Tag Archives: Shibori

Sticks and Stones

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Kanoko Shibori

When tie dye first became popular in the US, it was a much less complex art form than it is today.  Artists have developed modern techniques that  have transported tie dyeing into a highly sophisticated artistic endeavor.  Looking back at those early tie dyes, as well as the methods used to produce them, has been an assignment for my apprentices and textiles students each year.  They get a real kick out of those 1960s and 1970s fashions and hair styles.  They also gain a first-hand view of how far the art form has evolved.

Modern tie dye is heavily influenced by an ancient  Japanese resist dyeing method known as Kanoko Shibori.  There are numerous different styles of shibori dyeing techniques, all traditionally using silk fabric as the base for surface designs.  In Kanoko Shibori, tiny puffs of material are tightly bound with  thread, making circles. Sometimes the circles are placed in an irregular fashion, sometimes they create an image, or more frequently, the fabric is folded into layers to create a repeating pattern.  The bound fabric is then dyed by immersion.  It is a time-consuming, painstaking process with beautiful, monochromatic results.

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Silk bound into hundreds of tiny puffs, tied with thread.

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 The elaborate floral result of the tiny puffs after dyeing.

When tie dyeing first came to the US, the fabric of choice became cotton. It was common to place small objects, known as inclusions, inside the fabric then tie around the object to mimic Kanoko Shibori.  Coins, dried beans, pebbles, marbles, and all sorts of items were used.  My personal favorites were checkers, or gambling chips.  The dyeing was still generally done by immersion.  A clever alternative was to use inflated balloons as the inclusions. Since the balloons would float at the top of the dye bath, the possibility of using different colors of dye was conceived.  Eventually, direct dye application became popular, opening the doors to even greater creativity.

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Glass marbles bound in silk.

Recently, several dyeing artists  have been  melding  the old techniques with the more modern style of tie dyeing with some astounding results.  Nashville, Tennessee area tie dyers Mollie Martin and Jonathon Dixon, of Pieceful World Clothing, incorporate inclusions with pleating and spiraling into stunning creations of wearable art.  Mollie and Jonathon were kind enough to allow the use of their work as an illustration.

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 Cotton tapestry, bound and stabilized.

Several different sized inclusions can be used as shown in the above photograph.  By binding tightly, a  fabric bubble is formed around the inclusion, making a perfect circle on the cotton fabric.  Notice how they have stabilized using bamboo skewers to prevent the risk of the  bound garment from buckling and to make handling easier. The coloration visible is washable marker the artists use to plan for dyeing by direct application.

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 Cotton bound with inclusions, pleated, and spiraled, and dyed.

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Cotton Sundress by Pieceful World Clothing, 2014

By combining spirals and pleats with the inclusions a whole galaxy can be represented in a single piece of stunning wearable art.

An interesting variation takes a bit of color planning, but can yield pleasing results.   Dye the fabric a single color by immersion, wash out, dry, then bind using inclusions.  A second dye bath results in circles of the first color against a background of the second color.  Binding a second time and using a third dye bath is another option worth exploring.

At a workshop recently, a question arose regarding the use of irregularly shaped items as inclusions.   My experimentation was inconclusive.  Oval objects made nice ovals, and rods made oblong shapes, but the irregularly shaped objects made irregular blobs, rather than  recognizable images.  It is my intention to investigate this concept further.  Stay tuned!

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Shibori Dyeing

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  Arashi shibori is a type of Japanese resist dyeing where fabric, usually silk, is wound around a pole or pipe, then bound, then dyed by immersing the fabric wrapped pole in a dye bath.  The end result is a beautiful diagonal ripple stripe.   A few modern adaptations of arashi shibori include wrapping and dyeing fully made garments, direct application of the dyes and the use of pvc pipe for the wrapping pole.  Sheer cotton, rayon, gauze, and other light weight fabrics of plant origin can be successfully used for this form of resist dyeing along with fiber reactive dyes. For intense multicolored shibori, my preference is for direct application, rather than immersion dyeing.

