Shibori – Japanese fabric dyeing technique

A week ago I participated in a Shibori fabric dyeing class at the Community College in Rose Bay. It was such a rainy day and I was happy to spent it inside and to learn something new. We used only natural dye such as indigo, turmeric and black tea.

Our teacher Zoe MacDonell guided us through the techniques for different shapes and patterns. Basically it’s trying to prevent the colour to reach certain areas of the fabric to penetrate. That can be done by folding, tieing, clamping or binding. Rubber bands, synthetic string, buttons or even marbles are great to use. My favourite technique was the diagonal constantine fold which I then wrapped around a metal pole, tied it up with string and rubberbands before I dipped it into the dye. You need to wear gloves otherwise your hands will be stained and indigo in particular is a very strong dye. In fact, the indigo on my fabric is still rubbing off so I am not sure what to use those for. Might just end up in my props cupboard ;-)

There are the so-called mordants, mineral salts which will either enhance, intensify or change the colour. It also helps to fix the dye colour.

We used only three different natural dye but Zoe told us we could also use ground coffee, henna, onion skin or different sorts of leaves. I know that onion skin works well as I use this for Easter eggs. However, you have to extract the colour by cooking the dye out before you can dip the fabric in.

Lightweight natural fabric such as silk, cotton or linen works best. Smaller pieces are easier to handle than bigger ones and, the dyeing process is quite a messy one as you will see from the photos I took.

From raw to colour