How to Make a Spiral Tie-Dye T-Shirt

Finished shirt

Caylin Harris

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 9 hrs
  • Yield: 1 shirt
  • Skill Level: Beginner

tie-dye project is a great summertime art activity for kids and adults. While it can get a little messy, it’s a fun project for a warm day with wearable results.

An easy-to-find dye kit is the simplest way to make a tie-dye project, especially if you are a beginner. It comes with everything you need in one package. A dye kit allows you to just add water to easy-to-use squirt bottles that have been pre-filled with dye. The cost of the kit will also depend on how many colors you purchase. If you cannot find a kit with bottles, using individually bought powdered dye and materials will also work. Powdered dye needs to be made in larger containers or tubs. Using a big tub of dye heightens the risk for staining and spilling dye, but you can also dye more or larger items.

Don't stop your tie-dying adventures using just shirts. If you enjoyed this project, you can also make a scarf to go with it. You can even learn to make your own organic dyes for future projects.

Tie-dye materials
The Spruce / Caylin Harris

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Apron/old clothes
  • Vinyl or non-latex gloves
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Fork
  • Rubber bands
  • Plastic wrap

Materials

  • A one-step dye kit (or powdered RIT dyes)
  • Plain white T-shirt

Instructions

  1. Do the Prep Work

    1. While tie-dying, wear old clothes that won't matter if they get stained. Even with gloves and an apron, it's likely dye could end up somewhere it's not supposed to. 
    2. Mix your dye bottles according to the package instructions and set aside.
    3. Go outside and cover any surface that you don’t want the dye to get on with plastic sheeting. Any spills outside are less worrisome than spills indoors.
    Mixing dye
    The Spruce / Caylin Harris
  2. Twist the T-Shirt

    1. Lay your T-shirt down completely flat on your work surface.
    2. Find the center of the shirt.
    3. Place the tines of the fork into the center of the shirt, like you’re jabbing the T-shirt with the fork.
    4. Swirl the fork the same way you’d swirl spaghetti.
    5. Keep swirling until the shirt is rolled into a circular shape.
    Fork swirl on t-shirt
    The Spruce / Caylin Harris
  3. Rubber Band the Shirt

    1. Take four rubber bands and wrap them around the T-shirt to secure the swirled circle.
    2. Wrap one around the top, so it’s running down the center of the roll.
    3. Then do a few diagonal wraps.
    4. All of the rubber bands should meet in the middle, forming an asterisk-shape.

    Add More Rubber Bands If Necessary

    If you feel like the wrapping needs to be more secure, add a few more rubber bands to ensure that the shirt will keep its shape during the dyeing process.

    Rubberband shirt
    The Spruce / Caylin Harris
  4. Apply the Dye

    1. Apply the dye to the shirt with the plastic squeeze bottles.
    2. Try to fully cover the shirt with dye and use multiple colors and patterns.
    3. Once the shirt is fully covered in dye, wrap it in plastic and let it sit for six to eight hours. The dye setting time and specific directions will vary based on the dye. 

    If You Are Using Tubs Instead

    If you are using bigger tubs of powdered dye (instead of bottles), you'll have to dip parts of the shirt in the tub. It can get tricky dipping the shirt in a tub without having the color spread too much.

    Applying the dye
    The Spruce / Caylin Harris
  5. Rinse the T-Shirt

    1. Wearing gloves, unwrap the shirt from the plastic wrap.
    2. Remove the rubber bands.
    3. Rinse the unwrapped T-shirt in warm water.
    4. Gradually adjust the water temperature to cool while rinsing.
    5. When the water runs clear, you are done rinsing.
    6. Hang the shirt outdoors to dry so that the excess dye does not drip indoors onto your floor.

    Washing Your Shirt the First Time

    The first time you wash the shirt, wash it alone (or with items that you don’t care too much about) as a precaution to prevent the dye from bleeding on other fabrics.

    Rinse out the dye
    The Spruce / Caylin Harris