Home PageAsiaA Beginner’s Way to Indigo and Shibori

Oct 15

A Beginner’s Way to Indigo and Shibori

No skills required. Really. It’s easy. Natural dyeing with indigo and shibori resist techniques can be done quickly without prior dyeing or weaving experience with these artisan-designed methods.


Combining Indigo Dye and Shibori

Industry designers have noted indigo as a design trend for 2015 and fashionable indigo textiles with shibori designs are still popping up everywhere. Take a dip into creating your own indigo dye bath, and design a striking piece of cloth for home or to wear. Just to prove how it easy it is, I gathered friends and family to try out the Indigo Shibori Kit from Botanical Colors. We gave the kit a thorough testing. Everything is included to make a dark blue vat of high quality indigo dye and create samples similar to these.

It’s a good idea to wash your fabric before stitching, folding or clamping. Instructions are included to make folded, scrunched and bubble resist designs using the marbles, string and rubber bands in the kit. You can also try a variety of stitched and wrapped designs by consulting books featuring resist techniques, such as one of my favorites by Vivien Prideaux, A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing. 

If you use all of the ingredients included in the kit, you will get a nice strong color using a five-gallon bucket. Note that you first make a smaller vat which is transferred to a larger container. There are no specifics on how much water to add to the final vat, which can be confusing for a beginner. I fill my bucket with warm water to about 6 inches from the top then add the indigo mixture, made following the kit directions. Be sure your fabrics are totally wet before putting them in the dye bath. Dip the cloth in for 10-15 minutes, then remove and let them oxidize for the same amount of time. The process of oxidation is not explained very well, but that simply means letting the samples sit in the air after removing them from the dye vat. The oxygen in the air is what turns the cloth into the blue color we love. I usually rinse my samples first as they come out of the dye to assist with the oxidation process. Some dyers do this and some don’t, the choice is yours. You will find that natural dyeing is as much about experimentation as following directions. You can dunk your resist samples in a few dips or many, until you have the color you want. Dark indigo blue is created by dipping over and over, not by leaving the fabric in the dye vat for a long time. It’s another unique characteristic of indigo dye. Indigo cloth that is very dark blue may have been dipped 30-40 times.

If you’re a maker of things using yarn, I dyed this Tajikistan kid mohair dyed with two dips in the indigo pot.

Woven Shibori without Weaving

You don’t have to weave to create some stunning woven shibori samples or a lovely scarf because Catharine Ellis, natural dyer and weaver, has designed woven shibori blanks. These blanks are woven of high-quality mercerized pima cotton woven at The Oriole Mill in North Carolina, so you can skip the weaving part.

The pattern/gathering threads are supplemental to the ground cloth and are used to gather the fabric and make a resist for dye. In the final step, the pattern threads are removed from the cloth, leaving only their memory in the dyed pattern. You can see the difference in the shibori blanks below when dipped once or twice.

Ellis’s book, Woven Shibori can guide you through weaving your own resist fabrics if you are a weaver. You may prefer this to stitching your own cloth by hand.

Whatever your inclination, you can find what you need in the ClothRoads Blog. We’ve recently added a new section under Resources, Natural Dyes Information. Both will supply you with resources for your making nature. Have at it. Learn more about shibori blanks.

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