Tie Dye Sweatshirt – How to Tie Dye a Sweatshirt at Home

Make your own tie dye sweatshirt. Learn tie dyeing basics to make your own custom sweatshirt and how to tie dye a rainbow swirl.

touching a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt on a table with a spiral tie dye pattern with the title "tie-dye sweatshirt"
Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

A great summertime craft is tie-dyeing and I have officially gone tie-dye crazy. I’m already getting ready for winter with this tie dye sweatshirt so I’m excited to share how to tie dye your own sweatshirt.

If you’ve tie dyed shirts or other clothing, you’ll know the basics of tie dyeing. The main difference when tie dyeing a sweatshirt is you need to account for the sleeves. You also really have to make sure you use enough dye since it uses more than a tie dye t-shirt.

You can even make tie dye sweatpants for a full tie dye sweatsuit!

And for a full set of tie dye clothing, make some tie dye socks, tie dye shirts, tie dye Crocs, or try dyeing colored clothes using this bleach tie dye method (also known as reverse tie dye).

Be sure to review my recommendations for the best tie dye kits.

Table of Contents

Note: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn a commission.

Which Sweatshirts are the Best to Tie Dye?

When learning how to tie dye a sweatshirt, the material is the most important part. Therefore it’s best to use 100% cotton and plain white. Especially with a tie dye kit, a 100% white cotton sweatshirt will make sure the dye sets well.

Less than 100% cotton is totally fine as well, but when you get to more than 50% synthetic material (e.g. polyester), the dye may rinse out and you’ll end up with a very pale tie dye sweatshirt.

You can also tie dye a colored shirt, but the colors you use to tie dye may not show up as expected.

In terms of the cut or style, you can tie dye a hoodie, zip up hoodie, or zip up sweatshirt – they all can be tie dyed! The only consideration is the shape and the design you want to make. If you want to make a tie dye women’s sweatshirt, they tend to have more curves so straight lines will get curved on the sides. If you wan to tie dye a men’s sweatshirt, you have more straight lines on the sides.

Where to Get Sweatshirts to Tie Dye

Typically craft stores will carry 100% cotton sweatshirts and other dyeable clothes to dye. For example I got this one from Michael’s. You can also get the same one Amazon. I’d say 99% of the time I get my tie dye blank clothes from craft stores or Amazon.

I specifically wanted to tie dye a sweatshirt without a hood, but you can also dye any other type of sweatshirt, such as a hoodie or zip up hoodie. Take a look at the different stores and online for whichever type of sweatshirt you want to tie dye.

one image touching a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt with the bottom image pouring blue dye on a partially tie dyed sweatshirt with the title "how to tie-dye a sweatshirt"

Materials to Make a Tie Dye Sweatshirt using a Tie Dye Kit

Instructions for How to Tie Dye a Sweatshirt

Preparing the Sweatshirt for Dye

Start with a plain white sweatshirt. It’s best to wash it before you start to ensure there’s nothing on it to prevent the dye from reacting properly. Though full disclosure, I did not wash mine, but I definitely don’t recommend this.

I opted to not tie dye a women’s sweatshirt for this project simply because I’m going to use it a sleep shirt and I prefer the cut of a men’s sweatshirt.

holding a plain white cotton sweatshirt over a plastic tub

After you wash it, take it out when wet. Or if you start with a dry sweatshirt, soak it in water and ring it out so it’s damp and not dripping.

The reason you want the sweatshirt to be damp is it’s actually easier to shape, tie, and prepare for dye. You want it to be tied tightly so that the patterns show up well. Therefore getting it wet removes the air and allows the sweatshirt to be tied tightly.

pushing a white sweatshirt into a tub of water

Now it’s time to shape the sweatshirt for dyeing. All you need to do is wrap, scrunch, fold, or twist the sweatshirt and tie it up with some rubber bands.

There are also a bunch of designs and techniques you can use to make a tie dye sweatshirt. But I went with a classic spiral tie dye design.

