Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

HelenGuest Bloggers, Reynolds Top and DressLeave a Comment

Sewing a Tie-Dye Reynolds with Geri: Part 3

Geri is back again with part three of her tie-dye series for Helen’s Closet! If you haven’t already seen them, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this tie-dye takeover. Today Geri is showing us how to create a spiral tie-dye design, as well as how she modified the Reynolds Top and Dress to fit her young daughter. Let’s dig in!

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

3rd Installment – Spirals

The picture above is the first sneak peak of my Reynolds Dress that incorporates all the patterns that are covered in this tie-dye series. This installment will focus on how to create spiral patterns like the one you see below. 

As promised, at the end of this installment I will also share how I modified the Reynolds Top and Dress to make a version for my 9-year-old daughter, after we dive into the spiral technique. This project of tie-dyeing and fabric-binding has provided precious mother-and-daughter bonding time for the both of us. Tie-dye is such a fantastic summer project to do with kids. It is easy for them to execute with some adult supervision and guidance. Best of all, it’s a creative way for them to craft a me-made outfit and develop their sense of style.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Here’s a reminder to check out the 1st installment of this series where I walk through how to create a center front seam in the Reynolds Top and Dress, and how to prepare the separate fabric pieces for dyeing. This is essential, especially if you want to mix and match patterns or colors between fabric pieces. If not, you can also dye the top or dress after you’ve completed sewing it up, and apply this spiral technique to your fully made garment. In the 1st installment I also go into detail about setting up your dye station, and provide some tips and tricks you might not want to miss (especially if this is your first attempt at tie-dye).

Basic Materials and Tools Required For Dyeing:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog
  1. Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye in your chosen colors
  2. Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative
  3. Squeeze bottles, with a volume of 125ml or 250ml. I use the smaller bottles for the colors and the larger one for the ColorStay Dye Fixative. 
  4. Measuring cup and measuring spoons
  5. Large wire rack
  6. Large plastic container that the wire rack can sit on
  7. Large plastic sheets/covers or dollar-store shower curtains to protect your work surface 
  8. Salt for cotton, linen, rayon, viscose; vinegar for silk and wool
  9. Gloves
  10. Plastic wrap
  11. Microwave-safe container or microwave-safe plastic bag
  12. Spray bottle to dampen the fabric
  13. Paper towels to keep things tidy
  14. Large pot to boil water

Spiral Technique

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Binding Tools:

  1. Rubber bands of different circumferences and tensions
  2. Fork or tweezers
  3. Erasable or washable marker

Take note that some erasable or washable markers may interact with the dyes or color fixative and become permanent on the fabric. To be safe, I recommend using a marker that is one of the colors in the palette you have chosen. You may also use Pilot Frixion Pens. These wash off completely and work quite well on dampened fabric.

Folding and Binding – Single Spiral:

Lay the fabric down on the work surface and dampen it with a spray bottle. Make sure that the right side of the fabric is facing up. Smooth it out to remove any creases and folds. This is especially important if you are folding a fully made top/dress because there will be two layers of fabric, and you want to make sure that you do your best to smooth out the creases on the underside of the fabric as well. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

To create the folds of the spiral, use a fork or tweezers to begin the initial twist in the center. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

If you are using a fork, simply position the tines of the fork where you want the center of the spiral to begin, perpendicular to the fabric. Push downwards to apply some pressure in order to grip onto the fabric, and start twisting the fork. The spiraling folds will emerge as you are turning the fork.

I personally prefer to use tweezers. To start creating the folds in the center with tweezer, pinch a tiny section of the fabric. While gripping onto the fabric, start turning the tweezers. The folds of the spiral will appear immediately. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

With the fingers of my other hand, I help define the creases of the folds as they are appearing. This will accentuate the lines of the folds better when the fabric is dyed.

Keep twisting the tweezers or fork with one hand, and keep creasing the folds with the other hand, until the fabric spirals into a tight circular disc. 

