Learn how to easily ice tie dye geode patterns with this in-depth, step by step tutorial
Ice dyeing is really all the rage again these days but it has moved way beyond the basic scrunch dyes. Have you see some of the cool, new patterns and tie dye designs popping up?
One of these is called the geode tie dye which I made here so check out this fun and easy ice dyeing technique.
What is geode dyeing?
This is a super fun technique where you tie and dye fabric in such a way that it ends up looking like a geode rock formation.
If you use special artificial sinew thread which is coated with wax, you can make the ties tightly enough to keep the dye from getting underneath. This gives you lines that are the original color of the original shirt, mimicking a geode design.
- White or light colored shirt (s.a. cotton, linen, etc)
- Fiber Reactive Dyes
- Artificial Sinew
- Soda Ash or Washing Soda
- Old Salad Spinner ** OR
- Rack + plastic tub
- Ice cubes
- Dust Mask
- Old plastic spoons
- Table cover
- Synthrapol detergent
USE ONLY DEDICATED POTS AND PANS
ANY AND ALL equipment that you use for dyeing is no longer safe to use in the kitchen! (The only exception to this rule is if you use food coloring as dye.)
This includes: Pots and pans, microwave, crock pot, strainers, bowls, measuring cups, mixing cups and spoons, lids, scales.
When handling dry dye powder, place a dust mask over your nose and mouth to avoid breathing in the dye.
Note! Make sure you use Fiber Reactive Dyes specifically, not acid dye or anything you use on synthetic fibers.
You may be interested in my free guide Dyeing with Fiber Reactive Dyes for Beginners.
Geode dyeing basic steps:
Prepare your fabric
Before you begin, you will want to wash your shirts in hot water and detergent to remove any stains or oils. Even new shirts need to be washed to get rid of any sizing which will keep the dye from adhering. Then dry your shirts completely.
Next, dissolve about 1 cup of soda ash/washing soda into a gallon of water and submerge your fabrics. Let them soak for about 20 – 30 minutes.
After the soaking time, remove the fabric, wring or spin out the excess until it is just barely damp. You do not want a very wet shirt.
Turn your shirt inside-out and lay it flat on the table, the front facing up.
Note: I tightly wrapped my shirt in an old bath towel to absorb the excess moisture which worked great.
Tie the geode patterns
This part can be a little tricky but with some practice, you will quickly get the hang of it.
First, decide where you want the center of a geode to be and grabbing only the top layer, pinch that area and pull it up.
You want to begin tying your geode at the base (not the center) so decide where you want the base or outer part to be.
Wrap the end of your artificial sinew around your shirt but not tightly. Then wrap it around the same spot two more times and then pull it tight.
Pull it as tight as you can so no dye can migrate underneath. You want crisp white lines!
Note: You can feel the waxed thread ‘grab’ and sometimes you hear a pop.
Now keep creating wrapped sections anywhere from 1/2″ to 2″ in between to the end/center of the geode. You will want to scrunch this part as well or you end up with a circle.
Once you have finished tying this part, simply cut the sinew. The wax will hold the thread in place.
A couple of things to remember to make your geode lines look as organic as possible….
- Vary the width between your sinew lines
- Scrunch, rearrange and wrinkle your shirt between lines. The messier, the better!
- Be careful not to pull the thread between wraps too tightly or you will get a line in that spot. To avoid this, I place my thumb underneath.
Create more geodes
Continue tying your geode patterns all over the shirt, as many or as few as you want. There is no right or wrong here.
I had a lot of untied fabric in between my geodes, so I randomly wrapped the sinew around the middle to create more lines.
Apply the dyes
Now you are ready to apply your dye powder. For this shirt, I used the following colors:
Before you begin, you will want to open all of your dye containers and make sure you have a separate spoon for each color.
Place your tied shirt in the colander, arranging so it no part is covering another.
Now, pick a color and using your spoon, carefully apply it on a few places of your shirt. How much dye you need is one of those things I am not too sure about, honestly.
I just make sure each area that I want dyed is covered with powder, not too thinly.
Add all of your other colors, one at a time. Then, sprinkle a fine layer of soda ash on top of your dyes.
Add the ice cubes
Carefully, add your ice, slowly at first, beginning at the outer edge of your shirt. This will help to keep the dye powder in place.
Fill your container to the top with ice. Since my shirt is in the colander part of an old salad spinner, it will be suspended about 1/2″ from the bottom, keeping part of it “out of the muck”.
Some dyers prefer to place their project on a rack, completely out of the muck, while others like it to sit in the muck. Each technique gives you a somewhat different result. It’s just personal preference.
The “Muck” refers to the melted water/dye solution that accumulates at the bottom of your container.
Batch your tie dye
Batching means to “set” the dye which keeps it from washing out. As a general rule of thumb, you want to let your dyes “batch” for 24 hours after the ice melts.
If the location is cooler, let it batch longer. If it is warmer, it may not take as long. From my research, the longer it sits the better.
The temperature in my house was about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and I let my project sit for about 30 hours.
Rinse your shirt
After the appropriate batching time, carefully remove your shirt and rinse it under cold water until the water runs pretty clear. Most importantly in this step is that you remove all of the soda ash before you unwrap your shirt.
Otherwise, any leftover soda ash can bind with leftover dye and discolor the white lines you worked so hard to create!
Once the water runs clear, you can unwrap the sinew and then continue rinsing until the water runs clear again.
Finally, pop your shirt in the washing machine and wash it with hot water (separately) and Synthrapol detergent. This will help to set the dyes and keep them from bleeding.
Note the turquoise areas in the green, these are where the dyes “split”. This happens because they are not pure colors but mixtures of different colors.
I hope you will give this geode tie dye technique a try! It is super fun and rewarding. And while tying the artificial sinew does take some practice, the hardest part of the whole project is waiting for 24 or more hours to unwrap your present!
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What string do you use for geode tie dye?
The best string I have found for this technique is the artificial deer sinew that I used for this shirt. While researching this method, I also saw that people worked with regular waxed thread and even waxed dental floss.
I tried both and was not successful. The dental floss broke and the waxed thread could not be pulled tightly enough to keep the dye from migrating underneath.
How long does it take to geode dye?
To prepare your fabric takes a little bit of time. You have to wash your shirts in the washing machine as well as soak it in soda ash.
As I mentioned above, the most time consuming part of ice dyeing in general is letting it “batch” or sit while wet with dye.
The general rule of thumb is to let your piece batch for 24 or more hours after the ice has melted. You do not want to let your piece dry out during this time. You may add more ice, if you want.
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- Dyeing with Fiber Reactive Dyes (Beginner’s Guide)
- Bleaching various Tie Dye Patterns
- How to Host a Tie Dye Party
- Ice Dyeing on Cotton
- How to Snow Dye
- Shibori Dyeing Tea Towels
- Making Fabric Dye with Acorns
- Reverse Tie Dyeing with Bleach
- Tie Dye a Heart Shape
- Accordion Folding Tie Dye
- Geode Tie Dyeing Technique (Ice Dyed)