Geode dyeing is one of my favorite methods. It always makes for gorgeous fabrics. It’s also one of the most popular fabrics in my store – so I know I’m not the only one who likes it!
Tight tying is the key to making gorgeous geodes. If your first piece isn’t quite what you hoped, don’t be discouraged. It took me a few tries before I got the hang of it too. Don’t give up! Soon you’ll be making some absolutely amazing pieces of fabric!
- Latex or rubber gloves
- Dust mask
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Washable marking tool
- Artificial waxed sinew
- Draining rack (like a cooling rack or coated wire shelving)
- Large plastic tub
- Soda ash
- Procion MX fiber reactive dye powder
- Cotton Prepared for Dyeing (PFD) fabric
- Synthrapol (professional detergent) or other laundry detergent
Optional: Prewash your Prepared For Dyeing (PFD) fabric in hot water with detergent. Do not use fabric softener or any other additives. This will prevent the dye from working properly. I say this is optional because I have found that as long as I’m using PFD fabric I haven’t needed to prewash.
I really do recommend getting PFD fabric. Regular quilting fabric has lots of additives like starches or fabric softener which may make it nice to sew with but not so great for dyeing. I’ve had mixed results with simply washing regular fabric – sometimes it takes the dye nicely, other times not so much. It’s just easier to buy the ready to go fabric and jump right in!
For this particular method I also recommend getting the batik weight fabric. It’s a tighter, thinner weave than regular quilting cotton which makes it a little bit easier to tie it tightly which is how you get those amazing white rings. You can still use regular cotton – it’s just a little big harder to pull the sinew tightly enough.
When cutting your piece make sure to cut extra to allow for the shrinkage that occurs during the dyeing process. While every fabric is different, I’ve found that my fabric tends to shrink more than they claim. I cut my pieces at least 8% larger than the finished size I need.
Just trust me, it’s better to cut what you think is too much in case it shrinks more than you expect. (I’ve learned this the hard way.) Better to have leftover fabric than a piece too small to use in your project.
Use a washable marking tool to mark a dot where you want the center of your geode rings. For my fat quarters I usually do two.
Pinch up at the dot and pull a little extra fabric up on one side. This gives it an irregular shape. If you just pull a pinch you’ll end up with a circle and geodes look better when they’re an irregular shape.
Wrap the waxed sinew several times around the tip of the fabric until it pulls snug on itself. If you’re having trouble keeping the sinew from slipping off you can start by tying a slip knot instead.
It’s important that you not pull the single strand of sinew or you could hurt your hand. Grip the whole roll to pull tightly.
Again in the next section you want to pull some extra fabric up on one side to keep making those irregularly shaped circles.
Wrap the sinew ½” to 1″ away from the last tie. The closer you tie each section, the closer together all those rings will be on your finished piece. Wrap the sinew two to three times, pulling snug after each revolution. Then pull the sinew as tightly as you can without breaking the sinew.
Continue wrapping each section of fabric in the same way until you are about halfway to the other dot (or dots, if you’re tying up a larger piece). Cut the sinew, leaving a bit of a tail.
Continue tying up the rest of the dots in the same way. When you finish tying up the last section there will be some leftover fabric. Tie up all the leftover fabric so the whole piece is tied before cutting the sinew. When finished my fat quarters look a bit like a wonky Y.
Remember to wear your protective gloves and mask whenever working with chemicals or dyes!
Make the soda ash solution in a large bucket by combining 1 cup of soda ash per gallon of cool water. Allow the solution to fully dissolve before use.
Soak the tied fabric for approximately 15 minutes then squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can. Place the fabric on top of a draining rack. If you’re dyeing multiple pieces make sure not to stack them more than two or three high or the dye will have trouble getting through all that fabric.
Sprinkle the dye over the fabric. You’ll want to use about 1 tsp of dye per yard of fabric. Make sure you don’t leave any large white areas of fabric. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of white despite how it looks.
Layer ice a few inches thick over the top. Let sit for at least 24 hours.
When you use waxed sinew some of that wax works its way into the fabric creating a bit of a batik effect. That’s good because that’s part of how we get those amazing white rings. It does however slightly complicate the rinsing process because we need to remove that bit of wax. Since it’s a little more in-depth I’ve written it up in a separate post – read how to fully remove the wax here.
Want to make something using these fabrics but not sure what? Check out my Geode Dye + Quilt Pattern Collection!