Different Ways to Tie-Dye Shirts

    by Amma Marfo

    About the Author

    Amma Marfo is a higher education professional and writer. Presently, she shares her writing expertise in the Office of Student Activities and Multicultural Programs at Emmanuel College in Boston.


    As with any dye project, you'll need gloves, and a clear surface prepared with trash bags or plastic to protect it. To tie-dye shirts you also need some strong, thin rubber bands. While you can purchase white shirts at any craft store, old shirts that have become yellowed around the neck and armpits, but are otherwise intact, can be revitalized with tie-dyeing. As you work, just be sure to follow your dye manufacturer's instructions for how long the dye needs to sit on the fabric before rinsing.


    A spiral is both easy and instantly recognizable. Spray down your shirt with water to make it damp, then spread it out on a flat surface. Starting in the center, slightly pinch the shirt and twist it into a spiral pattern. Continue to twist until the entire shirt is part of the spiral. Place three rubber bands around the shirt, running over and under the shirt, spread out to create what looks like pie pieces. Set your shirt in a tray to dye it. Using a long-nose squeeze bottle, fill in each "piece" of the pie with a different color dye. Flip the pie over and saturate the underside following the same pattern of colors.
    Another dye technique on the shirt creates a two-colored spiral when you to cover the left side of the spiral with one color, leave a white strip down the center of the spiral, and cover the right half with a second color. To make multiple spirals on one shirt, start your first spiral and twist only about half of the shirt. Move to another point and start a second spiral twisting in the same direction. The spirals will twist toward one another until you have a round bundle around which to set the rubber bands. Fill in your dyes as desired.


    To make a spider pattern, begin by dampening the shirt. Fold the shirt in half lengthwise, matching up the sleeves and sides together. Starting in the center of the shirt, along the fold, twist the shirt into a spiral. Secure the shirt with rubber bands around the outside of the bundle to hold the shirt together, but don't cross over the front the way you would with the spiral pattern. Using a dark color, such as black or blue, squeeze your dye in a spiral that follows the coils of the shirt, working from the inside out. Run a second and third coordinating color around the first spiral, as desired. Flip the shirt bundle over and draw the same spirals on the other side to saturate it with color. Create a reverse spider by starting your spiral from the armpit area of the shirt instead of the center of the shirt.


    To make circles, or rosettes, dampen the shirt and spread it out flat. Choose a point on the shirt and pull it up, letting the shirt drape down. Twist a rubber band onto the shirt about an inch down from the pulled up tip. Make sure the rubber band is tight or the circle will not show up. Add a second rubber band an inch down from the first, wrapping it tight. Repeat with a third rubber band, if desired for a larger circle. Lay the shirt down as flat as possible once the first circle is banded. Choose a new point and repeat to create a second circle. Repeat as many times as you'd like. Squirt dye onto the shirt areas between the bands, trying to avoid the rubber band areas. Use multiple colors or create the circles with just one color.