Shibori Tie Dye

Remember when I talked about Summer Sundays?  Well, last weekend we decided to have a Shibori Tie Dye Party.  It was great.  We rounded up a bucket, all the rubber bands we could find, cold drinks, a clothes line, sparklers (because why not?), white cotton everything and hot hotdogs for the grill.  It was a fun sunday.  

Shibori is a Japanese tie dye technique involving fabric that is tied, clipped, twisted, folded or wrapped to create patterns when dipped into indigo dye.  All the twisting and tying result in parts of the fabric that will resist the dye and retain the fabrics original color, contrasting with the dyed fabric areas.  Here I'll go thru a few classic styles of Shibori and how to dye.  Folds are demonstrated with square cotton napkins but techniques will work on all shapes.  

Start with clean, dry natural fiber fabrics like cotton, silk or linen. Other fabrics do not take dye well.  I would advise that you wash and dry anything before you start, even new items.  

For wrapping and tying you will need:

  • Indigo dye kit
  • fabric
  • 1 five gallon bucket, with lid or cover
  • another bucket for wetting fabric
  • gloves
  • scissors
  • drop cloth
  • stir stick
  • pvc pipe, string, rubber bands, clothes pins, wood squares...


Itajime: Fold fabric like an accordion vertically, then horizontally.  You will have a square or rectangle.  Place a small square of wood on each side of fabric.  Use string, clips or rubber bands to secure the wood fabric sandwich.  Clean tin can lids, rubber, oval carpet stoppers, acrylic panes - whatever can be used in place of the wood squares.  Smaller items need less ties and larger items will need more.  

Triangle:  Fold in half, fold outsides back to center, making a quarter width length.  Fold into accordion triangles, use a rubber band to attach chopsticks across the triangle.  


Arashi:  Wrap fabric around a pipe on the diagonal.  Tie it a few times, then squish it down, tie a few more times to secure it.  


Kumo:  Accordion fold fabric vertically.  Rubber band or tie sections down one side.  Other the opposite side, rubber band or tie in sections alternating the previous side.  Stay with single bands like in the close up photo or keep going until your heart's content like the piece I'm holding above..  

To make simple ring shapes: gather a little pluck of the fabric and rubber band it.  You can get the idea from what I did at the bottom of this tank top.

To make one big burst/ring shape: Pluck fabric from any point and secure intermittently with bands.

The Dying Process

The dye kit you purchased will have instructions what I suggest you follow.  READ THE DIRECTIONS COMPLETELY BEFORE YOU BEGIN.  There are steps you might find unexpected otherwise.  This is what we did for ours:

Prepare the Dye:

  1. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with 4 gallons (16 Quarts) or warm tap water
  2. Add the dye, soda ash and reduction agent into the water
  3. Stir very gently - a couple times in one direction, a couple times in the other
  4. Cover your dye vat - oxygen is bad of the dye
  5. Let it cure for 1 hour - in the mean time you can fold and bind your fabric

Dying the Fabric:

  1. Dip your prepare cloth pieces in water to get them saturated - if you skip this step your pieces will be all blue with no contrast of dye color to original fabric
  2. Squeeze extra water from cloth
  3. Uncover cured dye vat
  4. Remove the 'flower'.  You can't miss it.  It's a large mass floating on the surface of the dye.  Gently scoop it out and set it aside. You don't want it in the way when dipping but don't throw it out if you're going to save the dye afterward.
  5. While squeezing cloth, submerge in the dye vat
  6. Let it sit for 5 minutes
  7. When removing, gently squeeze it below the surface, slowly remove, try not to splash
  8. Cover vat
  9. Leave piece wrapped.  Leave it to oxidize for 15 minutes.
  10. Dye again. And maybe again. (We did two 5 minute dips.)  The more dips the darker it will be
  11. After it's last dip in the dye, until your piece 
  12. Wash it with warm water and 1 cup of salt.  Color is now set and your pieces are ready for use