Shibori An Ancient Japanese Dye Technique

Shibori is known to be one of the oldest Indigo dying techniques in Japan, most popular in the early Edo period when lower class people where forbidden from wearing silk. We’ve been seeing beautiful Japanese textiles emerging in the denim world in recent months and have already covered Sashiko and boro techniques infiltrating the western market. After also reading the amazing Indigo, The Color That Changed The World yesterday, we see it as a fascinating and inspiring indigo dye method.  Here, we’re going to take a look at how some of the amazing indigo patterns are created.

For Shibori the cloth can be bound, stitched, folded, twisted, clamped and compressed. Each method that is used is done in harmony with the type of cloth to create beautiful surface designs. Fabrics have all different characteristics so the method must be chosen wisely to achieve the desired effect. The results are endless and can be as simple or as elaborate as you please. To become a true indigo craftsman a person must takes at least a five year apprenticeship under a master craftsman to learn the full dying processes. There are six major known Shibori techniques; Kanoko, Miura, Kumo, Nui, Arashi and Itajime.

Kanoko is the closes technique to the western version that we know today as Tie-dye. This technique involves binding sections of cloth and securing with thread to achieve the desired pattern. To do it traditionally you would use thread to do the binding but nowadays it is not uncommon to use elastic bands. The final pattern depends on how tight you bind the fabric and whether or not you fold the cloth first. Most commonly Circular shapes are achieved with this technique.

Miura is a technique that involves looping and binding. A hook and needle is used to pluck sections of cloth and a thread is looped around each section twice. Tension is only used to hold the thread in place it is not knotted. This is the easiest of all Shibori techniques.

Kumo Shibori uses found objects as the resists. The cloth is to be wrapped around these objects and held in place with thread. This technique can achieve very specific designs and is the easiest to control.

Nui is a stitching technique that involves simply stitching the cloth and pulling the threads tight to gather the fabric. Wooden dowels are used to pull the thread very tight and to secure it in place when dying. This technique allows the most accurate and variety of pattern to be achieved.

Arashi is also known as pole wrapping Shibori. Arashi involves twisting, wrapping and binding of the cloth around wooden or copper poles. The fabric is twisted and wrapped diagonally around the pole, then bound. It always gives a diagonal pattern that is recognizable with this technique.

Finally Itajime Shibori is a shape resistant technique where the fabric is folded and sandwiched between two pieces of wood. The fabric is folded several times in differing tensions to give different effects. Wood is traditionally used but modern interpretations of using clamps and pieces of plastic are being employed.

Shibori is not only restricted to the wise old Japanese textile craft of hand dying indigo- but it has also been modernized and mass produced. Some designers have tried to imitate/ interpret the Shibori look through digital print created on CAD or it has been copied and printed in mass fashion production using the screen printing process. It has now become a classic textile application that is used throughout all textile industries from interiors to fashion for inspiration.

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