DIY Project: Shibori Designs 4 Ways

diy_shibori_designs

By now most of us are familiar with shibori, a type of dyeing that’s having its moment in the trend spotlight. But did you know that shibori is surprisingly easy (and very fun) to DIY? Here at Brooklyn Craft Company, we’ve been doing a ton of shibori dyeing lately, preparing for the shibori workshop that will be part of our upcoming Summer Craft Camp event… and it’s been so addictive and fascinating that I thought we’d share a little how-to with you today. Let’s get started!  —Brett Bara

About Shibori

Shibori is a Japanese dyeing technique that typically involves folding, twisting or bunching cloth and binding it, then dyeing it in indigo. Whatever is used to bind the fabric will resist the dye, resulting in areas of the cloth that take the distinctive blue dye in patterns created by the resistance, and other areas of the cloth that remain white. Shibori is a very vast technique and there are tons of ways to do it (and a truly infinite number of patterns you can create), but in this post we’re going to look at two methods: using wood blocks and rubber bands to bind and resist the dye.

 

What You’ll Need

-We really like this indigo dyeing kit, which contains everything you need to do a shibori project. If you don’t go the kit route, you’ll need indigo dye, wood blocks, rubber bands and rubber gloves.

-Items to dye: Only natural fibers will accept dye, so be sure to steer away from synthetics. You can choose to dye simple fabric yardage which you can then make into anything at all, or you can dye ready-made fabric items like clothing, curtains, duvets – the sky’s the limit! For the most traditional shibori look, go with solid white fabric. Cotton responds really well to indigo dye, so cotton is a great choice for your first attempts.

-You’ll also need a large container to mix the dye in (one with an air-tight lid is ideal if you want to keep the dye longer than a day, as oxygen will kill the indigo dye), and if you’re working indoors, you’ll want some plastic drop cloths to protect your surfaces from the dye. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space in which to dye, that’s the way to go!

 

The Shibori Dyeing Process

shibori_water

Start by mixing your indigo dye according to the package directions. Be aware that indigo dye is affected by exposure to oxygen, so try to keep the container covered as much as possible, and avoid stirring it aggressively or splashing it, which will introduce oxygen to the liquid.

You’ll need to fold and bind your fabric before proceeding with the dye; see below for several folding options.

Once you’ve folded your fabric, it’s time to dye! First, soak your folded and bound fabric in water, then squeeze it out.

shibori_dyedip

Now, gently submerge your fabric in the dye. Most fabric will float, so you have to hold in under the surface with your hands or possibly weigh it down (but be aware that if your dye has been sitting for any length of time there may be sediment on the bottom of the container, and it’s a good idea to avoid resting your fabric in the sediment. So it’s often best to just hold the fabric under the surface of the liquid with your hands).

You can soak your fabric for almost any length of time; we found that 10 minutes is usually a good bet. You would think that in 10 minutes, the dye would completely soak through all layers of fabric and dye the whole piece solid blue, but it doesn’t! The layers of folded fabric, along with the wood, rubber bands, or whatever binding method you’re using, will prevent the dye from thoroughly soaking the fabric. Outer edges will take on the dye, but inner areas will not – and that’s what creates the pattern.

The best thing to do when you’re just starting is to dye a bunch of test swatches of fabric to get a feel for the results you’ll get from different types of folds and various dyeing times. You can try soaking a piece for one, ten, and twenty minutes to see the results that will produce. Short soaks result in thin lines of blue with lots of distinct white space, and longer soaks result in more blue and more bleeding of the blue onto the white.

shibori_greendye

Here’s the cool part – when you remove your fabric from the indigo dye, your fabric will be yellow-green, not blue! That’s normal. Just let the fabric sit out in the air for a few minutes, and as it oxidizes, it will turn from green to the distinctive indigo blue. You can let it oxidize while it’s still folded, or you can unfold it now before it oxidizes. If you leave it folded while it oxidizes, the dye will continue to soak into the fabric, and you’ll have more bleeding in your finished piece. If you unfold it now, you’ll see less bleeding in the finished piece.

It can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to 20 minutes for your piece to fully oxidize, so just hang out and watch your design emerge! During this time, the dye will continue to bleed a tiny bit, and the color will deepen – so you can never fully know exactly what result you’ll get, which is part of the fun.

Once your piece has oxidized, all that’s left to do is rinse your fabric in water, squeeze it out, and let it dry.

Now let’s take a look at four different folding methods you can try:

Square Accordion Fold

shibori_square_design shibori_rectangle_design

Fold the fabric lengthwise, accordion-style, to make a long strip. Then fold this strip again, accordion-style, to make a square or rectangle. (Tip: if you plan your folds so that you have 1-2” of fabric overhang beyond the wood blocks you’ll get lots of chunky blue sections in your finished piece. If you plan your folds so that the folded piece is the same size or smaller than your wood blocks, you’ll only get thin lines of blue and lots of white space.)
Place one wood block on either side of the folded fabric, and secure with two rubber bands per side. You don’t have to worry about securing the wood blocks very heavily or compressing the fabric a lot – even a light rubber band hold will be plenty to block out the dye.

