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Simplified Shibori Dyeing

My apologies; I have been so busy engulfed in my new art form; Shibori style dyeing. The idea came to me when I realized I had too many white blouses. If you know me, you know I LOVE to repurpose. What better way to give a new life to clothing or anything white than to Shibori dye it?! After many attempts, some not so good, I have perfected and simplified the complexity of classic ‘indigo’ dyeing. It’s quick, easy and quite manageable in a kitchen or laundry room. Don’t you just love a fresh bright blue?! I do warn you, it may become an addiction…

There will more tutorials coming up, but to start let’s keep it simple. Here is the instruction for these 4 patterns.

What you will need:

  • Washing soda (aka sodium carbonate, NOT baking soda)
  • Procion Fiber Reactive MX Dye in Navy blue 078
  • Elastics, skewer sticks, tongue depressers/popsicle sticks
  • container to mix in
  • measuring spoons
  • water
  • waterproof gloves
  • paint brush/eye dropper
  • Fabric (natural fibre) of choice (I used 20″ squares of unbleached cotton canvas/duck)

I had experimented quite a bit with different dyes when starting Shibori Dyeing, but have come to love this one; Fiber Reactive Dye. It had been so disappointing to use some of the other dyes and see it wash out constantly. You can use the traditional indigo dye but that seemed like it was going to be quite an ordeal. This dye is quite easy and small scale.


Step #1 – Prepare fabric

You must however realize that you need to use natural fibers. Cotton, silk, bamboo, rayon(ramie), hemp, jute, linen etc. For my project I am using a slightly heavy weight cotton.

Cut or rip the sizes of squares you would like. These are going to pillows so I used 20″ squares. If your fabric is new, it should be washed and no fabric softener used. Soak your fabric squares in a solution of 1 cup Washing soda to one gallon of water. It should soak at least 30 minutes.

Step #2 – Folding and securing

To start thinking about the folding method there are a few things to keep in mind. To understand the folding patterns practice with some paper. Most patterns start with the accordian fold; back and forth. The idea is to have folded edges near the side of the finished shape to pick up the dye.

 

 

 

Once the first direction is folded, then that strip is folded in the other direction. It is a really a lesson on geometry and angles. But don’t worry, you can just follow mine. AND the great thing is that even if it has mistakes it will look great! There are triangles that can be folded after the first accordian fold. Remember a triangle has a total of 180º for the corners.

 

 

(SQUARE #1)

See these triangles have one 90º corner. The pattern created is based on squares

 

 

 

(SQUARE #2)

These triangles are different with 60º corners. The pattern created is based on hexagons

 

 

 

 

 

(SQUARE #3)

This square is also accordian-folded but it a fan way. Once that is done it is folded back and forth in the other direction.

 

(SQUARE #4)

Was not folded, see instructions below.

 

This is SQUARE #1

After the fabric has soaked, wring it out. Do wear gloves as it is quite harsh on your hands. Thin gloves allow better dexterity. Accordian folding and then back and forth triangle. Secure with the tongue depressers and elastics.

This is SQUARE #2

Accordian folded and then equilateral triangle folding. Secure with elastics.

This is SQUARE #3

This was folded accordian style but triangle shape, then accordian folded ending with the thin part on top. Secure with elastics.

SQUARE #4 was not folded, but shirred and clamped wit the skewers and depressers. Pinch the fabric into small folds, trying to keep it flat. Secure it with the skewers and elastics.

It is roughly divided into 5 sections.

Step #3 – Prepare the dye

Mix 2 teaspoons of Procion MX fiber reactive dye (Navy 078 is my favourite) with one cup of cool water. Do not breathe in the dust or please wear a mask. I try to not to mix too much so I usually mix half a cup first. This method is not immersion dyeing so it takes much less dye. Use a brush or spoon to make sure it is well mixed. You had better put the gloves on or you will have blue fingers for a while!

Step #4 – Applying the dye

This may get a bit messy so I like to use a plastic wash bin or the like (styrofoam meat trays also work well). I like to use a large brush to apply the dye to the edges. Each fabric acts a bit different for how it wicks up the dye and spreads. It is somewhat of an experiment; but that is the fun. You just never really know what you are going to get. It is a good idea to do a few small test squares until you get the ‘feel’ of how much colour you prefer or amount of bleeding the fabric does. Each fabric reacts differently to the dye. Trust me, I know…

 

      ‘Paint’ the dye around the edges of the folded shapes. To distribute the dye better, you may also squeeze gently. There are so many options for applying dye in on different sides to get a variety of patterns when unfolded.

