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Shibori & Tie Dyeing Fabrics

Tie dye effect achieved on t-shirtShibori, the ancient Japanese technique of fabric folding and dyeing has been brought right up to date. Traditionally indigo was used to create patterning. However, using modern dyes, discharge agents and fabrics you can easily develop complex patterns. Tying and clamping, dyeing and discharging, re-dyeing and heat setting the fabric creates a new and visually satisfying richness of colour and shape.

Tie dyeing (or Kumo Shibori) is a fun and simple child friendly technique. This method can be used to decorate and pattern t-shirts, bedding, table linen, scarves and more. This tie dyed fabric was created using Procion dyes by Jo Barrell (the Jacquard Tie-dye Kit is an excellent way to experiment with this technique).

The following hints and tips suggest some ways for you to develop your own Shibori patterning techniques.

  • Silk fabric is unique; it can give fine and complex creases which follow the pattern of the dyeing. Using acid dyes which require a heated dye bath, sets the tie-dyed creasing. The resulting folds, creases and puckers can be left soft or enhanced by couching with wire yarns, for example. Jacquard Acid dyes give a choice of 40 pre-mixed vibrant colours, and are ideal for this technique.
  • Polyester is ideal for 3 dimensional Shibori techniques by including marbles or coins. It can be dyed using disperse dyes and moulded with heat.
  • shibori.co.uk dyeing exampleThere are a huge range of folding, clamping and tying techniques to give specific patterns to the finished cloth. The quickest and easiest patterns are still made by folding and then clamping the cloth (Itajime Shibori), ruching along a plastic pipe (Arashi Shibori), or tying up points of fabric. Other methods are smocking with running stitches, scrunch up and bind (commonly known as tie-dye - Kumo Shibori), tied in small hard items, dried beans, marbles and nails. It is important when tying to ensure that the fabric bindings are tight. If not dye will penetrate underneath and alter the pattern, and so a yarn that shrinks has an important use. This parcel, pictured right from the shibori.co.uk website, has been bound using elastic bands.
  • After the first round of dyeing you can resist again (with wax or corn dextrin) before dyeing or discharging. After each round of dyeing leave the fabric to air dry completely, all the way through the folds, before unbinding.
  • If you colour the fabric with indigo, Fast Black K, MX Fibre Reactive Procion dyes or Deka L dyes, then the dissolvable yarn we supply will save hours of unpicking. The stitches will shrink tight at 40°C and then dissolve at 70°C, giving more time for creative work.
  • Discharging pre-dyed materials gives a dramatic result. We stock a silk habotai fabric, chiffon and viscose/silk velvet, all of which have been dyed with a dischargeable black dye to add to the range of fabrics for etching away and colour discharging. The patterning passes through, browns and beiges depending on the time the discharge paste is left in place.

Before dyeing, it is important to check whether the item is 'Prepared for Dyeing' (PFD) or requires scouring to remove any grease, oil or starch. Run a few droplets of cold water onto the fabric. If they soak in quickly, no scour is necessary. To remove starches, size and oils, add 5mls of Synthrapol (a non-ionic detergent) along with 2-3 litres of water for each 100gms of material. Stir gently over a 15 min period, and then rinse thoroughly in warm water. It is possible to use household detergent, but the alkaline residue may affect the final colour or wash fastness.

Visit the World Shibori Network (WSN) for more information about this stunning craft.

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