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How to Tie Dye a Spiral Pattern: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you want to learn how to tie-dye a spiral pattern? It’s easier than you think! In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show you how to create a beautiful spiral or swirl design with just a few basic tie-dye supplies.

So get ready to have some fun, learn how to tie-dye, and create some amazing spiral tie-dye patterns!

Tie-dye is a fun and easy way to create beautiful patterns on fabric. And the spiral design is one of the most iconic tie-dye patterns that has been popular since the 1960s.

To learn more about the basics of tie-dye, including how to prep, tie, dye, and wash tie-dyed garments, read this comprehensive How to Tie Dye guide.

How to Tie Dye a Spiral or Swirl Pattern

Spiral tie-dye is a classic design that looks complicated – but it’s actually quite easy to make. In this step-by-step guide, we will show you how to create a beautiful spiral or swirl design with just a few basic tie-dye supplies.

For more step-by-step folding instructions, check out this article: 17+ Tie Dye Patterns and Folding Techniques.

photo collage showing the steps to fold a white tshirt into a spiral and apply tie dye

Basic Tie Dye Supplies

To do the tie-dye spiral technique, you’ll need some basic tie-dye materials and supplies. Then, grab some household tools and some safety gear.

Here are the supplies you’ll need for this project.

  • fiber-reactive dye in assorted colors
  • fabric items, like shirts or sweatshirts
  • soda ash (you may or may not need this, depending on the type of dye you purchase)
  • Synthrapol, or another laundry detergent
  • rubber bands or strong string
  • squeeze bottles, to apply dye
  • plastic tablecloths or large trash bags to protect your work surface 
  • wire rack to elevate the garment off the work surface, optional
  • gloves and a dust mask
  • zip-top bags or plastic wrap

Which type of tie-dye should you get?

The best type of dye to use on cotton fabrics for tie-dye projects is fiber reactive dye. This type of dye is much brighter, longer-lasting, and easier to use than other all-purpose dyes.

I recommend two types of fiber reactive dye: Procion MX dyes and the Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye kits.

Items to Dye with the Spiral Design

You can dye all sorts of garments with a spiral or swirl design, as long as they’re large enough. Flat items, like cotton shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and even curtains all work great. (Socks can work, but they’re usually too small to get a full spiral pattern.)

When you’re shopping, look for items made with natural fibers – like 100% cotton, rayon, hemp, or linen.

How to Tie Dye a Spiral Pattern

Gather your supplies and safety gear. Protect your work surface, wear old clothes, wear gloves to protect your hands from stains, and wear a dust mask when you’re mixing the dye powder.

Tip: If your hands do accidentally get stained, read this post to learn how to remove tie-dye stains from your skin.

Prepare the fabric and your workspace.

First, prewash your fabric items with Synthrapol or another laundry detergent in the washing machine.

Next, set up your workspace with all your tools and supplies. If you’re working inside, lay down a tablecloth or a trash bag to keep your table from getting stained.

Then, set up a wire rack on top of a baking tray, so your shirt won’t be sitting in a puddle of extra dye.

Mix the dye, and pre-soak the fabric in a soda-ash solution.

Mix the dye powder with water according to the package instructions.

If your tie-dye kit recommends, pre-soak the fabric items in a soda ash solution for 15 minutes. Wring out the fabric so that it’s slightly damp, but not dripping wet.

Fold the Spiral Pattern

  1. Lay damp fabric flat on your work surface.
  2. Pick a spot on the fabric for the center of your spiral. Pinch a small section of fabric. Hold on to that small section while you twist your fingers clockwise.
  3. Keep twisting. As you twist, keep your fingers close to the surface of the table so that the spiral stays flat. The fabric will fold around itself, like a flat cinnamon roll. Keep twisting until the entire item is rolled up.
  4. Secure the fabric bundle with three or more rubber bands, crossing them over the center of the spiral. This will create wedge-shaped areas between the bands. 

Tip: Some people recommend using a fork to pinch the center of your spiral, and twisting the fabric up on the fork like you’d twist a big plate of pasta. Honestly, this could work – but be careful not to poke holes in your shirt with the sharp tines of the fork!

white tshit folded into a spiral design with yellow blue and red rubber bands

Apply Dye to the Spiral Design

There are many ways to apply tie-dye to the fabric. You can dip the item into buckets of dye, or apply the dye with plastic squeeze bottles. I recommend applying the tie-dye with squeeze bottles for the most control over your spiral design.

tshirt with rainbow spiral tie-dye applied in sections

To create a rainbow spiral: Apply a different color of dye in each wedge, in “rainbow order” (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)

To create a two-color spiral: Apply two colors of dye in alternating sections.

To create a one-color spiral: Apply one color of dye in every other section.

To get more white stripes in your design: Make sure to twist the spiral tightly, and make the rubber bands really tight. You can also try applying a little less dye, and avoiding the areas where you want white to show through.

