Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tesuji tote bag: WIP Wednesday

I'm in desperate need of a new tote bag, because the straps on the old one that I made 6-7 years ago are completely shredded.  I therefore dyed last week's tesuji fabric with a new tote in mind.

Before getting to the bag, here's how the dyeing process worked. I pleated lengthwise with fairly narrow pleats--about a centimeter wide or so.  The pleating is easier if you spray the fabric lightly with water, and also if you clamp it periodically with binder clips.  (Of course, I didn't figure that out until after I had pleated the first tesuji piece.)  The pleats don't need to be exact--quite the opposite, since you want the happy accidents that arise from randomly scrunched up bits of pleating.

After I was done pleating, I used cotton kitchen twine to bind the pleated fabric, on edge, to a length of polypropylene rope:

You can also just bind the fabric without the rope, which is how I did my other tesuji piece, but I prefer the rope resist.  It's easier to bind, and I also got some beautiful secondary patterns from the rope itself.  The string should be wound around quite tightly, so it helps a lot to wear gloves while binding the fabric to the rope.

The tied fabric went through several rounds of dyeing and oxidating before I untied it.  It was so exciting to see the pattern for the first time upon unbinding!

The unbinding begins!  Note the resist lines from the string and the secondary pattern from the rope on the back side.
Fanning out: It was so thrilling to see the full pattern for the first time!

Fully unwrapped and undergoing the final round of oxidation
Close-up: The final result, after washing and ironing
I'm sorry that I don't have full step-by-step photos, but I hope the process is clear enough from what's here, if you want to try it yourself.  At least the photos provide a sense of how the combination of pleats and twine create such an elaborate pattern.  With any luck, you can extrapolate how, by sort of crushing the pleats a little as you bind, you get a mix of interesting zones exposed directly to the dye, along with well-resisted areas in the valleys of the pleats. 

There's also a good description, with diagrams, in Yoshiko Wada et al., Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing, pp. 104-06.  The book also has instructions for a wide range of other pleated resists, some of them incredibly elaborate.  For this method here, the pleats don't really have to be as narrow as on this piece--I'm going to do wider pleats on my next tesuji sample.

Today I paired my tesuji fabric with blue denim and made the tote:

Unfortunately, the new bag isn't as good as the old one.  The denim I had was too lightweight, so the bag is on the floppy side, and the straps aren't as strong as I'd like.  Won't be hauling a lot of groceries with this one!  Oh, well--I can use the bag for light errands, and I'll just have to get some heavyweight denim or canvas and make another tote for big jobs.

Meanwhile, our glorious, summery weather has been replaced by the Vancouver norm: cool, gloomy, and rainy.  The forecasts for the next seven days aren't so promising either, although if the current predictions hold, maybe I can try another round of indigo dyeing on Wednesday next week.  The wait is okay, since I really need to put in a lot of hours on my MQG challenge quilt--I've got less than six weeks to get it done in time for my guild's July meeting!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced and on The Needle and Thread Network.  Cheers!


  1. It's beautiful! And thanks for showing how it was tied around the rope - I'll definitely be having a go myself at this technique!

  2. The pattern left by the dyeing is great. Well done

  3. WOW! What an awesome process with surprises in each twist. Great tote!

  4. that was very neat!! I had no idea what to expect with each picture

  5. That is a wonderful piece of dyeing Momiji. The bag is beautiful - and if it isn't strong enough you have the perfect excuse for experimenting with dyeing more fabric?!! Here in the UK we are also having a day of sun instead of the usual cloud, wind and drizzle. I'll keep my fingers crossed that next Wednesday stays fine for you.

  6. thank you for sharing the process ...very interesting results! And beautiful tote too.

  7. It's too bad the denim proved to be too lightweight, because it is a perfect complement to your fabric otherwise! Thanks for all the photos -- it's fun to see how such prosaic tools give such an elegant result!

  8. That fabric is gorgeous! What kind of dye do you use?

  9. the fabric you dyed is beautiful! thanks for sharing about the process of making it :) fabric dying is something i would like to learn more about someday.

  10. I love the photos you do have of the fabric dying process; that is really beautiful! Lovely tote, I hope you get a lot of use out of it even if it is a bit less heavy duty than you were hoping!

  11. It's beautiful! And now you have a good reason to make another one!

  12. Hi! I finally got around to trying tesuji thanks to this great tutorial. I'm planning to write a post about it crediting you; hope that's alright.

    the indigophile