How to Tie-dye a Geode Pattern

Tied multi geode shirt, before and after it was opened up.

The geode technique can help you create all sorts of ring shapes. Like the name indicates, you can make designs that resemble geodes, but you can also make anything from small polka dots to large concentric circles.

You can vary the number of rings, their size and their shape. Using the geode technique is very simple; loop a length of cord around a bundle of fabric. The tight binding will leave an uncolored area under the cord. For the best results, try using specialized cordage in the form of artificial sinew which let’s you make extremely tight knots.

This technique probably comes from a similar shibori technique used to create multiple small rings on a piece of fabric. The geode has now evolved to make a great diversity of different shapes. From polka dots to large, shirt spanning rings, you can use this versatile binding technique any way you like. You will need strong cordage to wrap tightly around the shirt. The preferred material for this is artificial sinew or flat waxed thread which can withstand a lot of pressure and can make very tight knots.

Table of Contents

Folding a geode

The most common way to use the geode technique is by first laying a slightly damp shirt flat on a table. You will then take your thread and bind sections of the shirt tightly. One popular method is to bind multiple times on the same section to create concentric rings. A nice trick to use is to be careful how you use your thread. The most efficient way is to use a single continuous length of cord and to tie in a way in which you can easily remove the cord without cutting it.

The simplest way to tie-dye a geode shirt is to first lay a slightly damp shirt flat on a table. Grab a handful of fabric and work it into an elongated lump on which you can tie multiple rings. Using your cord, start making a loop around the lump of fabric. Wrap the cord multiple times around the same point, each time making the loop tighter. When the loop is tight enough, tie it and start coiling the cord around another point on the same lump of fabric. Continue looping and binding the cord, grabbing new lumps of fabric to tie up as you go.

The process can be done repeatedly as many times as you wish, continue until you are satisfied with the number of lumps and the number of loops. You can vary the number of rings, their size and their shape. You can make round or crooked rings depending on how you bunch the fabric lump prior to binding it. You can choose to make many rings, just like you can choose to make a few large rings, the choice is up to you and many different methods all can make for a pretty design.

Blank shirt in the beginning stages of being tied using the Geode tie-dye technique.
Blank shirt in the last stages of being tied using the Geode tie-dye technique.
Blank shirt tied using the geode tie-dye technique.

Dyeing a geode

There are many ways to dye a shirt that’s been folded and bound using the geode method. The easiest way is to simply cover the shirt in dye, which will give it a nice uniform color, leaving only white rings where the sinew was tied. You can also choose to use multiple colors to achieve crazy contrast and effects.

The most common method is slightly more involved and requires that you use different shades of color at different points on the geode. This will make for a very interesting effect where each ring is its own explosion of color and can resemble natural mineral formations and can look similar to actual geodes. To achieve this effect, simply pour a different color dye between each section of cord. Alternate colors with each loop for maximum contrast.

Shirt folded using the geode technique, in the first stages of being dyed.
Shirt folded using the geode technique, being dyed using brown dye.
Shirt folded using the geode technique, in the last stages of being dyed.

Advanced geode

The most advanced version of the geode is the kenney style, which can feature hundreds of individual rings on a single piece of fabric. Named after the famous tie-dye artist Paul Kenney. This technique is similar to the geode, but pushed to the maximum. Your goal here is to tie as many knots as you can on the shirt. The knots should be very small to accommodate as many as possible on a small area. This is without doubt one of the hardest technique to learn and to master.

The folding process is strenuous and takes hours to complete. The dyeing process is very precise and particular. You should also note that for making a proper kenney style you need to use fishing line as your cordage, which can be very challenging to tie. This technique is often reserved for veteran tie-dye artists, but you can try your hand if you wish. It is my belief that no technique is out of reach if you try hard enough and have the dedication to learn and practice.

One of the most interesting thing you can do with the geode technique is to use it as part of a multi-pattern. For this you will need to tie-dye a shirt with any technique you like and then redye the shirt using the geode technique, dyeing the whole surface with black dye. This method will leave rings with the original pattern of color instead of white rings.

Geode patterns

Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Geode pattern.


Completed tie-dye shirt made using the Mini Geodes pattern.

Mini Geodes