How to Tie-Dye Using the Squirt Bottle Method
This method of tie-dyeing enables you to use multiple dye colors and apply the dye colors precisely where you want them to be. The dyes are mixed with very hot water in a concentrated amount, poured into squirt bottles and then applied to the tied fabric to create colorful designs. No two are ever alike and everyone can do it differently. To finish the dyeing process, the dyed fabric is wrapped and sealed in plastic wrap and heated in the microwave. Rit loves hot water and finishing in the microwave creates a heat chamber which helps the dye move onto the fabric and intensify the color. Refer to our Tie-Dye projects for Folding and Shibori stitching techniques for more ideas and specific directions on how to achieve different tie-dye patterns.
- White 100% cotton item(s) to dye
- Rit Dye, liquid or powder
- Hot water
- 2 -3 Plastic squirt bottles
- Rubber bands
- Disposable spoons
- 4-Cup measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Plastic wrap
- Paper towels
- Baking rack (optional)
- Old tray (optional)
- Rubber gloves
- Plastic table cover
Step by Step
Cover work surface with a plastic table cover.
For best results, prewash item to be dyed to remove any finishes that may interfere with dye absorption.
Lay shirt or item out on a flat surface.
Pinch, pleat or fold fabric to make a design. Wrap rubber bands tightly around fabric at various points. The rubber bands act as a resist and create white spaces. The more rubber bands you use and the tighter they are wrapped, the more white space there will be.
For Side circle or Sunburst, pinch a section of the shirt or fabric where you want the center of the circle to be. Pull it up toward you to make a tee-pee shape. Then pull up more of the fabric for a larger circle. Close one hand around the point of the tee-pee and tie it off with a rubber band; then add rubber bands down the length of it.
For stripes, fold shirt vertically or diagonally, like an accordion or fan, in 2” to 3” wide folds. Then wrap with rubber bands every 2” – 3” or as desired.
For checks, accordion pleat fabric in 2” to 3” wide folds. To achieve a sharp line, press folds with an iron. Then accordion pleat strip into a square. Wrap a rubber band loosely around square fabric in both directions.
For spirals, decide where to place the center of the spiral. Then position your fingers around the center point and slowly begin to twist fabric in a spiral direction. Loosely wrap rubber bands around fabric to hold spiral together.
Dip shirt or fabric in water; squeeze out excess water. Set aside.
Dye Preparation: Wear rubber gloves and shake dye bottles before pouring. Measure and mix 1 package of powdered dye or ½ cup liquid dye with 2 cups hot tap water. Add 1 Tablespoon salt; stir well. Pour as much as will fit into a squirt bottle. Repeat for each color. Save the extra for later use. Just remember to heat leftover dye before using it. Bottles will be hot so wear rubber gloves when handling them.
Overlap sheets of plastic wrap so they are slightly larger than the shirt or item to be dyed.
Place shirt on plastic wrap. Squirt each dye color on shirt as desired. (Tip: Plan to put adjacent primary colors (red, yellow, blue) or secondary colors (orange, green, purple) next to each other. In the areas where they run together, they will blend together and create a third color.) Keep paper towels handy so dye doesn’t puddle or seep into an area where you plan to place another color. (Tip: Shirt could be placed on a baking rack when applying dye so it runs through. Just be sure to place an old tray or newspapers under it.) Refer to Tie-Dye project sheets for specific color examples. (Side Circle, Pleated, Accordion)
Cover wrapped shirt or item with plastic wrap; seal edges. Fold to fit in the microwave.
Line bottom of microwave with paper towels. Place wrapped shirt in microwave and set on High for 2 minutes. Plastic will puff up, creating a heat chamber that helps the dye move onto the fabric. WATCH carefully to be sure plastic does not melt.
Wear rubber gloves or use pot holders to remove shirt from microwave. It will be very hot. Open plastic and let cool. Carefully cut away rubber bands. Rinse shirt in cool water until water runs clear. Then launder in warm water with a mild detergent; rinse and dry.