Supplies needed:

  • Sodium carbonate pre-soak solution:  one cup of sodium carbonate dissolved in one gallon of water.
  • Fiber reactive dyes in squeeze bottles, or small cups.
  • Cylinder– I often use a large clear food canister, so I can see both sides of the bound fabric.  Wine bottles, plastic tubes, PVC pipe, two liter soda bottles, 5 gallon buckets, are all cylinders that can be used successfully.
  • Cord,  elastic, or sinew for binding.
  • 1 yard or more of white or pastel light weight rayon or cotton fabric 45 inches wide, or a light weight garment, washed and dried omitting fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
  • Masking tape.
  1. Soak the item to be dyed in a solution of 1 cup of sodium carbonate dissolved into 1 gallon of warm water for about 30 minutes.
  2. Wearing gloves, wring the fabric or garment out over the pre-soak bucket until just damp. Spinning in a washing machine is recommended.
  3. The cloth is wrapped on a diagonal around a cylinder.  Depending on the size of the cylinder, the fabric can folded, or over lap several times.  The cloth can be secured with tape at one end and the cylinder turned to wrap. GE DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. This is a XXL Tee shirt folded diagonally.
  5. The cloth is very tightly bound by wrapping thread, or cord or sinew up and down the cylinder.  Here the binding cord  is a rubber band at one end.  
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  7. Usually at this point the bindings are wrapped around the fabric.  My Tee shirt is so thick and damp, it will cling to itself with only binding either end with a rubber band  to hold the shape of the pleats, once scrunched.
  8. Next, the cloth is scrunched on the pole.  It should be a snug fit.   The result is a tightly pleated cloth with a design on a diagonal.
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  10. Dye is applied with squeeze bottles, or sponges, or brushes.
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  12. Batch for 12-24 hours.
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  14. Unband, washing out excess dye in hot soapy water.
  15. Machine launder.

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Cotton fabric is 36 inches wide  by 108 inches long, dyed in four colors.  The above photo is from the middle layers.

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The outermost layers have the darkest, least distinctive dye pattern,

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 while the inner most layers have the tightest and lightest dye patterns.

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The two ends compared.

A technique frequently used in shibori is over dyeing with black or other very dark color.  This can be accomplished by over dyeing the first dye application 20 minutes into the batching process.  Or, more commonly, the entire binding and dyeing process is completed twice.  The first time the dyeing is done in pastel or light colors.  The second time the dyeing is done in dark colors or black, sometimes going in different direction.

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Twice dyed using shibori technique, 36 x 36 linen, 2011, by Ruth Cooper

Another fun variation is reverse shibori, where dark fabric is wound around a cylinder, bound, scrunched, then treated with a discharging agent for about an hour.  The fabric is then unbanded and the discharging agent is neutralized.  Work in a well ventilated area when discharging, please.

There are many variations to explore with shibori, from how the fabric is folded before wrapping, to how the wrapping is done, to how the binding and scrunching are done, to where the dye is placed.  The combinations of variables is endless! My studio was once located next door to a restaurant that received shipments of condiments in tall square 3 gallon pails.  Using those  square pails as  wrapping poles created several unusual shibori dyed fabrics.  Who says the pole must be a cylinder??

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Over Dyeing with Black

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Heather models a Rainbow Spiral Black Over Dye by Up and Dyed

One of the most enduring color combinations that I have marketed over the years is the Rainbow spectrum with a black over dye spiral, and its cousin, the black over dyed rainbow fan.

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Eric in a Rainbow Fan with Black Over Dye by Up and Dyed

Over Dyeing with black changes the entire dynamic of the rainbow spectrum, adding depth, contrast and motion to the eye-pleasing color sequence of the rainbow. It is common for patrons to ask if this process began with a black garment to achieve this end result.  No, it began life as a white garment. It is probably my most requested secret. If I had secrets.

Over dyeing with black is doing exactly that==  Applying black dye over fabric already dyed another color.  

  • Mix the black dye powder at the ratio of 1 Tblsp of dye powder and 1 Tblsp of table salt per 4 ounces of warm water.
  • Thickener can be added to the black dye to reduce spreading.
  • The garment is dyed to the saturation point on both sides in the 6 colors Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple, Blue, and Green.
  • Allow dyed item to batch for 10 minutes.
  • Apply a heavy over coat of black to ONE side of the garment.
  • Leave the item black side up on a drip rack.
  • Allow item to batch for 12 – 24 hours.
  • Wash out in very hot soapy water.

Another method for over dyeing with black is to dye or tie dye a garment, wash it out, re-pre-soak, then re-tie using arashi shibori resist techniques.  The over dye with black in shibori creates stunning contrast.

Recently, a patron requested an earth with a black over dye rainbow fan.  I took pictures along the way to share with you.  My camera is not the best and I am a poor photographer, but perhaps the lesson is illustrated well enough to follow.

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  1. The globe was painted using thickened Turquoise and Kelly Green fiber reactive dyes on the waist of a pre-soaked tee shirt, directly below the sleeve.
  2. Shirt was allowed to batch for 48 hours or until the dye is completely dry.  
  3. Re-dampen garment with water in a spray bottle, protecting the globe image from the spray.
  4.   Accordion pleated around the globe.
  5. Place bindings about two inches a part, the length of the garment.

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Dye in the rainbow spectrum repeating pattern.

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Black dye covering one side.

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Finished product.

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