How To: Shibori-Style Tie Dye

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Tie-dye is the iconic craft of summer. Most of us have made at least one rainbow spiral t-shirt in our time. But if you’re in the mood to shake it up a little this time around, you might try crafting something in the style of the ancient Japanese fabric dying technique: shibori.

Shibori is a type of tie-dying, traditionally created with indigo dyes (this is the same dye that makes your jeans their iconic blue!) There are many different techniques in shibori, used to create an endless array of patterns. Techniques involve stitching, folding, twisting or even wrapping around poles to change the dying effect. The tie dye look shown here is modeled after a shape blocking technique called  itajime shibori. It involves blocking the dye from certain areas of fabric using wooden blocks and ties. This technique creates an awesome finished look with distinct squares almost like little windows!

shibori dye folding

First off, you will need:
– cotton fabric
– RIT dye in your choice of color
– small blocks of wood
– rubber bands
– bucket
– rubber gloves
– stirring stick

To achieve this pattern, you’ll need to fold and bind up your fabric in a shibori style before dunking in dye. Start out by uniformly folding your fabric accordion style, lengthwise. I’m working with a pillowcase in the photos shown, to give you an idea of the approximate size.

fabric folding for itajime shibori
Then fold it up accordion style again, in the opposite direction. You want to end up with a square that’s a little bit bigger than your blocks.

wooden block tie dye

Bind it up with rubber bands or string. Use as many or as little as you like. More will help to resist the dye further, leaving extra white space.

riy dye tie dye

Mix up your dye according to package directions in the bucket. Be sure to use a bucket or container that you don’t mind staining! *Note* – True black is very difficult to achieve using simple dyes, but I wanted my color as dark as possible, so I actually used two packets of RIT dye and ended up with a dark inky purple.

shibori dying technique

Completely submerge your bound block into the dye bucket. Swirl it around and let it sit for a few minutes, up to half an hour, depending on how deep you want your color to be. Follow dye package directions here, as timing and technique may vary.

using RIT for tie dying - shibori

Allow the dye to set for at least 2 hours, up to overnight. I usually tie them up in a plastic grocery bag until ready for rinsing.

Rinse excess dye out with cold running water before untying. Continue to rinse as you gently cut the ties, remove the blocks, and unfold. Rinse until water runs mostly clear.

shibori style tie dye pillowcase

Voila! No two pieces will look exactly the same, which is really the fun of tie-dying! At this point you can go ahead and throw your pieces in the washing machine on the cold cycle, then dry.

shibori style tie dye

Shibori is a beautiful tradition, and a really fun twist in the tie-dying technique that we all know and love here in the U.S.! I think it lends kind of a sophisticated edge to this summer craft. Check out our Pinterest page for some awesome Shibori inspiration!

Happy crafting!