 

Triangle Accordion Fold

shibori_triange_design shibori_triangle_design

Fold the fabric lengthwise into a long strip (for this pattern, starting with a wide strip results in larger, more distinct triangles). Then, fold the strip again in triangles, accordion-style.
Lightly secure one rubber band on each corner, trying not to scrunch the fabric too much. Then just place it in the dye as is – no wood pieces are necessary for this one. Believe it or not, even without wood blocks, the folded fabric will resist the dye, and the triangle pattern will emerge. (Magic, right?!)

 

Fan Fold

shibori_fan_design

shibori_fan_design_2

To create a diagonal fan pattern, fold the fabric accordion-style, with all folds originating from one corner of the fabric. Once this fan shape has been created, fold the fabric again accordion-style, creating a messy-square type shape. Place the square wood blocks over the messy folded shape and secure with rubber bands, then proceed to dye.

 

Rings

shibori_round_design

To make an abstract ring pattern, simply bunch up a small wad of fabric anywhere on your larger fabric piece, and place a rubber band around it. The areas covered by the rubber bands will create small, abstract rings of white.

Amy

I’m so excited to try this! How do you recommend disposing of the dye once you’re finished? Will it stain a ceramic or porcelain sink?

Nina

Super tutorial! I LOVE Shibori. This actually looks like it could be fun to do with kids.

Kristy

This is awesome! If you totally fall in love with this beautiful technique and want to go further, check out Modern Color by Kim Eichler. Kim uses this method to create custom fabric for quilts.

Jenn

If you are using your own indigo, you will need a reducing agent (i.e. thiourea dioxide) to get rid of the oxygen in the vat. You’ll know the indigo is ready when the vat is a yellow-green color.

nadine

Any particular kind of wood block? The kit does not have them that i can see.

Christy

Does it matter what size your piece of fabric is? If your fabric is longer in width and length does that mean that your pattern eg. squares will be larger. If so how do you get smaller squares etc. on large pieces of fabric. Hope that makes sense.

Aidel.K

Great tutorial! The photos are really helpful.

Bridget from Refined Vintage

Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to try it out. I may dye a white skirt that I already have.
To Answer Christy- I think if you make more folds( making your rectangle as small as possible) you should have a smaller square pattern.

Helen Neale

To find if your vat has reached the right shade of green/yellow use a small syringe to take a sample. This does not disturb the vat and is very easy to view (Taught me by Roy Russell)

Jesse

I love this! Especially the Indigo color. It’s like a tidier form of tie dye :)

homeMADEhome

No salt necessary as in regular dyeing to “set” colour?? Thnx

Peaches

So coooool!!!!! Thanks for going to the trouble of making animated GIFS…I have been trying to get that block binding technique in my head for a while…just never mad eit until now. Thanks for spelling it out!

Julie

Is Shibori traditionally indigo, or can it be made from other fabric dyes the same way?

Taylor :)

Another way to do Shibori that allows you to be stingy (economical with dye) is to first wrap fabric around a tin can. Wrap twine tightly around the fabric all the way down the can (space it however you like to create different proportions of blue to white, the twine acts as a mask, so the twine covered parts will be white). Then scrunch the fabric and twine up and down the can so it is bunched up. Then simply paint your dye on or even use textile paint if that’s what you have. You can also layer the depths of blue with this by retting he twine after it dries initially. This gives a beautiful striated pattern, and gives you a lot of control over the pattern (and saves supplies which is friendly to your craft budget). :)

Eva @ Sycamore Street Press

Love your techniques here — especially the folded one, so nice! I just dyed a curtain shibori-style last week to use in my booth at the stationery show. (I have a shibori-inspired paper collection launching, so I wanted to coordinate…) I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of blue and white. Always so fresh.

Lauren Sutherland

As a true Shibori artist for over 25 years, this makes me want to smash my head into a desk. This is Tie Dye, NOT Shibori and especially not Arashii Shibori which is the description that you gave.

kary

I love this! I’ve noticed that DIY is one of the new trends now, and I’m eager to have that for summer outfit. I’m gonna try these designs at home.

Maybe you could also try to visit my site, just click the name below. Thanks! :)
kary jane

Brett Bara

Lauren,

As a hot trend right now, I’m sure the current usage of the term “shibori” has evolved a bit from what you may have seen over 25 years, but I see tie dye as being different than what this post covers, and different than what the design world currently refers to as shibori. In my experience, tie dye typically includes using many colors of dye and methods of tying or bunching the fabric that produce that distinctive starburst look, whereas what we’re doing here is inspired more specifically by shibori in that it only uses indigo dye and the fabric is folded and bound with wood (which is not a typical tie dye technique).

(As an aside, we didn’t refer to our technique as Arashii at all; isn’t Arashii typically done by wrapping the fabric around a pole?)

I’ve definitely seen over my career that there are no rights and wrongs with hand crafts but rather quite a spectrum as to how different techniques are defined or categorized. Thank you for your comment, I’m sure you’re right that there is MUCH more to true shibori than what we covered here, but I also think we gave a fair beginner-level look at how to achieve a shibori look at home. :)

Brett

Missy @ TheCraft.co

Great tutorial and use of gifs! I just wrote a similar post on my craft blog showcasing different techniques and their corresponding traditional shibori name.

In my experience though, simply tying the elastic bands around the fabric was not strong enough to resist the dye. I used industrial strength clips and rope to get the effect I wanted or else the dye would bleed through and look like a great big blob!

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