Woven Shibori: Cloth Only a Weaver Could Make
There’s nothing like a new perspective to help cement a skill in your mind. As I read Catharine Ellis’s newly-revised book Woven Shibori and studied her excellent samples and examples, I gained many new insights on the way weave structure and color come together to create patterning. By combining the weaving skills you already have, whether you’re an expert or a brand-new beginner, with Catharine’s dyeing techniques, you’ll quickly be creating exciting, unique cloth—and learning a lot about weaving on the way! If you want to take your shibori experimentation even further, give Dianne Totten’s technique for creating shibori crimp cloth a try. The Woven Shibori Master Collection contains both of Dianne’s crimp cloth DVDs, as well as Catharine Ellis’s revised Woven Shibori. Here’s Catharine herself to explain what you can expect in the newly-revised edition of this classic book. ~Andrea
What’s New in Woven Shibori?
Woven shibori is full of rewards for both the beginner and the most advanced weaver. I love showing new weavers how they can change a simple plain weave by using a pick up stick, a bit of resist, and an indigo dyebath. The eye sparkles at the transformation and the novice will quickly learn to understand and use woven structure in this context. Seasoned weavers will figure out unique ways to design and manipulate their own cloth with a variety of woven structures, fiber, and of course, the dye and color. There is something truly magical about the woven shibori process for any skill level.
The new version of Woven Shibori reflects the exploration that I have continued to make and refine. I have not tired of the woven resist in the 20+ years that it has defined my own work. Not a lot has changed about the basic woven structures presented in the book, but the layering of color, the designs, and, of course, the natural dye all bring new elements to woven shibori. I’ve also included the work of other weavers who are creating imaginative fabrics of their own using the technique. Among these are text designs using shibori pick up, foil application, double weave, and shaping.
The textile field is experiencing a significant and renewed interest in natural dye right now. There is a growing desire for weavers and dyers to use more environmentally-benign processes, and the natural dye palette is a huge attraction. For the last 8 years (since retiring from full time teaching), I have been focused on learning and refining applications of natural colorants for woven shibori. With proper mordanting techniques, the dyer can achieve brilliant colors on cotton as well as wool and silk—something I didn’t think was possible 10 years ago! I use cotton printing techniques with the woven shibori to create layers of color, and I included those techniques in the book. Also included is an approach to dyeing protein fibers without a mordant to achieve cross-dye effects.
No matter what we do with the dyeing, the fabric has an underlying organization that is based on the woven structure of the cloth. Surface designers are able to apply dye and pigment onto the surface of a cloth, but as weavers we use the woven structure to organize and define our patterns both on and in the cloth, creating fabrics that only a weaver can make.
P.S. By weaving heat-sensitive threads into your cloth, you can set your shibori pleats to create crimp cloth. Dianne Totten covers this method in her two DVDs, included in the Woven Shibori Master Collection. Check it out!
Catharine Ellis, author of Woven Shibori, has been a weaver and a dyer for more than forty years. After three decades of leading the Fiber Program at Haywood Community College, she is now dedicated to studio work, focusing on natural dye processes. She teaches in the United States and internationally.