The art of Shibori

Shibori is a japanese term that refers to a number of different types of dying processes, of which the modern tie dye came.  Shibori has been practiced for centuries in Japan and has resulted in rich and vibrant patterns created with skillful hands, tight stitching, and fabulous results.

Shibori is used as an English word throughout this book because there is no English equivalent. In fact, most languages have no term that encompasses all the various shibori techniques, nor is there English terminology for individual methods, which often have been incorrectly lumped together as “tie-and-dye.” Three terms for separate shibori methods have come into international usage: plangi, a Malay-lndonesian word for the process of gathering and binding cloth; bandy an Indian term for the same Process; and tritik, a Malay-lndonesian word for stitch-resist. However, these three terms represent only two ofthe major shibori techniques. In this context, the word shibori seems the most useful term for the entire group of shaped resist textiles. It is the hope of the authors that “shibori” will win acceptance in the international textile vocabulary. – Quoted from

Shibori was originally developed by the poor of Japan for differentiating their clothing, making them stand out as unique.  They could not afford silk and rich fabrics, so they dyed and painted the fabric they had.  Traditional japanese textile would have used natural dyes, boiled in large vats.  Indigo, the most famous blue dye, was the most common color utilized.  First dip resulted in a light blue color.  Each subsequent dip into the indigo bath resulted in deeper, darker colors.  The patterns created from stitching, binding, or blocking the fabric in order to create a resist- places on the fabric where the dye would not reach.

My favorite form of shibori is called kumo shibori, or the art of gathering and tying small portions of the fabric in conical forms..

In the picture above, the silk is gathered into cones, and bound at several points along the cone.  At each point or area where the binding is tight the dye will resist soaking in, creating the pattern or contrast between the original color of the fabric and the dyed fabric.

A recent example of one of my silks bound and dyed is here:

I folded the scarf into 4 squares, then on the diagonal in half, and then quarter, and finally carefully pleated it, binding what would be the center of the squares.  I subsequently bound tightly the cone at about 2 inches down, then at about 5 inches in.  (Yes, I should have taken a photo of the blank white silk… here is the layout of how i folded and then dyed the silk:The scarf has to completely dry before the bindings are removed and then the glorious grand reveal…

Gently unfolding the silk begins to reveal the pattern – a large poppy flower in a deep poppy red with varigation offered by a touch of violet dye.

fully opened the flowers are apparent… not identical, but variations of the color and pattern make this amazing splash of color.

Once the silk is unbound I typically iron it flat, then add metallic resist to offer a hint of interest, highlight certain features of the floral form, and ofcourse, sign the silk.

The silk then dries, is wrapped in newspaper, then the newspaper rolls are bundled in an old quilt, and placed on the rack in the steamer to steam set for 1 hour.

Out of the steam set, unwrapped, and rinsed in a cool water bath of fabric softener with a light soap… the silk is very stiff when it comes out of steaming, so the softener offers a relaxing of the silk.

Final press with a warm iron, hang up and off to be sold…