How to Tie Dye

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A few weeks ago, my kids and I were in a tie-dye phase.  They wanted to tie-dye and it was a fun summer project!  Me being artistic, I went online and watched an hour long video on how to tie-dye shirts… it was a great video, very helpful but really long!  There were a few key things and I’ll share them with you here.  I dyed a handful of shirts, some for my kids, some for gifts and some to sell at local shows.   I have a few listed on my etsy shop,, check them out!  I only use 100% cotton shirts that are prewashed!

Hand-dyed shirts
by Betsy Murray

First thing, buy a white shirt that you like the look & feel of… there’s no sense going through the work if you don’t like the style or fit of the shirt!  I suggest something that is 100% cotton since the dye will not adhere well if there are other fibers in the material (such as rayon, etc.).   Set all your supplies out on an easily washable table (we used our plastic picnic table).  You need: a spray water bottle full of warm water, newspaper, plastic gloves, rubber bands and of course your dye.  I recommend a good quality dye, it will retain the color better and you have more color options with a dye such as Dylon.

  • Put the plastic gloves on and mix your dye with warm water in a plastic bottle provided with the dye or in the aisle you purchased your dye from.  Read the dye instructions for the dye to water ratio!
  • Spray your white shirt with warm water from your water bottle.  Be sure all of the shirt is covered with a mist of water.
Spray with water

Next, using a dowel, place the it down on one spot of the shirt and twist tightly(this will form your spiral so pick a location you want the spiral to be at now!)

This is a child’s shirt. Twist to form the spiral.
Twist tightly

Now that your shirt is twisted, it should look like the photo below… Remove the dowel carefully (HOLD onto the shirt so it doesn’t come undone)!!  Then place rubber bands around the side of the shirt and across the top.  It will look like you’re making a pie with slices.  Each slice will form a spiral.

Twisted, now add the rubber bands.

Then squirt the dye color of your choice on a “piece of the pie” so as to stay inside each piece of pie.  Use the rubber bands as your guide.  You can do the same color on 2 pieces of pie next to each other if you want a bigger spiral. Or you can do only one color in each piece of pie.  If you have 3 colors of dye, you can use all 3 as we did on the shirt below.

Three colors of dye were used on this shirt
This one has 2 colors of dye on it.

Keep your shirts wrapped in the rubber bands and place in a plastic bag for about 4-8 hours.

Finally, remove the rubber bands in the sink, unwrap the shirt carefully (so the dye doesn’t drip on the floor), rinse in cold water and wring out.  Then put it in the washing machine and wash in cold water.  Be sure you DO not wash your dyed shirts with other clothes!!!  Then dry in the dryer.  Voila…. now you have a beautiful shirt!

Beautiful 2 spiral kids shirt!

There was one secret trick to tie-dying that I left out of this blog, I wonder if anyone knows what it is??  To find out take a look at my etsy profile,!

Have fun making your own tie-dye shirt!

Betsy~ Sunshine On Water


5 thoughts on “How to Tie Dye

    underatopazsky said:
    August 9, 2013 at 6:35 am

    That spiral method is amazing! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    petunia106 responded:
    August 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    You’re welcome, it can be difficult to get a nice spiral so the best thing to do is make sure your shirt is misted well with water and twisted tightly before you apply dye!

    Rochester Artisans said:
    August 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Great tease to get people to your Etsy shop! Salt is the answer!

    I never would have guessed how that spiral is done. Any shirts I’ve seen like that, I assumed the dye was actually printed on the shirt.

    Great tutorial, Betsy!

      petunia106 responded:
      August 26, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Thanks Stefani!!! It’s all about social media 😉
      Spirals are surprisingly really hard to make. Anyone can make a tie dye shirt but it’s all about the amount of prep work you put in to get a good looking shirt. They sell the Dylon dye at JoAnn’s and it is my favorite dye, they have beautiful color choices!
      Thanks again!

    47 Cool Tie Dye Shirt Patterns | Guide Patterns said:
    January 14, 2015 at 9:47 am

    […] Spiral Tie Dye Pattern […]

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