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Part 1: What is Shibori Dyeing?

I’ve been hand-dyeing fabric for several years. I can’t remember exactly when I got started, but I just remember being immediately drawn to how a plain piece of cloth could be transformed into unique patterns simply by tying, scrunching or binding fabric before submerging it in dye.  

Tie-dyeing, one of the most popular shibori dyeing methods is often seen in fashion and home decor trends.   Tie-dyeing is how I started experimenting with hand dyeing, although at the time, I did not know I was actually using a shibori technique!   

 Example of Shibori hand dyed fabric using a tie dye technique Example of shibori hand dyed technique using clamping Example of shibori dyed fabric using two dyes

 

Shibori, meaning “wring, squeeze  or press”  is a Japanese manual resist dyeing technique. Depending on how you bind the fabric (i.e. fold, twist, stitch or clamp), that area will resist the dye, resulting in unique and distinct patterns.  No matter how much you “plan your design” and follow a consistent technique, you never know what the end result will be.  The patterns produced are often surprising.  That is what I love most about Shibori dyeing - it’s a feeling of excitement that I get when opening a dyed folded fabric packet to see what amazing pattern it will reveal!

I prefer to dye 100% cotton or cotton muslin fabric, but other fabrics that can also be dyed include silk, chiffon, satin, wool felt and lightweight wool.  

Common Shibori Techniques

There are many ways to do Shibori dyeing, thus the ability to produce a vast variety of patterns.  In this post, I will provide an overview of 3 common techniques.  

Itajime is an umbrella term for clamp-resist dyeing techniques and is the technique that I’ve used the most. The traditional approach involves folding and clamping fabric in a precise manner in order to get an even pattern.  My process is inspired by Itajime, but I tend to fold/clamp fabric in a less precise way which often produces very unique and inconsistent patterns, which I love! 

Example of shibori itijime, resist dyeing technique

Stitching and gathering is another way to make unique patterns on dyed fabric.  With this technique, (called “ori nui”), the fabric is hand stitched on the edge of a fold.  Making several of these stitched lines across the fabric, creates a resist when submerged in a dye bath.  Once dried and ironed, opening the stitching will reveal a unique pattern (in a future post, I'll show you the end result after the fabric is dyed!). 

 This shibori technique involves binding fabric with stitch before dyeing Example of a shibori technique where the fabric is gathered and hand stitched

 

Binding is the simplest and oldest technique for dyeing fabric. Sections of the fabric are bound using elastic bands before submerging in dye.  You can bind your fabric in random sections, or plan a consistent design.  The elastic bands create a resist which will reveal a circular pattern.  Tie dyeing is a form of this binding technique.  

 

Shibori technique that uses elastic bands to bind the fabric
Example of a simple binding shibori technique

Stay tuned for future blog posts, where I will go more in depth and show you how to do these techniques or variations of them. 

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