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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > Instructions > How to Dye with Fiber Reactive Dye > How to Tie Dye > How to Tie Dye a Spiral


Check out this how-to-fold video from YouTube:

FAQ: How do you tie-dye a spiral pattern?

Everyone who tie-dyes has to do a spiral, sooner or later. It's the modern cliché of tie-dyeing. You can make it your own by applying the spiral to a garment you've already folded in two, varying just where you place the center of the spiral, pleating the center of the spiral horizontally or vertically a few times before you begin the twist, or just by making a very careful choice of colors.

How to Tie It

It's simple enough to do. You just pinch the cloth where you want the center of your spiral to be (try a spring-type clothes pin), then twist, then continue to twist; when the cloth 'mountains' get more than an inch or two taller than the 'valleys', use your other (third?) hand to split each tall pleat into two. Once you have the entire garment compacted into a flat disk, no more than two inches thick, you put rubber bands or ties around the disk, in several directions, to maintain its shape.

The Challenge - Use Enough Dye!

The hard part, for a beginner, is getting enough dye into the tied garment. It's common for an individual's first shirt to be mostly white with just a few colored streaks, although before the shirt was untied, it appeared to be solidly impregnated with dye. You really have to squirt that dye right in between the folds of the cloth. If it's not dripping out at the bottom, you're not using enough dye (unless the mostly white look is your goal).

Applying the Dye

With the fabric twisted into a spiral, you make nice, even quadrants of each color, like cutting a pie into six or eight pieces and coloring each pice a different color. These turn into the twisted spiral when the fabric is untwisted! The prettiest results come when adjacent colors are in rainbow order - definitely study the color suggestions near the bottom of How to Tie Dye. The most eye-popping results are obtained by using thickener in your dye, so that you don't get muddy mixtures, and applying opposite colors (on two sides of the tied fabric disk, in the same section of the shirt. A stained-glass effect is obtained by applying black dye to one side and brightly colored dye to the other.

You probably won't really need pictures to do the above, because it is all trial and error, anyway. You can't know what works best for you until you try it. However, if you want to see pictures of how to do the ties, check out PROchem's illustrations of tie dye folds, and Rit's old Virtual spiral (though you'll find the dyeing process much easier if you use fiber reactive dyes such as Procion MX, instead of Rit, which requires that you hold the disk of fabric partially submerged in nearly-boiling water for a long time). Finally, the best on-line step-by-step illustrations of how to tie-dye a spiral may be found in the Tie-Dye Wiki's tutorial on how to tie-dye a spiral.

Where to Learn More

Need more help? Buy a book! Sulfiati Harris's "Rainbow Tie Dye" is under $5 at the Dharma Trading Company and provides an excellent introduction. (See Source for supplies.) Other good books that include the spiral fold include Alice Niemiec et al.'s Tie-dye to Die for & Batik You Can't Resist Book and either of Virginia Gleser's mostly interchangeable books, Tie Dye: Back by Popular Demand and Tie Dye! The How-To Book. (See Books on Hand Dyeing and Fabric Painting.)

The Art of Tie-Dye DVD Tie Dye 101 Or even better, buy a DVD that demonstrates this and many other tie-dye folds. Michael Fowler's DVD, The Art of Tie-Dye shows you just about everything you could ask, but it is now out of print and hard to find. Another DVD, True Tie Dye's Tie Dye 101 - The Basics of Making Exceptional Tie Dye, is an ideal complete introduction to tie-dyeing for beginners and includes a clear demonstration of the spiral. Either of these DVDs - or both! - is the next best thing to an in-person demonstration; they will show you the details of exactly how to do it, far better than any book or web site can.

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This page was created: November 14, 1999;
Last updated: September 13, 2009;
Downloaded: Sunday, November 19, 2017.