DIYdiy projects

DIY Shibori Designs 4 Ways

by Brett

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. Be sure to wash and fully dry before using.

-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


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.


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.


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



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.




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.

Suggested For You


  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

    • I would imagine that you could achieve the same sized squares with a larger piece of fabric simply by folding it more times. The dye usually seeps through lots of layers to colour the middle. If you are worried about this, keep the fabric in the dye overnight so the colour can fully transfer. Good luck x

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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!

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

    • Yes, you can use other fabric dyes for Shibori.
      For plant fibers like cotton, rayon, wool and hemp, use Procion Fiber Reactive Dyes
      For silk, wool and nylon, use Acid Dyes
      You can also use iDye for natural fabrics and polyester.

      Dharma Trading Company http://www.dharmatrading.com has numerous kits for beginners and they are very helpful on the phone. Many art stores sell Jaquard kits for tie dying and other fabric dying.

      Do a Google Image Search on shibori or my favorite, arashi shibori. (which is what Taylor is referring to in her comment.) The designs are amazing. I found that my first try at arashi shibori with an old 100% cotton sheet and some random dye colors and a piece of PVC pipe and string came out great.

      For those commenters who are having a hard time visualizing Diane Cavallero’s description of tying knots over a pattern of nails, it is similar to traditional Japanese kanoko shibori or miura shibori:
      with a simpler method using a chopstick or toothpick here:

  • 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). :)

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Whatever we choose to call it, the patterns are beautiful and this site is encouraging to those of us who are new to dyeing of any kind. Hope you are in a happier place now than you were when you responded. One Love!

  • 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

  • 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. :)


    • Actually, we had a Shibori indigo workshop at my quilt shop last weekend and this is the exact same process the instructor followed. And she spent weeks in Japan learning the technique.
      This is not “tie dye” in the traditional sense.

  • 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!

    • You are so right! Sometimes techniques need to be altered to achieve the Shibori look. I spent a lot of time hand-stitching half-circles on my white folded cotton fabric with embroidery thread, and after dying, the design could barely be seen in the dark blue fabric. I probably need a thicker thread for sewing.

  • try this: Pound nails into a board in a pattern you wish to make in small tight circles – an example would be a geometric pattern like a diamond repeat or a zig zag (there are infinite possibilities). Ideally create a pattern that is a repeat (where the pattern ends on one side it can continue on the next)… if the cloth is folded such that it is the same size as the pattern block, you can get a nice closely spaced repeat.. Then lay the folded cloth over the nails (folded into several accordion-ed sections) and tie the pattern into the cloth using waxed thread, wrapping it round the nails just under the nail heads to keep the cloth in place. Wrap tightly! You can achieve a very nice imitation of the original Japanese shibori technique this way. You get a mirrored repeat of the pattern down the length of the fabric this way. The effect of the tiny circles is very nice. In Japan, shibori cloth is not ironed, so that the bumpy texture of the original process is clearly evident.

    • gosh I guess im being thick but i’m not getting what you mean!
      nails in a circle? Diamond repeat – on one side? I even asked my husband to explain in case i was missing something really simple – but no – he was none the wiser! If you have time and/or the inclination, would you please add some simple diagrams to explain the process? I would like to be able to practice this before working with a group of seniors, thanks!
      kind regards, Peta

      • My interpretation of the directions is to imagine a square board. Circle nails in a perfect circle. Place fabric over the nail head side and wrap floss around each individual nail head to create a circle with white rings at each circle head once dyed. The double diamond…same theory but it would be a rectangle, one diamond stacked on top of another…I could be wrong,

  • Diane, I love your idea, but I’m having a hard time visualizing the process. do you have any photos?

  • I was thinking of shibori on a plain white cotton duvet cover. how do you go about dying something so large? is it even possible? thanks, beautiful work.

  • in the process of trying this diy!!

    for all who have wondered- it DOES in fact stain your porcelain sink.. counter top.. floors..! even the indigo in powder form stains instantly.

    so– be careful, lay down some protective covering, and if you get the dye anywhere, a magic eraser will do the trick!!!

  • Is this dye toxic to skin or the environment? How should it be disposed of? Thanks.

  • Just to add to this as a professional dyer working with Japanese shibori techniques for the last 10 years and natural dyes.

