Dyeing techniques: Tie Dye and Shibori

from Gaia Gualtieri - 3 August 2020

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Out of all the various dyeing techniques Tie Dye and Shibori are probably the most popular and ones that are tried out the most. That’s why we think it’s a great idea to introduce you to these two wonderful techniques. The aim isn’t to teach you how to do them (a post wouldn’t be enough) but to give you some background information on the basic principles. We hope this will clear up any doubts or misconceptions which we come across every day.

Tie Dye: origin and process

The term Tie Dye was invented in the late 60s in the United States, but despite this modern commercial name, the origin of this resist dyeing technique is much older, as far back as 5,000 BC! This technique is really common in many countries around the world but goes by various names: in India it’s known as Banfhana, Plangi in South America and in Japan Shibori. The technique has different characteristics in every region but the thing that they all have in common is that the patterns are made by making knots.

As a matter of fact, tie -dye dyeing consists of binding or folding the fabric according to precise patterns. By doing this, sections of the fabric ‘resist’ during the application of the dye and therefore prevent the dye reaching those areas. The outcome is quite something, making it very popular with the modern fashion industry too.

tie dye technique

Shibori: origin and process

Shibori is considered a genuine art handed down from teacher to student. Still to this day, the Japanese who get married in traditional clothing wear a small handkerchief, which has been dyed using this technique, as a lucky charm in the obi (a sash which keeps the kimono closed).

It stands out from other Tie Dye techniques because as well as the knots some tacking is done, creating truly captivating and complex designs. The traditional Shibori goes well with Indigo shades on a white background, from light blue to deep blue.

shibori technique

Elaborating on the Shibori technique we can say that there are as many as 6 main techniques, all which must be done consistent with the type of fabric used.

  • Kanoko Shibori: this technique is the closest one to the European variation of Tie-Dyeing. To get the result you want the fabric is bound into sections using thread. Different effects can be achieved depending on how tightly the cloth is bound, tweaking the final desired pattern. This technique is mainly used to create round shapes.
  • Miura Shibori: also known as looped binding; it involves plucking some sections of the fabric with a hooked needle. The next step is to wrap the thread around each section twice whilst keeping the thread untied. The sections are held together by the tension of the thread. This technique is one of the easiest and as a result one of the most commonly used.
  • Kumo Shibori: this technique is also known as spider design. The fabric must be pleated accurately and evenly then bound in sections really close together. The achieved effect will look like a spider’s cobweb.
  • Nui Shibori: this technique is based on the simple running stitch. The important thing is to pull the thread tightly to twist the fabric. Also, each thread is secured by knotting it before being dyed. This technique allows you to have greater control of the pattern and a wider variety of motifs. However, it has to be said that this is one of the most time-consuming techniques.
  • Arashi Shibori: also known as pole-wrapping Shibori. The achieved patterns are diagonal lines and with this technique it looks like heavy rain during a storm and as a matter of fact, Arashi means storm. Firstly, the fabric is bound diagonally by wrapping the thread up and down both ends of the pole. After that the fabric is scrunched up, then wrapped around the end that’s tied. The achieved effect is from the pleated fabric whereas the pattern, as mentioned before, will be diagonal.
  • Itajime Shibori: this last technique uses pressure that is exerted between two pieces of wood that prevent the colour from penetrating the fibres of the fabric. Instead of using two pieces of wood tied together with string, the more modern textile craftsmen use cut out shapes, such as acrylic resin or plexiglass which is held in place still by a screw clamp.

If you liked this article, you might also like reading the article on how to achieve perfect dyes with Indigo.

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