DIY Shibori T-Shirts: Tie Dye Goes High Fashion

DIY Shibori T-ShirtsIf you’ve been paying attention to the runways and high fashion home goods lately, you’ve probably seen more than a few pieces sporting a tie-dyed look. The current dye trend isn’t so much “tie dye,” which is a method that became emblematically popular in the 60s and 70s. (You can learn to tie-dye here.) Today’s dyed pieces are created using an ancient Japanese technique called shibori, which is a process in which fabric is bound, folded, stitched, twisted, wrapped and/or compressed. Traditional shibori uses only indigo as a dye, but you can use any dye available to create the same patterns with a brighter palette.

I first saw the trend last fall, but it wasn’t until I read this blog post that I realized the difference between “tie dye” and “shibori” and started to appreciate the beauty of shibori. I read this article and realized that major designers like Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Eileen Fisher, Levi’s, etc. were producing shibori goods that were GORGEOUS — modern, ethereal, and chic.

I decided to give shibori a shot with an old white t-shirt and some Rit dye I had in my stock. I combined pink and purple in the hopes of achieving something close to Pantone’s color of the year, Radiant Orchid. I was strictly playing around with no particular goal in mind — I just wanted to see if I could pull off a halfway decent shibori t-shirt for spring. I made a few mistakes (machine washing, which faded the dyed areas and bled the dye to the white areas) and thought of a few ways to improve my technique for the next time, but I was OK with my results.DIY Shibori T-Shirts

Then my daughter saw my shirt hanging up and asked for one of her own. Her shirt? AMAZING, as seen in the first photo above. I corrected my mistakes and tried a different folding/wrapping/binding technique and it came out PERFECTLY. And now I’m hooked on shibori.

For more info and tips on DIY shibori, plus information on dying with indigo, see here, here, and here.



Step 1

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsI started out thinking the most simple shibori technique would be itajime: compressing material between two pieces of wood bound together. I gathered up my Rit Dye, rubber bands, my white t-shirt, and two scrap pieces of wood that my husband was kind enough to trim down for me.

Step 2

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsFirst, I folded my t-shirt, accordion-style, horizontally.

Step 3

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsThen I folded the folded shirt over once, so that it would fit neatly between the two pieces of wood, since what I really wanted were horizontal lines of dye all the way across.

Step 4

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsNext, I carefully placed my folded shirt between the two boards, leaving about an inch of the creased edges I wanted to be dyed hanging out of the boards.

Step 5

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsThen it was time to bind the boards together. I wrapped the rubber bands as tightly as I possibly could around the boards, to compress the whole thing like a sandwich. This would keep the dye only on the creased edges of the shirt that were outside of the boards.

Step 6

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsOnce I had my folded/compressed/bound package, I mixed up my dye bath. I used a few teaspoons of Rit’s Petal Pink and  one teaspoon of Rit’s Purple Dye into a quart of very hot water, eyeballing it to see if it looked too dark or light.

Step 7

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsOnce I felt like the color was right, I dipped the bound shirt in and held my breath. I realized at this point that I had NO IDEA how long I should leave the shirt in the dye bath. The Rit bottle gives instructions for how to machine dye and how to do a large water bath, but I hadn’t thought to look up any further instructions. So I decided to totally wing it. I left the shirt soaking (the whole package balanced nicely upright — exposed t-shirt edges in the bath, with the rest of the package upright out of the dye bath) for about five to seven minutes.

Step 8

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsThen I took the whole dye bath (very carefully) into the kitchen, where I dismantled the rubber band-board package and rinsed the t-shirt in a bath of very cold water, until the water was clear. It looked fantastic — beautiful ripples of color against a crisp white relief. BUT,  this is where I made my critical mistake: I decided to try to take a shortcut and machine wash the shirt. The minute I took the shirt out of the washer, I knew I’d sort of blown it. The white part of the shirt was no longer white. In the washing machine, the color had bled just slightly so that the dyed ripples were softer and more faint, and the white areas were a soft pink-y lavender. Still very pretty, but not the contrast I’d wanted.

Step 9

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsIt’s only because my daughter asked so sweetly for her very own “purplish-y stripe-y shirt” that I gave it another shot. This time I decided to switch it up a little. I grabbed a white t-shirt out of my peanut’s closet and folded it, again accordion-style, but this time vertically.

Step 10

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsThis time, instead of compressing the shirt between two boards, I wanted to see if I could roll the shirt like I’d seen Tara St. James do in this profile. I rolled it up as tightly as I could, then bound it super tightly with rubber bands. I used a bunch of rubber bands to create a pretty strong buffer against the dye, also knowing that my dye bath would be about 3/4 of an inch deep.

Step 11

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsAnd now it was the dye cycle on repeat: hot water, mixing Rit’s Petal Pink and Purple dyes, dipping the rolled up bundle in the dye bath and letting it rest for five minutes. Bonus: the little rolled up bundle sat so perfectly in the dye bath. I could see a whole mess of these little bundles soaking together in a batch. Those left in the dye longest would be darker in color — a nice variation.

Step 12

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsThen back to the kitchen sink for a super cold water rinse. And this is where I did the smart thing that saved the day: I hand washed the shirt instead of machine washing it. Then I let it dry naturally, no dryer. I wanted this little beauty to stay just as it was.

Step 13

 Open GalleryDIY Shibori T-ShirtsI will definitely admit that I like my daughter’s shirt better than mine. I like how the folded/rolled/wrapped dye ripples came out better than the folded/compressed/bound streaks came out on my shirt. I also love that the dye stayed a little darker on her shirt and the whites stayed super white in contrast. She’s over the moon with her shirt. And yes, she’s requested that we wear them together, all matchy matchy. If you live in New England and see a mother daughter duo in coordinating dyed shirts, just know that it wasn’t my idea.


  • any article of cotton clothing you want to dye
  • clothing dye
  • rubber bands
  • two smooth boards
  • container for a dye bath


  • measuring spoons to mix dye, if you are mixing
About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

More About Ellen Foord

4 Responses

  1. Brandon says:

    That dying look like blood.

  2. Elena Salebe says:

    Me gusta mucho como hacer manualidades

  3. TransElated says:

    Thanks for the article Its very helpful for the user who want to know about DIY t shirts. cool t-shirt online

  4. Margaret says:

    I kinda like the "mistake" one best. Do a little research, I believe you can use a salt water rinse to set the dye and make it machine washable.

Leave a Reply

More Posts Like This One

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • Severed Finger Cooki

    Severed Finger Cookies + More Halloween Desserts

  • Dress Up Your Yard F

    Dress Up Your Yard For Halloween With These DIY

  • Closet Boot Camp: Ch

    Closet Boot Camp: Check Out These Tips and Tricks

  • Daddy Long Leg Cupca

    Daddy Long Leg Cupcakes + More Halloween Desserts

More Great Blogs

  • no items!