of color? Let’s go!
FOR MORE TIE DYE 101 BASICS: HOW TO TIE DYE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
TO SEE MORE THINGS YOU CAN TIE DYE: 30 THINGS TO TIE DYE
Spiral Tie Dye
What you’ll need:
- White Shirt
- Rubber Bands
- Clothespin (optional)
- Dye Kit (Which Includes Rubber Bands, Gloves, And A Plastic Sheet)
- Plastic/Rubber Gloves
- Plastic Covering For Work Surface
- Painter’s Tape (optional)
- Baking Tray With Rack (optional)
- Paper Towels/Rags
- Gallon Plastic Bag or Plastic Wrap
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. Lay the shirt flat on your work surface. Using a clothespin or your fingers, pinch where the center of the spiral should be and start twisting. Keep twisting while the shirt winds up around the center.
TIP: Personally, I like using a clothespin over a fork or your fingers. I like that the clothespin acts as a handle, making it easier to hold the twist (especially for small/kid hands). Items like forks or a dowel can damage the shirt fabric if not used carefully enough.
3. Once the shirt is completely twisted up, remove the clothespin. 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.
4. 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 (and the ones I purchased are not expensive).
5. 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.
6. 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 starting with the lightest color again.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Repeat this rinse process several times until the water is fairly clear.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.