Move over, ugly Christmas sweaters, a new fashion is in town – shibori sweaters.
The Japanese technique of shibori dyeing has been around for centuries, and its concept is very basic. Shibori is the art of arranging and manipulating fabrics to create patterns or shapes. The oldest examples date back to silk found in tombs along the Silk Road in China in the fourth century.
Yoshiko Wada, a textile researcher and artist based in Berkeley, said shibori is not be be confused with tie-dye.
“It’s more than that; it’s a very sophisticated process and activity that is nurtured in different cultures all over the world,” Wada said. “It is a basic way of working with fabric and shaping it, then compressing to resist the dye coming to certain areas.”
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Wada is the founder of Slow Fiber Studios and the president of the World Shibori Network, connecting textile artists from around the world through workshops and lectures.
Wada said to think of them not as tools but rather manipulators.
“Some people use rubber bands, but I am not too fond of it,” Wada said. “It is better to manipulate it with your own fingers and body strength.”
Wada suggests making knots in longer fabrics or running stitches through fabric pieces to create designs.
Several Pinterest pictures show clamping fabric with wooden clothespins as an alternative. (www.pinterest.com/pin/136796907409823653)
“Five people can work in the same way and it can come out differently; the fabric records the tension,” Wada said.
A large cooking pot or vat is necessary for mixing the dye with water and dipping the fabric. Tongs can be used to dip the fabric, or a PVC pipe can be used to wrap the fabric around.
Online sources, such as http://honestlywtf.com/diy/shibori-diy, suggest using gloves to protect hands.
Dyes and fabric needed
Any dye will work, but Wada suggests organic, plant-based dyes to combine with cotton and rayon fabrics. Wada said indigo blue is the predominant dye used around the world because people can make it with different types of plant materials.
“It is a color that unites us all,” she said.
To purchase organic dye, Wada sells it online via Slow Fiber Studios.
It can also be purchased at Etsy.com, Jo-Ann Fabrics or Walmart.
The indigo dye mixture will look brownish or red in the pot or vat, but once the fabric is pulled from it and oxidizes, the dye will turn to a shade of blue.
“It becomes a beautiful brown, then yellow and green until it fully oxidizes,” Wada said.
To create a darker shade, she suggests layering the dye many times.
Wada said natural dyes are not as permanent as chemical dyes but will be fine in the washing machine. Wada suggests keeping natural dyes out of direct sunlight.
DIY indigo dye
Wada said the recipe is very simple: one part indigo, two parts pickling lime and three parts fructose or henna. The fructose syrup can be made at home by gathering cuttings and peels of fruit (except citrus), adding water and cooking on low heat on the stove. Once they have boiled, strain the cuttings and add the liquid to the indigo and lime.
For example: 10 grams indigo plus 20 grams lime plus 30 grams fructose. There is no right or wrong indigo concentration for your vat. For more information, go to www.driftlabtextileco.com/blog/2015/9/23/go-go-indigo.
From placemats to pillowcases and scarves to shirts, shibori is fun for the whole family. Holiday parties don’t have to be centered around ugly clothes; why not make gorgeous ones?