Dye a T-Shirt Using the Shibori Pole-Wrapping Technique

Use the ancient Japanese technique of shibori to dye a plain white T-shirt and get the look of this season's hottest trend.

What You'll Be Creating

Use the ancient Japanese technique of shibori to dye a plain white T-shirt and get the look of this season's hottest trend. 

The word 'shibori' comes from the Japanese word 'shiboru', which means 'to wring, squeeze or press'. 

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the shibori pole-wrapping technique to achieve a 'stormy' pattern.

This dyeing method involves wrapping cloth around a rod or other cylindrical object, then tying it tightly with thread or wire and squeezing it down the rod. The technique is called 'arashi', which means 'storm' in Japanese, as the final design resembles heavy rain. 


  • White cotton T-shirt
  • Twine or thread
  • Rod or pole (the end of a broom handle would work well)
  • Protective latex gloves and apron
  • Indigo blue dye and fixative
  • 400g. salt (optional, depending on the dye)
  • Scissors
  • Bucket
  • Stick for stirring

1. Prepare the Dye

Step 1

In this tutorial I will show you how to get the 'indigo look' by using synthetic blue dye. First of all you need to prepare the fabric dye. 

Heat some water and mix the fabric dye, the fixative and salt (optional) in the vat, either by following the instructions on the packet of dye you're using, or by following my instructions in my shibori for beginners tutorial. Make sure to wear gloves and protective garments to avoid getting messy. If you want to protect your floor or working surface, use a plastic drop-sheet.

2. Wrap the T-Shirt 

Step 1

Once your indigo vat is ready you can start wrapping your T-shirt. It is best to use a plain white made from pure cotton or other natural fibres. Lay the clean T-shirt on your working surface with the front side facing downwards.

Step 2

Make two vertical folds, bringing the sleeves inwards on the main body of the T-shirt. Make sure that the folds are straight and vertical and try to smooth any wrinkles on the fabric.

Step 3

Wrap the T-shirt around a rod. Use a rod you don't mind getting dyed. An old mop or broom handle will be fine for this job. Now place your rod on the top of your T-Shirt near the neckline. Place it parallel to the neckline.

Bring the fabric upwards and wrap it around the rod using both hands. You could also wrap the T-shirt around the rod diagonally to emphasize the storm effect in the final design. 

Keep rolling the rod and tightly wrapping the T-Shirt around it.  

Step 4

Cut a long piece of thread or twine using a pair of scissors.

Step 5

Make a double knot on the lower end of the T-shirt. Keep a long piece of twine on one side of the knot and a short piece on the other.

Now, trim the shorter end of the twine as close as possible to the knot.

Step 6

Start wrapping the twine around the rod, tying the T-shirt tightly as you move upwards.

Step 7

Once you reach the top of the T-shirt, keep tying the twine around the rod and come back downwards. When you reach the bottom, secure the thread in place by making a double knot and trim the excess end.

Step 8

Now hold one end of the rod and move the T-shirt down the rod with the other hand. Squeeze it as much as possible to create a scrunched effect on the fabric.

3. Dye it Blue

Step 1

Now that your T-shirt is properly tied on the rod, it's ready to be dyed. First, soak it in cold water.

Step 2

Then place the fabric on the pole into the dye vat. Sink it first as horizontally as possible to dye most of the surface of the cloth. But don't leave it like that for too long! Hold the pole more upright and let it rest in the dye for 20 to 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the longer you leave it in, the stronger the color will be.

Step 3

Once you've allowed the T-shirt to rest for the required amount of time in the dye vat, remove the pole and rinse the tied fabric under a cold water tap until the water runs clear. 

Step 4

Cut the twine and unwrap it carefully from the T-shirt. You will notice that the twine has blocked the dye and the wrapped parts have remained white. This is what actually creates your own unique pattern. 

Step 5

Unroll the T-shirt from the rod. The wet fabric may look very dark, but the color will be lighter when it dries.

Step 6

Hang the T-shirt and leave it to dry. Then iron it and you're ready to go! Nice work. 

Go Indigo

In this tutorial, you learned an easy shibori technique called "arashi". This method involves  wrapping cloth around a rod to create a storm-like pattern. You achieved this season's hottest indigo trend by using synthetic blue fabric dye. 

Now you know how to use the 'arashi' technique, you can try it on other white cotton fabrics, likes sheets, tablecloths and pillowslips. 

What other shibori projects would you like to learn? I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, you might like to learn more shibori techniques in the Tuts+ dedicated series. Let me know what you think!

Source: crafts.tutsplus.com