Shibori is a Japanese dyeing technique that dates back to the 8th century. Traditionally, a white cloth (usually silk, hemp, or cotton) was folded, bunched, or twisted, then tied, and finally dipped into a natural indigo dye. The word “shibori” itself is derived from the verb “shiboru,” which, loosely translated, means “to press, wring, or squeeze.” The binding resists the dye.
After letting the fabric soak in the dye, undo the binding. As it dries in the air, the dye may continue to bleed, softening the edges.
The result: Unraveled, the dyed cloth reappears with kaleidoscopic explosions of organic color, crinkled texture, and multidimensional designs. Expect an element of unexpected magic.
Over the centuries, artisans have developed many methods. In “arashi,” the cloth is wrapped around a pole to result a striated pattern that mimics heavy rain from a storm; in “itajime,” the cloth is folded accordion style and then held in place with two sturdy pieces of wood to result in geometric grids; in “kumo,” the cloth is tightly bound into tiny pleats to result in a series of spindly spiderwebs. These are some of the more popular styles, and there are other techniques like them. Each one results in a different design, although it can be argued that no two dyed pieces come out the same.
Feel free to experiment with different scraps of fabric, the style of folds, and the dilution of the dye. Just remember that natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and wool work best to absorb it. The longer you immerse the material, the more likely the dye will bleed.
Ready to give it a try? Our dip-dyed scarves pictured above are inspired by this dyeing technique. This is one simple summer crafternoon project you’ll dye for.