Exploring Fabric Dyeing : Shibori : DIY

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Beautiful Textile by Naoko
So, I recently discovered the art of Shibori Dying! It is a technique for "tie-dying" fabric that is go-o-orgeous! I've actually seen this type of fabric treatment many times, I just didn't know that it had a special name or that it had quite a history behind it.

Briefly, it is an ancient Japanese fabric dying technique utilizing different things to bind or resist the fabric. It was originally used by the poor to prolong the life of clothing; when something got stained or faded or worn, the people would use the Shibori techniques to refresh their clothing. It has since become a very exact art. Some examples of Shibori art are just stunning. I've included a couple of photos that I think are exceptional.

You can read more about the art and history of Shibori in these books.*
Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing
Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now
Shibori Designs & Techniques

I decided that I needed to try out some simple Shibori dying myself since I had a few items that I felt needed a little oomph! There is definitely a learning curve to it, I had some great results, some meh results, and a couple WTh results, lol.

Here we go, let me know if you have questions!!!

There are a variety of props, so to speak, that you can find around the house to use for the different techniques. I used:
A PVC style pipe, about 3" in diameter and about 14" long - easy to find at Home Depot or the like.
A bunch of 1" binder clips - like these: Medium Binder Clips, Steel Wire, 5/8" Cap., 1-1/4" Wide, Black/Silver, 36/Pack
Rubber bands - these are perfect: BAZIC Assorted Dimensions 227g/0.5 lbs. Rubber Bands, Multi Color (465-48P)
Cotton twine - or similar: Regency Natural Cooking Twine 1/2 Cone 100% Cotton
Two 5" wood squares - you can cut your own or buy pre-cut from a craft store.
A large bucket (I actually used one of those Ikea storage buckets)
Rit Dye - I used these: Rit Dye Powdered Fabric Dye, Black & Taupe
~or~ Indigo dye - this is the one I'm buying next: Jacquard Indigo Tie Dye Kit (Mini)

Wrapping & Binding
I tried several binding and resisting techniques for different pieces, thinking about what might work best for each. I honestly hadn't done tons of research about "how" best to do these techniques (I'm way too impatient for that, lol) so this was pretty much trial and error. The Shibori Wiki has great explanations.

1. Arashi Shibori or pole wrapping. I used a pretty short pole because a) it's all I had and b) my bucket was pretty small, so wrapping was a challenge. I had to wrap the string around super tightly and push the material down many times because I kept running out of pole! The whole shirt barely fit in the end, but I squeezed it on, lol. --you could also use rubber bands, but that's a LOT of banding to do.
My plain, white, blah shirt I never wore.

String tied tightly onto one end of wrapped shirt.

It was difficult with only two hands and a short pole to get it all wrapped up. It needs to be tight too!

2. Kumo Shibori - this is loosely a kumo shibori really, which is a pleated and bound technique. I kinda used some found objects to bind with. :)
Another plain, white, boring shirt... why do I keep buying these? lol.

The pleating process... which, btw, I think I did wrong. See below for Mistakes & Lessons Learned.

Folding over once, then again to make a "pleated" shape.

Binder clips! I thought it seemed appropriate, since I was "binding" the cloth for dying. ;)

I decided it needed more, so I wrapped some rubberbands in between the binder clips.

3. I'm not sure what technique this would fall under, I really wanted to try and get a ombre look but binding and dip dying the legs of the pants.
Some cropped linen pants that were just a little too see-thru!

I wrapped rubberbands at intervals around the legs of the pants (that I'd just bunched up with my hands) spacing them with the thought of getting an ombre effect with the dye when I dipped the legs only into the vat.

4. Ne-Maki Shibori - this technique is used a lot by wrapping the bands or ties around stones or other objects inside the fabric. I didn't do that, I just used rubberbands sort of modern tie-dye style.
A short white skirt that I never wore (and still don't, it's too short), but it made for a great practice piece.

I scattered the rubberbands around, a little to far in between it turns out, and double and triple-stacked some up.

5. Itajime Shibori - This was the original technique that I fell in love with and had in mind to try at first. It's accordion folded fabric sandwiched between two pieces of wood, of any shape.
An old, but super soft, wrap that was just dingy from age and needed a revival.

I accordion folded the wrap (not easy with a large piece of flimsy fabric-- ironing might have helped, but I'm way too lazy for that!) to about the same size as the wood squares I cut. You want a little bigger size because the parts that stick out are what catches the dye.

I bound and double bound the whole thing with rubberbands.

I just used some dyes I already had on hand since this was a practice run. I didn't want to invest the money or time into real indigo dyes (which are amazingly gorgeous, but require much more work). I used a taupe color and a black color (that ended up being not so black and more indigo anyway, lol)
Into the dye vat. The amount of time you leave them in will determine how dark the final color is, and the final color always comes out lighter when it dries.

You definitely learn a lot about technique along the way.

The legs of the pants dipped into the taupe. I then dipped the upper portion into the black to get a multi-color effect.

Opened up. You can see that no dye went under the wood pieces. I left this in the dye for at least 20 minutes.

Final Results
Here are my final results. Some great, some not so great. I'll list my mistakes and lessons learned at the end of the post.

I love how this turned out. It's hard to really tell in my not-so-great photo, but it's really beautiful. 

These turned out pretty good also. Not exactly as I imagined, but they still look good.

This is really an oops, but I actually like the asymmetrical look of the dye and pattern (you can't tell in this photo, but the pattern continues across the whole shirt, just muuuuch lighter!) Luckily I managed to fold the shirt exactly down the middle.

The skirt... Meh! I wish I'd put a LOT more rubberbands on it. It's deceiving when you're putting them on, the skirt scrunches up, making them seem closer together.

Now this shirt is a big Uh-Oh. :) This is where practicing technique really pays off. This is the front... it's ok.

And this is the back, lol. I really need to work out how to fold items so they dye more evenly.

Mistakes and Lessons Learned

So, there were some definite issues and things that need to be worked out for next time!

1. I need to really think about how to fold items for dying. The dye penetrates the outer layers of the fabric much more than the inner layers, which makes sense, but I just didn't think it'd be that much of a difference. I think folding in little tiny pleats, or accordion folding might work, or at least folding from the outside in (instead of in half) so that the dye will be more symmetrically applied. I'm really not sure what to do and think actual testing on scrap might be warranted.

2. Wrap binding string or rubberbands all the way to the very ends of the pieces. If the ends aren't bound also, they get much darker in color. Which isn't too bad, really, but can mess up a piece if you're wanting a highly finished outcome.

3. Use a stronger dye (maybe actual Indigo dye is better) if you're going to be dying things wrapped in many layers or bound tightly. My beige Arashi technique shirt could've used a bit more color on the parts that were not directly exposed to the dye. Again, a different folding technique would've helped that also, so at least it dyed more evenly. Or maybe if I'd let it soak for a whole lot longer.

4. Wear gloves! Another sign of my lazy side, lol, I didn't bother to dig out some gloves and so had black-ish finger tips for days! NOT pretty, especially under the fingernails. ;)

All in all, I had fun and really love a couple of the pieces. I would love to make a wall hanging or a bed cover next, with real indigo! I'll post when I do.

Have you tried Shibori dying? Or even tie dying?


*I do use affiliate links and would super-duper appreciate it if you could support my site by using the links to make purchases. -xo


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