To make the spiral design, pinch the middle of the sweatshirt. Make sure you grab the back as well so that both sides get dyed.

pinching the middle of a white crewneck sweatshirt

Then twist the middle so that the fabric from where you’re pinching.

twisting the middle of white sweatshirt to make a spiral

When you get to the sleeves, make sure it has some pleats and folds.

making pleats in the sleeve a sweatshirt while the rest is twisted into a spiral

Then wrap the sleeves around the rest of the sweatshirt.

pulling the sleeve of a white sweatshirt around the edge of the rest of it twirled into a spiral

Keep wrapping the sleeves around and twisting from the middle so that it’s a nice tight spiral. Make sure it lays flat and that the layers don’t bunch up on top of each other.

Once it’s nice and tight, wrap a rubber band across the middle.

wrapping a rubber band around a white sweatshirt that's been wrapped into a spiral

Continue to add rubber bands so it’s all held together.

holding a white sweatshirt that's been wrapped with rubber bands

Prepare the Soda Ash Mixture and Sweatshirt for Tie Dye

If your tie dye kit is a one step tie dye kit such as Tulip One Step Tie Dye Kits, you don’t need to do this section.

However if your tie dye kit uses soda ash, mix 1 cup of soda ash into a gallon of warm water.

Make sure there’s enough liquid to soak the sweatshirt. I had to mix up to batches so I used 2 cups of soda ash and 2 gallons of water.

Stir it up until the soda ash dissolves.

pouring soda ash into a clear plastic tub of water

Place the wrapped up sweatshirt in the soda ash mixture and soak it for at least 20 minutes.

Tip: Squish it and flip it over while soaks so that it the mixture incorporates completely. It’s also a good idea to separate the folds.

a white sweatshirt wrapped in rubber bands soaking in a tub of water mixed with soda ash

Mix the Tie Dye from the Tie Dye Kit

Typically the instructions are to add warm water to the bottles up to a line marked on the bottle. This was the case with the Jacquard Tie Dye Kit. It came with three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow).

pouring water into a bottle of yellow dye next to bottles of red and blue dye

After you fill them, shake the bottles so that the dye powder dissolves. Check the bottom of the bottles to make sure all the powder is mixed in. For example in the photo below there’s still dye that needs to be mixed in.

Tip: When shaking the dye bottles, hold them with a paper towel in case there are leaks. See that corner of yellow and how I’m wearing gloves in this photo and not the previous? Dye got everywhere so I learned that lesson for you!

Which gets to the next tip:

Tip #2: Wear gloves when mixing the dye.

holding a bottle of red dye showing the dye powder at the bottom of the bottle

Another way to fill the dye bottles is to fill them with water only part way and dissolve the dye. Then add the rest of the water to the fill line.

holding bottles of red, yellow, and blue tie dye

Add Dye to the Sweatshirt

Before you start tie-dyeing the sweatshirt, put on gloves and place plastic wrap on the table.

Tip: To make sure the plastic wrap is big enough for the tie dye sweatshirt, overlap them slightly.

hands wearing vinyl gloves over a table with plastic wrap on it

Start with the lightest color of dye (in my case it was yellow) and it to different parts of the sweatshirt. Make sure to get both sides.

For my spiral tie dye design I added the yellow to ones of the segments made by the rubber bands. Then I flipped it over and added yellow to the other side of the same segment.

pouring yellow tie dye onto a section of a white sweatshirt in the shape of a spiral wrapped in rubber bands

Continue to add the lightest color of dye wherever else you want it.

For the spiral tie dye design, I wanted to have the pattern repeat so I added yellow to the opposite segment.

pouring yellow dye into the opposite section of a white sweatshirt

How to Make Sure You Have Enough Dye on Your Tie Dye Sweatshirt

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while tie dyeing is to not add enough dye. If you don’t add enough tie dye, you’ll end up with a mostly white sweatshirt.

