Tutorial: Tie-Dye Caftan Cover-up

by This is Carrie on June 18, 2012

If you can sew a straight line, it’s easy to turn a dingy bathroom towel into a fun, summer swim cover-up using the Tulip Tie Dye Kit. Replace those hooded towels with a updated “Swim Caftan” for the girls and (without the tie), a “Swim Poncho” for a boys

For the tie, I used a piece of Bandhani fabric my girlfriend brought me from India years ago.  They take tie-dying to a whole new level. Check out this video of the tedious process.  To make a tie that’s super easy, use a ribbon or a piece of knit fabric (doesn’t need hemming!).

Here’s how:

-1  towel
-1 Tulip Tie-Dye Kit
-Tulip Surface Cover

In the Tulip Tie-Dye kit you will find everything you need for successful classic tie dying, ombre dying or free hand dying:
-dye bottles
-dye – this kit came with basic rainbow colors, but there are other color combos available.
-lots of rubber bands
-gloves (I prefer fitted latex gloves instead of the loose plastic ones that come in the kit)
-instruction guide

STEP 1: Mix your dyes

Like I said before, my kit was the basic rainbow colors, but I was hoping to make a cover-up to match my daughter’s swimsuit which is far from rainbow-colored.  So, I pulled out some extra condiment squeeze bottles (found at Smart & Final) and started mixing until I got the colors I wanted. Remember, when mixing colors, the final result will always be lighter than the dye, especially if you do not plan to let it set the full 6-8 hours as suggested by the product guide.  Also, depending on the size of your towel and color placement, you may need to mix up the extra dye to get full coverage.

Step 2: Tie-dye your towel

There are so many tie-dye options: ombre, stripe, swirl, bullseye, crumple. I finally decided on a multi-color, folded stripe pattern.  I wanted the colors to bleed into each other, so I started with a damp towel. Before you pull out the dye bottles, make sure to throw down a plastic surface cover. I also layered in some paper towels to soak up excess dye. Accordion fold along the width of the towel and secure with rubber bands at a few spots on each end.  Apply dye to the towel. Try to match the placement of the rubber bands and the dye from end to end so the stripes will be continuous on the finished product.

Wrap in plastic to keep moist and let sit 6-8 hours, or for as long as you have the patience.  The longer it sets, the more vibrant the colors. As per the dye instructions, rinse with warm water to remove excess dye then wash in warm water with a little detergent and dry as normal.

Step 3: Make the Swim Caftan Cover Up

Cut your towel into two even pieces along the length. Finish the cut edge with a serge or a zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine.

With right sides together, sew the long raw edges together leaving an opening in the center 13″ long (this becomes the neck hole).

Turn under the neck edge and topstitch.

Sew underarm seam leaving an 11″ opening for the arm.

If you’re making it for a little guy in your life, call it a swim poncho and you’re finished!

If you’d like to add a tie, sew buttonholes 10″ down from shoulder and 8″ from center on both front and back (sew buttonholes through single layers of towel).

Make a tie out of fabric, ribbon or a piece of knit fabric dyed at the same time as the towel. Thread through buttonholes and tie!

Want more tie dye inspiration, tutorials and much more? Connect with iLoveToCreate.com on TwitterFacebook & Pinterest too.

Tulip Tie Dye Kits are available at Walmart, Walmart Canada, Michaels, JoAnn, A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, Hancock Fabrics, Meijer. Tie dye kit contents and colors may vary by store.

Find my disclosure here.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky @ runfundone June 18, 2012 at 9:43 am

Love it! Now I just need to find a small child to make one for!


Tonia June 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm

What a great summer project for my girls this week! Thanks!


Nicole June 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm

What a clever idea! Learning to sew is on my To Do list – once I get around to learning I’ll have to attempt this project. Thanks :)


Allyson June 18, 2012 at 5:20 pm

This is so adorable!


Brittney May 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

One suggestion. Instead of cutting the towel in half length wise and cutting and etc,twhy not just fold it in half by its width and cut a line down the middle and make a seam there?


www.norml.es August 26, 2014 at 3:48 am

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Added this on wall, very useful!


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