    DO NOT USE THIS KIT AT HOME!! it calls for the use of a reducing agent called thiox that it comes with and what they don’t tell you is that it is extremely toxic as there are no laws yet in this area that you can not sell this to the general public.

    Indigo does not break down in water. To do this you need to reduce it. There are natural organic ways to do this, however many places and people who don’t know or are not required do not disclose how toxic the reducing agent if a chemical is used is, there are no laws as of yet – they will hopefully come into place with DIY movements in this area.

    Indigo comes from a plant yes! It is a beautiful and magical dye and there are completely organic, natural ways of using it to reduce it. Please do diligence and make sure you are not buying the indigo that comes with chemical additives like this kit above. Take a class with a professional to learn natural and organic ways that are safe.
    Things are getting green-washed similar to food and cleaning products as things get popular.

    It’s great that more people are aware of shibori and stories like these and as someone who is well educated and worked with many thought leaders in this field around the world, there are arguments for terms, shibori/tie dye etc. these sometimes yes are interchangeable, the historical context and geographic location is important in determining.

    Traditionally indigo is used quite a bit in shibori, but it is definitely not the end all determining factor. Shibori is the technique, the type of dye is not a factor. Safflower dye for instance was used in shibori just as much and many other dyes.

    This has been what the general public will associate shibori with and is very much a great pair and common for traditional Japanese practices for sure, especially in places like Arimatsu.

    Shibori you are correct is a Japanese technique of resist dyeing and has very specific designs and techniques that are similar but not like others. It would be like calling an oil painting a digital print for example.

    The best way to refer to types of techniques if you are unsure in what term specifically to use is resist-dyeing that encompasses all of the terms basically.

    Depending on the style of the design/technique and area in the world, there are different languages and terminology and is important that we pass along the proper info for sure to help keep these traditions thriving globally.

    But this is fantastic that more people are getting interested anyway and glad to see people are loving resist dyeing.

    I would suggest The world shibori network for correct reputable further information.

    Dye your stuff with Onion skins at home instead! Google. Learn indigo from a professional for safety first is my suggestion, but definitely try the techniques at home. Be safe :)

  • Definitely try out the posted techniques though! Those are great, just make sure you don’t use the indigo recipe that calls for Thiox :) Happy dyeing.

  • I just took this class at Brooklyn Craft Company and it was great. Everything I could have hoped for. Everyone in the class really had some amazing pieces.

  • very informative and step step of preparing the fabric is excellent.
    does the fabric bleed after dyeing?

  • Have recently done a shibori ‘taster’ using natural indigo, with a professional expert who has written a book on the subject. She told us that it was not the length of time that the cloth was left in the indigo that deepened the colour, but the number of times it was dipped, exposing it to the air for several minutes between each dip. All your examples show fold or bind techniques. Shibori traditionally used a lot of stitch. I used only a simple running stitch in straight lines, and the result was amazing. I did 2 dips with approximately 10 min exposure to air time in-between. Because the tight gathers kept the air away from the areas closest to the stitches, that produced white and blue patterned stitched areas, in strong contrast to the unstitched plain areas in-between which were exposed easily to the air so produced the deepest indigo blue. So simple but stunning.

    Having been a teacher I would say, don’t try this with kids, because its not the amount of dye that soaks into the fabric that counts, but the exposure to air. The fabric is kept away from oxygen when in the vat (reduction), but is exposed to oxygen when taken out (oxidisation). It relies on the oxygen to produce the depth of colour. This can be quite difficult as a beginner to ‘get your head around’. For kids I would stick to tie-dye using synthetic dyes. They would also enjoy the variety of colour and the magic of colours mixing to create new colours when over-dyed. If you want to use natural indigo with a group (of any age), and you are new to it yourself, hire a very experienced expert who will keep you safe and save disappointment and mess.

  • Going to try this with regular RIT royal blue dye and just leave it in for an hour for a deeper color. THEN I’ll graduate to this! Thanks for a great tutorial.

    • Yes much safer and cheaper to use RIT dye. I use a combination of Navy Blue and Aquamarine with great results. Until you get an understanding of how to do the shibori folding and resist techniques, and see the results, there is no need to use real indigo dye. The results can be magical, and really satisfying, with any color dye you choose.

  • Hello, I have a question! I would like to do this to a denim bag…do you have any tips on doing bags and how to fold? It’s a Denim Nena Beach Bag(If you want to google to see shape)