Let the Dye Set

Once you have finished applying the dye, you need to give it time to set or “process.” For the best results, let the dye sit for a minimum of 8 hours, ideally 24 hours. While the dye sets, keep the fabric damp and relatively warm – at least 70°F (21°C).

I usually place the dyed fabric in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out overnight.

For more information about setting tie-dye, so it doesn’t fade, read this article: How to Set Tie Dye.

Rinse and wash your design.

When time is up, rinse the fabric bundle under cold running water. Then, remove the rubber bands and continue rinsing.

You’ll see some color rinse out. This is normal – it’s just the excess dye leaving the fabric. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear.

Then, wash the fabric items in the washing machine. Set the load size to small, the water temperature to hot, and add a small amount of Synthrapol or another dye-safe laundry detergent.

After washing, you can put your items in the dryer, or air-dry them.

For more information about how to wash tie-dye the first time, read this article: How to Wash Tie Dye.

white t shirt with a rainbow spiral tie dye design

Variations on the Spiral Tie Dye Technique

Here are a few other ways that you can tie-dye with the spiral or swirl pattern.

How to Make a Two-Color Spiral Design

To create a two-color spiral tie-dye pattern, fold and bind the fabric as described in the instructions above. Then, apply the two colors of dye in alternating sections.

If, for example, you’ve used 3 rubber bands to create 6 “wedges” of fabric:

  1. Apply color A in sections 1, 3, and 5.
  2. Apply color B in sections 2, 4, and 6.

How to Make a Three-Color Spiral Design

To create a three-color spiral tie-dye pattern, fold and bind the fabric as described in the instructions above. Then, apply the three colors of dye in sections, as follows.

If, for example, you’ve used 3 rubber bands to create 6 “wedges” of fabric:

  1. Apply color A in sections 1 and 4.
  2. Apply color B in sections 2 and 5.
  3. Apply color C in sections 3 and 6.

How to Make a Rainbow Spiral Design

To create a classic rainbow spiral tie-dye pattern, fold and bind the fabric as described in the instructions above. Use 3 rubber bands to make 6 “wedges” of fabric, then apply the dye as follows.

  1. Apply red dye in section 1.
  2. Apply orange dye in section 2.
  3. Apply yellow dye in section 3.
  4. Apply green dye in section 4.
  5. Apply blue dye in section 5.
  6. Apply purple dye in section 6.

How to Tie Dye a Side Spiral Design

Creating a side spiral tie-dye pattern is very similar to making a standard, center spiral design. All you need to do is choose a small spot on the side to create the center of your spiral.

It may be a little trickier to bundle the fabric into a neat and tidy spiral since the design is off-center. Just go slow, and do your best to get the sleeves and the opposite corner of the shirt into the spiral bundle.

How to Tie Dye a Double Spiral Pattern

Making a double spiral tie-dye design is just as easy as making a single spiral – you just have to do it twice.

To make a double spiral tie-dye design:

  1. Choose two spots on the shirt to form the centers of the two spirals. Make sure that the spots are far enough away from each other that you have room to create the spirals.
  2. Then, follow the instructions as described above. Pinch the center sections as you twist your fingers clockwise.
  3. Continue twisting, keeping your fingers close to the surface of the table.
  4. When all of the fabric is twisted into the spiral bundle, secure it with 3 or more rubber bands. Cross the rubber bands over the bundle at the center to create 6 or more wedge-shaped areas between the bands.

What’s Next?

Pin this post: Save this tutorial to your Pinterest boards so that you can come back to it later.

Leave a comment: I love to hear your feedback. Tell me in the comments below!

Share on Instagram or Facebook: When you make this project, share it on social media and tag me @sarahmaker. I love to see what you make!

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How to Tie-Dye a Spiral Pattern

How to Tie-Dye a Spiral Pattern

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 5

How to create the classic tie-dye spiral or swirl design.

Tools

  • rubber bands or strong string
  • squeeze bottles, to apply dye
  • plastic tablecloths or large trash bags to protect your work surface 
  • wire rack to elevate the garment off the work surface, optional
  • gloves and a dust mask
  • zip-top bags or plastic wrap

Instructions

  1. Prepare the workspace. Mix the dye. Presoak the fabric in a soda ash solution if necessary.
  2. Lay damp fabric flat on your work surface.
  3. Pick a spot on the fabric for the center of your spiral. Pinch a small section of fabric. Hold on to that small section while you twist your fingers clockwise.
  4. Keep twisting. As you twist, keep your fingers close to the surface of the table so that the spiral stays flat. The fabric will fold around itself, like a flat cinnamon roll. Keep twisting until the entire item is rolled up.
  5. Secure the fabric bundle with three or more rubber bands, crossing them over the center of the spiral. This will create wedge-shaped areas between the bands. 
  6. Apply the colors of dye in alternating sections, or as desired.
  7. Let the dye set for at least 8, or up to 24 hours.
  8. Rinse until the water runs clear. Wash in hot water with Synthrapol or another dye-safe laundry detergent.

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