Therefore a way to make sure you have enough dye on your tie dye sweats (especially since a sweatshirt is thick and therefore naturally will need more dye) is to separate the layers. When you check in between the layers, make sure it’s not all completely white. Stick the bottle of dye between the layers and squeeze out the dye.

pulling apart the layers of a white sweatshirt that's been wrapped into a spiral and wrapped in rubber bands with two opposite sections covered in yellow tie dye

Another way to make sure there’s enough dye for your tie dye sweats is to squish the sweatshirt. Squish the dye into the sweatshirt to help it spread.

squishing a section of yellow tie dye

Then add the next color. Since I wanted to make a rainbow spiral tie dye sweatshirt, I added the red tie dye next to the yellow.

pouring red tie dye into a section between rubber bands

Then add the next color, which for me to continue the rainbow tie dye was putting blue next to the yellow.

pouring blue tie dye onto a sweatshirt wrapped into a spiral with different primary colors on each section

Continue adding dye until the sweatshirt is covered in dye where you want it.

I originally thought I wanted a section of white, but then I realized that wouldn’t make purple so I added more blue and red and squished the two colors together.

squishing red and blue tie dye to make purple

Make Sure the Dye Colors Don't Mix Where You Don't Want Them

As you’re tie dyeing, while you want to make sure there is enough dye on the sweatshirt, you don’t want it dripping or all the colors will mix together and make brown.

Another way to prevent this is by using paper towels to wipe up the dye that’s on the plastic.

wiping dye off of plastic wrap next to a sweatshirt covered in rainbow tie dye

Set the Dye on the Tie Dye Sweatshirt

Pick up the plastic wrap off the table and carefully wrap it around the tie dyed sweatshirt. Wrapping it up helps keep the moisture inside, which is necessary for the dye to set. You don’t want it to dry out!

Leave it for 12-24 hours so the tie dye can set. I left my sweatshirt for 24 hours to make sure the dye sets (especially since I didn’t prewash it).

Rinse the Dye off the Tie Dye Sweatshirt

While still tied, rinse the sweatshirt under warm water.

I definitely recommend wearing gloves for this since as you can see the dye will get everywhere.

running a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt shaped in a spiral and covered in rubber bands under water so the dye washes out

Then as the initial dye rinses out you can start taking off the rubber bands. I like to salvage the rubber bands, but you can also cut them off to make it easy.

Then continue to rinse the sweatshirt under water until the water starts to run clear.

washing a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt under water

Once the water is clear, throw it into the wash. Having the water more clear will ensure you don’t get the washing machine covered in dye.

Just as a precaution, wash it alone or with other tie dyed clothes to make sure nothing else accidentally gets dyed.

Get the latest DIY tutorials, reviews, and crafting updates

You'll never be spammed and can unsubscribe at any time

Run it through the dryer and voila, your tie dye sweatshirt is ready to wear!

I always get so excited when a tie dye spiral comes out nicely.

touching a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt on a table with a spiral tie dye pattern

And I just love the sleeves – the rainbow striping is so fun!

But regardless of what tie dye design you go with, make sure to tag me on Instagram @ab.crafty so I can see your tie dye sweatshirt!

rainbow tie dye sweatshirt on a table with a spiral tie dye pattern

More Dyeing and Rainbow Crafts to Try

Get the latest DIY tutorials, reviews, and crafting updates

You'll never be spammed and can unsubscribe at any time

one image touching a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt with the bottom image pouring blue dye on a partially tie dyed sweatshirt with the title "how to tie-dye a sweatshirt"

Tie Dye Sweatshirt

Make your own tie dye sweatshirt. Learn tie dyeing basics to make your own custom sweatshirt and how to tie dye a rainbow swirl.
Yield 1 Sweatshirt
Project Time 30 mins
Setting Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 30 mins

Materials
  

  • White Cotton Sweatshirt
  • Tie Dye Kit or Tie-Dye Dye and Soda Ash
  • Water
  • Rubber Bands
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Latex Gloves
  • Paper Towels

