Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shibori! Indigo dyeing workshop, part I

As I mentioned in my last post, the day job has been applying enormous pressure over the past several weeks, and it’s put me in a frustrating state of stress and fatigue that hasn’t left much time or energy for fabric-related creativity. I finally got a bit of a break over the weekend, however, with a wonderful two-day shibori indigo dyeing workshop with Akemi Nakano Cohn, sponsored by the 2013 Maiwa Symposium. Here are some of my creations:

I can’t rave enough about Akemi’s inspiring workshop. I’ve collected Japanese cottons for many years and know a fair amount about the dyeing techniques to produce them, but I had never had the chance to try indigo dyeing myself. After just two days with Akemi, however, I feel ready to forge ahead on my own, assuming I can figure out where to set up a dyeing station in our house. On the first morning, we learned how to mix the dye stock solution and prepare the dye bath, and then we embarked upon developing a wide variety of shibori techniques, including itajime (fold and clamp methods), nui shibori (hand stitching and gathering), kanoko and other tying/knotting techniques, plus arashi and bomaki (two forms of pole wrapping). We really covered a lot of ground in just two six-hour sessions!

Altogether, I dyed a dozen different samples. We started with itajime, and here are my first two pieces:

Can you see how they were dyed? Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos--too busy prepping fabric! Basically, itajime involves accordion pleating followed by clamping, which produces all manner of visual effects. In the piece on the right, which was my very first effort, I pleated the fabric lengthwise into twelve sections, and then pleated into fourths in the other direction, which gave me a small rectangular shape. I then clamped with chopsticks and rubber bands for a resist (which yielded the chevron lines that you see), plus some clothespins here and there for good measure. For the piece on the left, I pleated lengthwise in fourths, and then I pleated in an equilateral triangle shape and clamped with chopsticks. I also tried a pair of clothespins in each corner, but the folded fabric was too thick, and the clothespins basically fell off in every round of dyeing.

Both fabrics are a lightweight organic cotton from Maiwa Supply.  The first fabric went through the dye bath twice, while the second had four rounds of dyeing. Indigo dyeing requires multiple rounds of dipping in order to produce dark colors, so it requires a lot of patience.  It's hard to resist the temptation to unwrap your fabric prematurely to see how the dyeing pattern looks! I’ll say more about what it was like to work with the dye bath in a later posting. Stay tuned!


  1. Pretty fabrics. I keep thinking I'll get into dying fabrics someday cuz it seems like fun. I love Japanese fabs & stuff, too!!

  2. how gorgeous! I love indigo dyeing - the change in colour and then the reveal! so exciting! chopsticks! I've got to remember that for next time. beautiful fabrics Jessica, and a fabulous way to forget about work for awhile!