The Shibori Series: The Process of the Shibori Technique

Welcome to the second post in our Shibori Series! In this post, we’ll be talking about how the process of Shibori dying works, including different techniques, the tools you need, and how you can make your own Shibori dyed fabric at home!

shibori patterns

(Shibori examples, via Honestly WTF)

The process of Shibori dying involves folding, twisting, or bunching the cloth, binding it together afterwards. The parts that are hidden by the folding and bound together will resist the dye, creating patterns within the dye color as well as intentional white spots. This is actually where Shibori gets its namesake – the word Shiboru in Japanese means to wring, squeeze, or press.

If you are attempting to dye at home, you’ll need:

  • Fabric (silk, hemp, or cotton works best)
  • Water – up to 5 gallons
  • Rubber gloves
  • Two slabs of wood
  • A wooden or metal pole
  • Rubber bands
  • Twine
  • A dye kit (indigo if you want the traditional blue color)

The general process will be to fold the fabric, bind it, mix the dye, place the fabric in the dye, let it oxidize, dye again if needed, let it dry, and unravel.

There are many ways to Shibori dye, however, and some may be familiar to you if you’ve ever tie-dyed clothing. Let’s take a look:

kanoko shibori knots on a silk obiage and a finished silk chiffon obiage

(Left: Kanoko shibori knots on silk to create an obiage. Right: Finished silk chiffon shibori obiage with Kanoko design. Both pieces from ThisBlueBird collection.) 

Kanoko Shibori

Likely the most familiar to technique to westerners, Kanoko involves taking pinched sections of the clothing and binding it together with hand-tied thread, resulting in circular, intricate shapes. Try experimenting with the size of the pinched sections, along with how tight or loose you tie the thread. This will create new patterns every time!

miura shibori

(Miura Shibori example, via google)

Miura Shibori

A commonly used method, Miura involves taking sections of fabric with a hooked needle, looping the thread around each section of fabric. Keep the thread untied to achieve a wavey, almost aquatic-like look to your patterns.

Nui Shibori Stiched Resist Techniques

(Nui shibori techniques)

Nui Shibori

For those more serious about Shibori, you may want to give Nui a try. This involves taking a thread running and stitching it through the fabric, pulling the ends of the thread tight together to gather the fabric into sections. Sometimes, a wooden dowel can be used to help with tension. Once pulled tight, the thread is tied together. This creates straight-lined, snowflake-looking stripes that travel vertically on the fabric.

kumo shibori technique and framed print on house

(Left: Tied kumo technique on a silk obiage from ThisBlueBird collection. Right: Framed Kumo Shibori print via Houzz.)

Kumo Shibori

In order to get the Kumo pattern, you have to fold the cloth and bind it together on either end with staggered sections. Continue doing this to the center of the cloth until you have a bundle of bindings. This technique will create patterns that look similar to snowflakes, pinwheels, or branches.

arashi shibori via honestly wtf

(Arashi shibori examples, via Honestly WTF)

Arashi Shibori

A wooden or metal pole is used for this technique – the cloth is twisted and wrapped around, which is why this technique is also called “wrapping Shibori”. After being wrapped around, the ends are bound together, and the cloth is dyed. The resulting pattern is thin, diagonal lines that look like heavy rain or wind; the word Arashii in Japanese means “storm”.


itajime shibori technique via Alice and Lois

(Itajime shibori technique via Alice and Lois.)

Itajime Shibori

Similar to Arashi, this technique also involves props, but this time it’s two slabs of wood, rather than a pole. In this technique, the cloth is folded and placed between the wood, like a sandwich. This results in fabric that is barely dyed at all except for the ends that stick out from the wood, resulting in more 3D geometric squares and shapes.

Next up we look at shibori in modern fashion!

In case you missed our first post in this series... check out the history of shibori here.