Carefully remove the fork or tweezers and bind the fabric with a rubber band.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

It is imperative to use a rubber band with the correct circumference and tension to keep the spiral folds in place in your fabric bundle. If it’s too loose, the shape will not hold; if it’s too tight, it will distort the circular shape of the fabric disc. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

I am also using the rubber bands to help demarcate the different sections of different colored dyes to be applied. I have chosen to divide the disc into six equal parts with three rubber bands.

Double Spiral:

When working with a larger or longer piece of fabric, like the knee-length or long version of the Reynolds Dress, you can create two spirals on the same piece of fabric. First, determine where the centers of the two spirals will be. Then start off one spiral in the same way that you would a single spiral.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Take note of and remember which direction you are turning the fork or tweezers: clockwise or anti-clockwise. In the photo, I am turning my tweezers clockwise. Stop spiraling when the folds have formed a discernible disc.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Gently and lightly secure the shape with a rubber band. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Start creating the other spiral, twisting it in the same direction that you did the first. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

It is helpful to keep the folds clearly defined with the other hand as you are twisting the fabric. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Once a circular disc starts to take shape for your second spiral, then remove the fork or tweezers, as well as the rubber band securing the first spiral. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Keep swirling the spirals with your hands at the same time until the circular discs become larger and closer together.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

You will come to a point where the spirals will start to meet. Tuck the “tails” of the folds into the spirals, following the curves of the swirls. You will see that the curves start to make an “S” shape. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

If you turn the first spiral in one direction and the other spiral in the opposite direction, then instead of an “S” shape your fabric discs will have a swirl shape that resembles a Palmier cookie. That will produce a different swirling pattern, and is a fun option to try as you experiment with tie-dye designs. 

Bind the fabric with rubber bands. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

In this case, the rubber bands will not be the guiding lines to help demarcate the different sections for different dye colors, so we will define them later with an erasable or washable marker. Make sure when you bind the fabric that you mark where the two centers of the spirals are. 


The dyeing technique with squeeze bottles is the same one I detailed in the 1st installment of this series. Please refer back to that installment for tips on setting up the dye workstation. I am using squeeze bottles to apply the dye, since I am dyeing relatively small pieces of fabric. 

The dye that I am using for this version of my Reynolds Top is Rit All-Purpose Liquid Dye in Aquamarine, Fuchsia, Violet and Indigo:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

The two main colors that I am using for my dress are Aquamarine and Fuchsia. These two dyes interact to give darker shades of blue or purple, and that is why I am also using Violet and Indigo in very small amounts to highlight the color blend between Aquamarine and Fuchsia. 

Dye Recipe:

The temperature of the water used for the dye solution should be at least 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer to work with water that is almost boiling when mixing the dyes. Usually before setting up my workstation and beginning the folding and binding, I will heat up a large pot of water so that it will be at the right temperature when I am ready to start dyeing.

  1. ½ tbsp salt
  2. 125ml (4 ¼ oz) of hot water
  3. Add at least ½ tbsp of dye color. You can intensify or darken the color by adding more dye. Use small fabric scraps or paper towels to do a quick color test.

Prepare the different dye colors separately in different squeeze bottles. I am using a small squeeze bottle with a smaller opening at the nozzle, so I am mixing the dye solution in a measuring cup before I pour it into the bottle. I find that the smaller the nozzle opening, the more precision there is when applying the dye. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

When dyeing, keep in mind that oversaturation will cause the colors to blend and will reduce the overall contrast between them. It is always better to practice some restraint with dye application with a squeeze bottle, especially when you want to keep some white space left in the tie-dye design. 

Position a large wire rack on top of a large container to catch the extra dye or fixative that drips into it. Position your fabric piece on the wire rack and start dyeing.

