When it comes to fabric dyeing, my favorite techniques have got to be shibori.
What is shibori and how is it different from the other fabric dyeing techniques, you ask? Shibori is a Japanese method of dyeing that uses folding, wrapping, or stitching as a dye resist to create patterned fabric. Other dyeing techniques treat cloth as a two-dimensional surface whereas shibori techniques manipulate the fabric into a three-dimensional form. If you’ve ever tie-dyed a T-shirt, you’ve used shibori techniques.
Once you’ve arranged your fabric so that there are multiple folds, whether you’ve twisted, tucked, or tied, you have several different options for adding color.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy option, Holly McLean has you covered. With her technique you can Paint a Shibori Forest using fabric paint, string, and a corrugated can. Her method is ideal if you don’t have fiber reactive dye on hand or if you don’t have the ventilation and/or respirator required to safely dye fabric.
When you want to take shibori-style painting on fabric a step further, Susan Purney Mark has a great shibori painting tutorial. She demonstrates how to combine shibori with batik by applying soy wax before she starts adding color with diluted fabric paints.
Once you’re ready to graduate to a dye bath, you’ll want to read Diane Giancola’s tutorial on Shibori Dyeing Using Rit Dyes. These dyes are a great way to get started if you’re unsure about using fiber reactive dyes because they’re non-toxic, user friendly, and conveniently come in a liquid or powder form. If ventilation is an issue, or if you’re not keen on wearing a mask, I would recommend using the liquid dye so you aren’t taking the risk of inhaling dye particles.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about itajime shibori. Itajime is a type of shibori where traditionally you’d use shaped wooden blocks, or nowadays we use Plexiglas shapes, as a dye resist.
This past fall our Editorial Director Vivika Hansen DeNegre took this technique out for a spin and quickly became hooked! When I asked her about her favorite dyeing techniques earlier this week she sent me this reply, “I’ve done lots of experimenting with shibori, and have especially enjoyed learning how to use the acrylic shapes that create a resist as in the itajime kit.”
Malka Dubrawsky has used itajime-dyed fabric to create quilts with appliqué-like results. She has experimented with triangle shapes to make faux flying geese and has also used square Plexiglas to mimic pieced quilt blocks. To learn how she does it, watch the Quilting Arts Workshop: Shape Shifting DVD.
Shibori dyeing is such fun; I think everyone should give it a go. Luckily there are tons of methods to try so you can dip your toe in the water or dive right in.
P.S. What’s your favorite shibori technique? Leave a comment below or upload an image of your work to the free member galleries—we’d love to see your work!