Shibori’s Past and Present


Shibori is a truly timeless technique for dyeing textiles. The basic technique involves creating dye-resists in the cloth by creating deep folds or pleats that the dye can’t penetrate. These pleats are usually bound together with stitching or clamps, protecting the innermost layers of fabric from dye altogether and creating lovely gradients in between.

Types of Shibori

There are many different techniques, but here are a few of the most famous. Kanoko is the closest to what we call tie-dye here in the West. Cloth is bound up with thread (or elastic bands) to get the patterning you want. This is great for creating circular shapes, and you can decide how deeply to pleat and fold the fabric before securing.

Kumo shibori involves wrapping cloth around found objects and holding them in place with thread to create specific patterns or designs. Itajime compresses folded fabric between two pieces of wood or plastic, with the patterning determined by how the fabric is folded.

Learn how to do both dye and heat shibori with this weaving project. Now you can master woven shibori and create a unique handwoven garment.

The “Bark Cloth” vest combines shibori dyeing with crimp cloth techniques for a unique, textured piece. Get the instructions here!

Then there’s nui, or woodbark shibori, where simple running stitches are sewn into the cloth and then pulled tight to gather it. This technique was modified by Catharine Ellis in her book Woven Shibori, where she weaves supplemental pattern threads into her fabric, which she then pulls tight. The fabric is then dyed, the threads cut, and the finished fabric revealed. This allows weavers to create “twill,” “overshot,” and “woven lace” shibori, and many more.

Another type of woven shibori involves making crimp cloth. If you use two fibers in your weaving that react differently under the pressures of water and heat, you can create cloth that holds its pleats. Want to master both crimp cloth and nui shibori dyeing? Check out the “Bark Cloth” vest from 2012’s September/October issue of Handwoven. The fabric for the vest is woven in plain weave with an extended point-twill pattern of gathering threads and heat-sensitive nylon threads woven in. Then the fabric is dyed, gathered, dyed again, and finally steamed to set the pleats before the vest is sewn together.

Like sakiori weaving, shibori was originally an art form of the poor, but now it’s appreciated more for its beauty than its practicality. Experiment and start creating cloth that’s steeped in both the traditions of weaving and the traditions of shibori. If you’d like to become an expert, the Woven Shibori Master Collection from Handwoven gets you Catharine Ellis’s new Woven Shibori book, plus two DVDs on making crimp cloth from Diane Totten.

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