Equipment

  • Bucket or Plastic Bin

Instructions
 

Prepare the Sweatshirt for Dye

  • Soak the sweatshirt in water and ring it out so it’s damp and not dripping.
    White Cotton Sweatshirt, Water
    pushing a white sweatshirt into a tub of water
  • Shape the sweatshirt by wrapping, scrunching, folding, and/or twisting it into your desired pattern.
    making pleats in the sleeve a sweatshirt while the rest is twisted into a spiral
  • Wrap rubber bands around it to secure.
    Rubber Bands
    holding a white sweatshirt that's been wrapped with rubber bands

Prepare the Soda Ash Mixture and Sweatshirt for Tie Dye

  • If your tie dye kit is a one step tie dye kit such as Tulip One Step Tie Dye Kits, you don’t need to do this section.
    However if your tie dye kit uses soda ash, mix 1 cup of soda ash into a gallon of warm water. Stir it up until the soda ash dissolves.
    pouring soda ash into a clear plastic tub of water
  • Place the wrapped up sweatshirt in the soda ash mixture and soak it for at least 20 minutes.
    a white sweatshirt wrapped in rubber bands soaking in a tub of water mixed with soda ash

Mix the Tie Dye from the Tie Dye Kit

  • Add warm water to the bottles up to a line marked on the bottle of dye powder of the tie dye kit.
    Tie Dye Kit or Tie-Dye Dye and Soda Ash
    pouring water into a bottle of yellow dye next to bottles of red and blue dye
  • Shake the bottles so that the dye powder dissolves. Check the bottom of the bottles to make sure all the powder is mixed in.
    holding a bottle of red dye showing the dye powder at the bottom of the bottle
  • Repeat the process for all of the colors of tie dye.
    holding bottles of red, yellow, and blue tie dye

Add Dye to the Sweatshirt

  • Before you start tie-dyeing the sweatshirt, put on gloves and place plastic wrap on the table.
    Latex Gloves, Plastic Wrap
    hands wearing vinyl gloves over a table with plastic wrap on it
  • Start with the lightest color of dye (in my case it was yellow) and it to different parts of the sweatshirt. Make sure to get both sides.
    pouring yellow tie dye onto a section of a white sweatshirt in the shape of a spiral wrapped in rubber bands
  • Check in between the layers and folds and make sure it’s not all completely white. Stick the bottle of dye between the layers and squeeze out the dye.
    pulling apart the layers of a white sweatshirt that's been wrapped into a spiral and wrapped in rubber bands with two opposite sections covered in yellow tie dye
  • Add the next color of dye.
    pouring red tie dye into a section between rubber bands
  • Continue adding dye one color at a time until the sweatshirt is covered in dye where you want it.
    pouring blue tie dye onto a sweatshirt wrapped into a spiral with different primary colors on each section
  • Use paper towels to wipe up the dye that’s on the plastic in between the colors
    Paper Towels
    wiping dye off of plastic wrap next to a sweatshirt covered in rainbow tie dye
  • Pick up the plastic wrap off the table and carefully wrap it around the tie dyed sweatshirt. Leave it for 12-24 hours so the tie dye can set.
    holding a wet sweatshirt covered in rainbow tie dye completely wrapped in plastic wrap

Rinse the Dye off the Tie Dye Sweatshirt

  • While still tied, rinse the newly tie dyed sweatshirt under warm water.
    running a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt shaped in a spiral and covered in rubber bands under water so the dye washes out
  • As the initial dye rinses out you can start taking off the rubber bands. You can either remove them to save them or you can also cut them off to make it easy.
    Then continue to rinse the sweatshirt under water until the water starts to run clear.
    washing a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt under water
  • Throw the sweatshirt into the washing machine to finish removing any extra dye. Then run it through the dryer and your tie dye sweatshirt is ready to wear!
    showing the bottom of a rainbow tie dye sweatshirt to show the tie dye spiral
Keyword Cotton, Jacquard, Rainbow, Rainbow Tie Dye, Spiral, Sweatshirt, Tie Dye, Tie Dye Kit

More Craft Projects and Ideas

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rating