 

 

The Square #4 is painted on differently. The dye in the centre sections has been slightly diluted to achieve a lighter colour than the end sections. The skewers and depressers separate the areas. The ends are dyed full strength navy.

 

 

 

 

Great job! Doesn’t that look interesting and mysterious?! To keep the dye damp the pieces are placed in plastic bags carefully to keep dyed sections from touching too much.

Step #5 – Heat set the Dye

It is now time to set the dye with heat. There are few choices. You can use a small amount of heat (20ºC+) for a long period of time (24 hours) or a higher amount over less time. Being the impatient crafter I am, I choose to work as fast as I can. I double bag the pieces and place them in a (dedicated for dyeing) microwave. I microwave for a small amounts of time till I see it start to puff up meaning that it is at the onset of boiling the moisture. I then set them under some towels to hold the heat and slowly cool.

Step #6 – Rinse and wash

Take the pieces to a sink where you can rinse them freely. Start to rinse in cool water with the bindings still on and then start to take them off. Depending on the amount of dye the fibers have absorbed there may little or more dye rinsing out. I have found that there is little release when using the cotton. Keep rinsing until it runs clear.

It is like christmas when the bindings come off and the pattern reveals itself! So much fun! Look at that great strength of colour!

After they have been well rinsed, they need to be washed. There is a suggested soap (Synthrapol) but I usually just use a bit of dish soap. The purpose is to use hot water to wash away any unused dye. I found that a bit of purple seemed to wash out and it ended beautifully blue. Wash twice, dry and you are set to use as you would any other fabric. This has much better staying power than Rit or Dylon, and I find it is easy to set with some heat.

The details of the dye are so interesting! They are like small pieces of art, each one unique. My plan? An entire bedroom remodel… stay tuned. But for now a sneak peek:

One step at a time. Wonderful blue pieces of art that are somewhat created by chance. Such a lovely easy form of art!

The guest room is taking shape… as the Shibori duvet cover is also now done!

barbmaker

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 12 Comments
  1. I know if I tried this on a piece of fabric at home I’d probably have blue hands and various splotches on my face which might or might not look so great with the scarf I’d be making 😉 Nice Job!

    1. Glad that I inspired you! When I started I used some small scraps of old bed sheets to see how things turned out. It is such a fun form of art since you just never know exactly what you will get!

      Good Luck

    1. Yes, this dye is so versatile. In the hot weather you can just leave it in a bag for a longer length of time instead of high heat for a short time. The pro ‘tie-dyers’ do that at events. Have fun folding! You may also like the reverse method

  2. Hey! These pillows are so beautiful!!
    Yesterday I tried to make my own shibori pillows and curtains. I used RIT dye with salt, and then soaked in a salt and vinegar mixture and washed them. When I opened the washer my heart sank as my beautiful fabric was now a light baby blue, and the areas that were white has now become blue, as well!
    Do you have any tips to avoid this? Do I need to use a fixative with Procion dye? I want to try again, but I don’t want to put it in the washing machine again! Please let me know what I should do 🙂

    1. Oh Mary! I did the same thing! (those dyes are not good) It looked good til I washed it. This Procion Fiber reactive dye is waaaayy better! It stays and is completely washable. Just follow my instructions. I have t-shirts that I wear and wash often. ‘Just soak in washing soda & water before dyeing (make sure it’s cotton or natural fiber, silk dyes like a dream!). Once properly heat set, there is no other fixative needed.

      You may also like the reverse shibori

  3. Hi! I’m teaching your method of dying fabrics for a class at my local library. My question is: have you ever used a hair dryer to set the fabric dye, instead of a microwave? I’m looking for possible alternate methods of heating…since we have a rather large group. Do you think this would work?

    1. I would not like that it uses forced air. I know that sometimes the guys at fairs just use the sun, as in a dark bag it would heat up in summer. Maybe a heating pad would be better as long as you don’t get it wet. Keep each in a bag, then maybe wrap in a blanket to insulate. I would do a test piece before to see that it sets adequately. When I was not in hurry I would just put them near warm appliances and let it sit in the bag for a whole day.
      Good luck!

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