Itajime Shibori Dyeing: How it Works

Itajime shibori dyeing is making a comeback, and for good reason.

The ancient Japanese technique of sandwiching a piece of folded fabric between two hard objects (such as the traditional option of wood or the current choice of Plexiglas) and then soaking it in a dye bath, results in strongly patterned fabric with high graphic contrast and a contemporary appeal.

itajime shibori resist dyeing dubrawsky
Not applique! Malka Dubrawsky used itajime shibori to overdye or discharge dye each circle-in-a-square

The fabric and dyes are prepared as they are for other types of dyeing. The unique patterns are made by specific folds and the placement of the Plexiglas resist shapes.

Starting with white or natural cotton will give you a more traditional look. Or, you can overdye with itajime on commercial, printed fabric. You can even use this technique for discharge dyeing, as shown on this quilt by Malka Dubrawsky.

As someone who has not done much hand dyeing, I’d always shied away from this particular technique because it looked too technical and involved a long list of supplies not readily found in my local art supply store. I didn’t want to purchase chemicals and have Plexiglas shapes cut, only to find out later that I wasn’t in love with the method.

But now that Hands on Hand Dyes has created an all-inclusive kit with everything (except clamps) needed to make itajime fabric, I decided to give it a try. And I have to admit that my hesitation was totally unfounded. I’m hooked.

We now offer this kit to you in the Quilting Daily Shop. We call it Welcome to the Fold Itajime Shibori, and I know once you try it you’ll be just as hooked as I–and centuries of other hand dyers–am.

vivika hansen denegre

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2 thoughts on “Itajime Shibori Dyeing: How it Works

  1. Totally lost with these “instructions”. Couldn’t begin to know where to start or what to do. What is the actual product of this method of dyeing? The Project looks interesting, but if you don’t know what you are looking at, it doesn’t really illustrate anything.

    1. I have not done this myself, but I think how it works is, say for instance the Plexiglas shape is round. You have a print fabric, say a white background with multi color dots. Clamp the fabric with 2 Plexiglas shapes on front & on back & put into any dye color. After the dye & wash/rinse, take off the clamp/clamps & where the Plexiglas was. This has no dye color but the surrounding fabric has been dyed.