How to tie-dye using the spiral technique
About the spiral
The spiral is the classic tie-dye pattern. We’ve seen it everywhere, in movies, in real life maybe. This is what was so popular in the 60s’ with everyone wearing spiral t-shirts. We were sitting there the other day and thinking “how do you even tie-dye a spiral shirt?”. We went ahead created this guide to educate you on the spiral with all the information we have.
Folding a spiral
Folding a shirt using the spiral technique is something even beginners can do fairly easily. Let the fabric guide you and do not overthink it. You will quickly understand how it works by doing it.
First, the shirt must be flat on a table. Pinch the shirt in the middle and twist either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on your preference. The more you twist, the more the fabric will begin to wind up around the center. You plan is to twist to have all the fabric coiled up around a single point. Even better if you can make your spiral fold extra tight and if you make the pleats small and consistent.
Dyeing a spiral
So you’ve managed to twist your way to a neatly folded shirt, but how do you actually dye it? The first thing you need to make sure you do is to prepare the colors you’ll be using. For the classic spiral pattern we need to mix three bottles to have all the three colors we need. Blue, red, and yellow are the main colors we like to use they are easy and great for beginners to learn how to pick colors for tie-dye and learn what colors combos work well together.
The simplest way is to dye in quadrants. Just separate the folded spiral just as if it was a pizza or a pie. We like personally to separate the shirt in three parts, one for each color. So each quadrant represents 1/3 of the surface of the shirt. The trick to dyeing a spiral pattern is where you put the color. When you dye the design you need to know that every pattern has a different way of dyeing it. They may use the same technique for folding (the spiral) but they can vary in the way you dye it. The simple classic rainbow spiral is easy to do, you just make 3 quadrants and dye each one a different color, red, yellow, and blue.
Once you have your dye bottles and you’re all set and ready to tie-dye, just go ahead and put your folded spiral where you can squirt water on it and it will not make a mess. We find that the easiest solution is to simply tie-dye the shirt directly in the sink or in a bucket. People like to use paper towels or newspapers to protect they work area. We find that when you do it carefully it really doesn’t make much of a mess but when you’re new you can never be too sure!
How do you tie-dye a swirl pattern?
The swirl is the same as the spiral, both patterns can be made by twisting the shirt in an identical way. But the thing is that you can choose where you want your swirl to come from, a spiral you make at the should will be different than a spiral you make at the middle of the shirt. The more spirals and swirls you make, the more you will be able to visualize the pattern even before you reveal it!
How much time does it take to tie-dye a spiral?
It can be very quick to fold and dye a spiral. We even tested and were able to do it under 2 minutes total! But this is with a lot of experience and practice. If you are new I recommend that you take your take and it’s not very long either, it can take you about 5 minutes to come up with a totally decent and reasonable spiral fold. And then about another few minutes if you want to take your time with the dyeing process.
Careful folding will always result in an amazingly precise and beautiful pattern called the pleated spiral, you need to take your time and not be afraid of spending an whole hour if it’s your first one. You need to use tools if you want to make the best spiral. The pros and experts all use tools and other equipment to help them create superb pieces that are more precise and beautiful than any other spiral.
Are there more advanced spiral techniques?
The most advanced and complex spiral patterns are the ones where you need to tie-dye multiple different spirals on the same pice of fabric. You can also make super spirals by carefully making a pleated spiral and then dyeing it very well.
More advanced spiral designs are also the ones where you want more white to appear such as the exploded or fragmented spiral which I like a lot. You can make this advanced spiral by soaking the shirt very well before you dye it. The more water in the shirt the less dye is able to penetrate, which gives you a very fragmented and beautiful spiral design.
You can also mix and match your colors if you want to decide on a particular theme or you want to make a particular set or palette of colors. You may need to learn a bit more about color theory to be able to properly make a super spiral, just like you need to learn how to use tools and equipment to make the pleated spiral.
How to make a pleated spiral?
Twisting the shirt flatly around the center is very important. As you make the spiral, the fabric will tend to bunch up and make large pleats that can make it difficult to dye evenly. What you want to do to properly learn how to do a spiral shirt is to do it very slowly and gently at first. This is the best pattern to learn for beginners, it’s a cool tie-dye pattern that is very easy to do but difficult to master.
The pleated spiral technique is a difficult technique to do well, but you can always tighten up your spiral more. Aim for small, consistent pleats along the whole spiral. Use the precision instruments you need like small hemostats or forceps or any other tool that can help better make your pleats and make them smaller by dividing them more and more.
How to tie-dye a double spiral?
Maybe you thought to yourself “I know how to make a normal simple spiral, but how do I create a double spiral?”. We have wondered the same thing before and have tested different techniques to learn how to do it.
The trick to making a double spiral pattern is simply to pinch the shirt at two different places. Just like the normal spiral where you pinch and twist in one direction, you need to do the same thing. The difference is now you have two points on which the spirals will coil around. You can vary which spiral will be the largest and which one could be a small spiral. Or you can even make your double spiral totally symmetrical if you use the mirror technique and dye a spiral that is repeated on the other side.
This is our collection of all the spirals we’ve recorded so far.
Each pattern you see here comes with it’s own video where we show how to fold and dye the design.
– Click on the shirt to play instructions –