Those indigo blues

I wandered out into the countryside – the neck of the woods where I grew up – for a dyeing workshop. While it wasn’t quite the ‘natural’ experience the innercitygardener and I thought it would be, we did get a good go at indigo dyeing and shibori. Plus it was a day out, a week day no less, and we were on the lam.

It’s been years and years since I’ve done such full on dyeing. In many ways it’s like cooking, putting together a recipe and then closely watching the colour develop through the dyeing process. And then, when you think it couldn’t get any more fun, shibori comes along. Shibori is a form of Japanese resist dyeing made through folding, stitching, clamping and other manipulations of fabric. At it’s utterly basic, you can think of it as tie-dyeing. But at it’s most intricate, it is absolutely stunning.

We tried arashi shibori, where fabric is wrapped around a pole on the diagonal, lashed to the pipe and pushed to the end of the pipe to pleat it.


Itajime shibori involves folding and clamping fabric. For my scarf length sample, I started off with triangular folds and then to fan folding. I tried to go for a twist-and-pleat effect at the end but really had no idea what I was doing. What you can see here is the pretty bit.


The resist was created using clothing pegs around two sides of the triangle.


Kanako shibori was next, with tied off fabric and object wound into the fabric. I’d like to learn to do this properly because I think it would achieve some stunning effects. It’s this technique that can create the small squares and circles you might see in some kimonos. I tried to pleat fold as I gathered the silk to see if I could get squares.


Nui shibori is stitched and gathered to make tight folds. It’s usually a simple running stitch that’s used and when the stitch line is repeated it creates a beautiful ripple effect. This is particularly coarse since it was calico and I didn’t scrunch up all of the fabric as much as it needed. Some of the stitching is still in there so I’m not sure how much of a resist it was.


I haven’t given my samples their final wash yet, since the longer they oxidise the deeper the shade of indigo. These samples also show the importance of making sure your fabric is massaged while it’s in the dye bath. Indigo won’t penetrate the fabric evenly unless it’s swirled, massaged or otherwise cajoled.

I’ll post pictures of the arashi shibori scarf once I’ve done the final rinses. The first one is warm soapy water and then it must be left to dry completely. To set the pleats, I’ll need to do a final rinse of boiling water and vinegar and again let it dry completely. The soapy water will wash out the excess dye while the water and vinegar will reduce the alkalinity of the fabric. The temperature of the water is what will set the pleats. I hope.


1 Comment

  1. innercitygarden said,

    September 23, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    My indigo stuff is still upstairs, hiding from the toddler til it’s completely dry, I haven’t removed the stitching and ties yet. I took the pegs off one sample and it was probably too early.

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