Dyeing the Single Spiral:

My daughter’s dress will feature the single spiral, and we will use Aquamarine and Indigo for it. The circular disc that is bound up is divided into 6 “pizza” pieces. From the picture below, you can see that we dyed each “pizza” piece and the one directly opposite it in the same color. Two of the “pizza” pieces can be a blend of the two colors or can be left white. If you want to keep those 2 sections white, be very careful not to oversaturate with color, because there will be some color from juxtaposing sides bleeding into those sections.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

When you have finished dyeing the circular disc on this side, flip the disc over and dye the other side with the same colors in corresponding sections. 

Dyeing the Double Spiral:

With an erasable or washable marker, draw in lines to divide each spiral into 6 “pizza” pieces, using the center of each spiral to guide you. Then do the same for the other spiral. 

Just as I did for the single spiral, each “pizza” piece and the one directly opposite piece is dyed in the same color. I used Aquamarine, Fuchsia and Violet for the left back panel of my dress. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Once you have applied the dye, do the same for the second spiral. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

When one side of the fabric bundle is dyed, flip it over and dye the other side with the same colors in the corresponding “pizza” pieces. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Once the dyeing is complete, the bound fabric will look like this:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

Now the fabric pieces are ready to be treated with ColorStay Dye Fixative.

ColorStay Dye Fixative:

After dyeing, immediately saturate the fabric pieces with ColorStay Dye Fixative.

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

ColorStay Dye Fixative Recipe:

  1. 250ml (8 ½ oz) of hot water in a squeeze bottle
  2. 2 tbsp of ColorStay Dye Fixative

Shake the bottle to mix well, then squirt the fixative all over the fabric pieces. Turn them over and saturate the pieces on the other side as well. Allow them to marinate in the fixative for at least 20 minutes.

Setting the Color & Washing Instructions:

To set the color, wrap up the fabric pieces in plastic wrap or cling film and place them in a microwave safe container or plastic bag. Then zap the bound fabric in the microwave oven for two minutes on the highest setting. Allow the fabric pieces to cool completely, then rinse them in cold water until the water runs clear. The rubber bands can be removed and the fabric unbound as you are rinsing it in the water. This is the magical moment when you get the first glimpse of the tie-dye patterns that you’ve created on the fabric. 

Wash the fabric pieces quickly in warm water with detergent and without soaking. Either hang-dry out of direct sunlight, or dry them in the dryer. Remember that when wet the colors will appear darker than when dry. 

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

The picture above shows the spiral created on the left back of my daughter’s Reynolds Dress, while the pictures below show the two spirals created on the left back of my own Reynolds Dress.

Once dry, give the fabric pieces a good press, and voila! The pieces can finally be sewn together completely by going over Helen’s sewing instructions from the beginning.

Here is a picture of the fully dyed panel, held up by my tie-dye assistant I before I sewed it up:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

For the full reveal of our dresses, please stay tuned for the last installment of this series. I will finish this 3rd installment with a quick description of the hack I did to convert the Reynolds Top and Dress to fit my 9-year-old daughter.

The most important measurement in this garment is at the full bust. My daughter’s measurement is 27” (68.5 cm). The smallest size in the size chart for the Reynolds Top and Dress is Size 0 with the full bust measurement at 31” (78.5cm). Using a calculator, I determined that 27” (68.5 cm) is about 87% of 31” (78.5cm). When I printed the PDF paper pattern for my daughter’s dress, I printed it at 87% instead of “actual size” or 100% on my home printer. I then cut out the reduced Size 0 and used this paper pattern to construct my daughter’s dress.

The other adjustment I made was to remove the bust darts. I wasn’t sure if this was going to work, but with a stroke of good luck it turned out to be a great fit for her. I highly recommend making a muslin first to check for fit issues. Anyway, I was thrilled that this cheeky modification did the job, and my daughter was really excited with her top as well. Here’s a sneak peak of my daughter’s dress and the spiral pattern on it:

Geri's Tie-Dye Takeover Helen's Closet Blog

The success of the hack gave us fuel, and set us on a collaborative mission to design our mother-and-daughter tie-dye dresses for this series. In the next installments, we will continue exploring other techniques like fan-folding and Mandala patterns. Please stay tuned for more!

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

Leave a Reply

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