I wish I could paper my walls with this pattern. I am utterly impressed with the talented Shibori traditionalists who I have been following along through Instagram and Etsy. I am in no way a master at it. But it is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. While, I wasn't able to dye with natural dyes this time, I was able to use an indigo dye kit that helped me jump start my project.
What is Shibori?
Shibori is a Japanese term for several methods of resist-dyeing cloth to make a pattern by binding, folding, twisting and compressing, from the verb root shiboru meaning to wring, squeeze, press.
Various forms of resist-dyeing techniques have been used all over the world for centuries, but no culture has perfected it quite like the Japanese. In Japan, the earliest known example of cloth dyed with a shibori technique dates from the 8th century. Natural indigo dye was primarily used on fabrics like silk, cotton or hemp. The end results are random patterns than can be tight and geometric or loose and free-flowing.
Itajime Shibori is a shape-resist shibori technique in which cloth is folded like an accordion and sandwiched between two pieces of wood and held together with string or clamps. Dye is prevented from penetrating the covered fabric, and patterns can very depending on the type of fold used or binding placement.
- This indigo dyeing kit 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.
- Choose only natural fabrics for your dye project, avoid using synthetic materials. Your results will not be as crisp and running of dye is more likely with synthetic. 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 will need a large container to mix the dye in, and if you’re working indoors, you’ll want some drop cloths to protect your surfaces from the dye. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space in which to dye, definitely dye outside!
Preparing the Dye
1.Fill the five gallon container with 4 gallons warm tap water.
2. Empty the indigo dye packet into the water. Stir.
3. While stirring, slowly empty the Soda Ash and reduction agent (thiox or hydrosulfate) packets into the water.
4. Gently, but thoroughly stir the vat in a one direction circular motion. Once the vat is well mixed slow down and reverse the direction of the stirring as you drag the stir stick along the outer edge of the vat before slowly removing it. Cover the vat with a lid and allow it to settle for at least 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. For best results, wait one hour.
5. After the vat has settled, remove the lid. The top of the dye bath will be covered with a layer of foam called the ‘flower’ or ‘bloom’. Gently push aside the ‘flower’ to check the color of the liquid. The dye bath should be a clear yellow or yellow-green color under the flower. If it’s not, wait another 1/2 hour and check again.
Dyeing Your Fabric
1. Fold, tie or bind your garment or fiber. (See the Accordion Pattern that we used below)
2. Thoroughly wet or soak your fabric in water.
3. When you are ready to begin dyeing remove the cover from the vat. Wearing gloves, use a small container to gently scoop the flower from the top of the vat. Set it aside.
4. Squeeze excess water and air out of your fabric.
5. While still squeezing your fabric, slowly submerge your piece into the dye vat. Once submerged gently manipulate the piece to ensure that the dye will penetrate the unbound parts evenly. You may work the piece in the vat underneath the surface for one to several minutes in this way. Do not drop the fabric in the vat and let it sink to the bottom. There will be residue that has settled on the bottom of the vat and you don’t want to stir that up while you are dyeing. The residue can cause spots on your dyed piece.
6. When you are ready to take the fabric out of the vat, squeeze it just below the surface as you slowly remove it from the vat. You want to prevent splashing as this introduces oxygen back into the vat. The fabric will be the same yellow green of the vat. Slowly, the fabric will begin to turn blue as the oxygen in the air contacts it. Place the cover over the container.
7. Set aside the fabric to allow the piece to completely oxidize. You may want to turn the piece and open up any areas that you want to turn blue. Let oxidize for about 20 minutes.
8. Once the item has oxidized you can either repeat steps 4 - 7 to achieve darker shades of blue or you can rinse excess indigo from the piece, untie, and wash with a mild detergent and warm water.
9. When you’ve finished your dyeing session, gently put the flower back onto the surface of the vat. Using your stir stick, gently stir the vat as before in a circular motion and reversing the direction and centering the flower. Place lid back onto vat and let settle for at least an hour before using the vat again. The vat will keep for several days and you will be able to dye several times.
10. When you are ready to dispose of the vat, empty contents down the drain. Clean up bucket and utensils with a powdered cleanser or soap.
A little more helpful information: •The general idea in keeping an indigo vat is that you want to keep the vat as oxygen free as possible. That is why not splashing and squeezing excess air from the fabric is important. • Store the vat in an area where the temperature will remain between 68 - 85° F, a comfortable room temperature. Keep out of reach of children and animals. Always store with the lid on the container. •Keep in mind that the color is much darker when wet.