Did you know tie-dyeing is one of the oldest art forms known to man? It’s true! While cave paintings get a lot of credit, cultures around the world have been dyeing and patterning their fabrics for millenia. With this historical background in mind, today we will look at Shibori dyeing from Japan. From the root word shiboru, meaning to wring, squeeze, or press, Shibori has inspired designers from Comme des Garcons to Ulla Johnson, and now, you! Today, we will be trying three different shibori techniques, as defined below.
Purchase Materials Used Below:
Additional Materials Needed:
- Rubber Bands
- Flat Marbles
- Rubber Gloves
- Hot Plate or Stove
- Stainless Steel Cooking Pot (Cannot be used for food after!)
- Stainless Steel Tongs
- Wash Bin or Bucket
- Laundry Detergent
Kumo is a “pleat-and-bind” technique that results in a kaleidoscopic pattern. This technique is perhaps the most visually familiar to Western designers, as it is similar to typical Western tie-dyeing techniques.
Ne-Maki is a technique that involves wrapping small found objects to create small, star-like resist patterns.
Nui or Stitch Resist:
Nui, or Stitch Resist Shibori, produces patterns using basting stitches, sewn by hand over a small fold and then pulled tightly. Both random and highly controlled stitch lines produce dramatic, eye-catching patterns.
Traditionally, Shibori is done using indigo dye, first discovered in the Indian subcontinent. This resist-dyeing technique can be directly linked to the tie-dye craze of the 1960s, as well as many other resist dyes shown in Western clothing. Today, we will be using these dyes to create a dramatic wall hanging, which is the perfect beginner dye project and a great way to show off your dye skills.
While I am drawing inspiration and directions from historical and contemporary Japanese sources, it is important to acknowledge that this practice comes from a culture that is not my own. I am also doing a modified version of true, traditional shibori that can be done at home with supplies found within your kitchen. If you are inspired by Shibori dye and would like to learn more about authentic practices, I suggest Japanese sources, including the Kyoto Shibori Museum and World Shibori Network.
With that being said, let’s discover how you can transform your fabric!
Tip: Weigh your fabric before adding in any shibori dye elements in order to determine the correct measurements of dye and mordant (salt).
- Fold your fabric in half lengthwise, and in half lengthwise again. If you would like the “ombre” effect on either side like I did, fold in half widthwise.
- After folding, give yourself a generous pinch of fabric on one side. Twist a rubber band around it to make a small knob.
- Repeat this step, alternating either side to create a diagonal effect.
- Once you have all of your “knobs” ready, twist additional rubber bands around each knob to create long, spindly legs. You should be able to add 2-3 rubber bands here.
- Once your “legs” are created, add rubber bands within the center. I gave myself two widthwise and one lengthwise.
- Take a pebble and place it under your fabric. (If you don’t want to use gardening pebbles, you can grab your own from outside, or experiment with different found objects!)
- Wrap a rubber band around your pebble until it is secure.
- Repeat this step throughout the fabric. Experiment with different sizes of rubber bands to create different ring widths.
- If desired, draw or trace your stitch resist pattern onto your fabric. Since I chose a simple, more subtle pattern, I skipped this step.
- You can hand-baste each line in, or use the machine and stitch on the widest length. I suggest using a polyester thread to reduce the amount of dye absorbed by the thread.
- Once you have your desired pattern stitched, pull each thread as if gathering. Your stitch should be pulled as tight as it can go without breaking.
- Knot each thread on either side, so it stays put during the dye bath.
For the actual dyeing process, I followed the steps laid out here (PUT IN MY PREVIOUS DYE POST). Make sure to weigh the fabric beforehand. In this instance, I let the fabric soak in the dye for about 45 minutes.
Wash each fabric and make sure the water runs clear.
Here comes the fun part! To dry your fabric, take out all added shibori elements (IE rubber bands or stitches). Enjoy seeing your project come to life right before your eyes! To create the full wall hanging, I separated my 3 yards of cotton voile into one yard each (after they dried, of course), and stitched them together with the sateen to create a 5-yard hanging.
I definitely made some mistakes throughout the dyeing process (see if you can spot the areas where my threads broke!) but overall, I really enjoyed doing shibori dye, learning about the history, and seeing the fabric come to life. Plus, dyeing is all about experimentation and, in the eternal words of Bob Ross, there are only happy accidents! This process is a great way to upgrade your space, upcycle a T-shirt, or just experiment with different patterns and dye colors.
What dyeing technique would you like to see us try next? Let us know in the comments down below!