Shibori Patterns
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Wild Colours natural dyes > indigo dye > shibori > shibori patterns

2. Shibori Patterns

Scrunching is one of the quickest and simplest techniques and a good one to start with, especially if you are trying out different fabrics and dyes.

Tie-dyed rings and circles are the next step to try out. You can create bold patterns with thick raffia on cotton calico or delicate spider webs with strong polyester sewing thread on Habotai silk.

Stitch resists are be more time consuming to create and you need to pull the thread really tight after you have stitched. The resulting elaborate patterns, however, are well worth the effort, as they may resemble wood grain, running water or larch branches.

Pleated and bound resists often use ropes and pipes to create patterns that resemble storms or honeycombs. Rushing is another quick and easy technique that involves rolling a fabric round a rope. Clamped resists are useful to create geometric patterns.

a) Scrunching or marbling
b) Tie-dye patterns
c) Stitched resist patterns
d) Pleated, bound or clamped

a) Scrunching or marbling

Scrunching is an easier and quicker alternative to tying, and it creates a dramatic marbled effect. All you need to do is to scrunch your fabric into a tight bundle and bind it very tightly with thread. You can either create multiple small swirls all over the fabric or one large central swirl. Use raffia, Perle #5 or a strong polyester thread.

i) Multiple swirls

1. Soak your fabric in water until it is thoroughly wet. Take the fabric out of the water and squeeze the water out.

2. Lay your damp fabric flat on your working surface.

3. Starting in the centre of your fabric, pinch and twist small areas of fabric between finger and thumb, making small swirls. Make random patterns across all the fabric. Keep pinching till the whole area looks a mass of wrinkles.

4. Use your hands to push the edge of the fabric towards the centre as much as possible. Aim for a round cake shape rather than a ball. With a ‘cake’ or ‘cheese’ shape a larger area of fabric is exposed to the dye, which creates a more interesting pattern; with a ball shape, too much fabric is out of reach of the dye inside the ball, resulting is large white areas.

5. Without cutting the thread, slide your thread underneath the ‘cake’, leaving a 20 cm tail (which you will use at the very end). Tie a knot at the top, pulling it as tight as you possibly can. Try not to loose the ‘cake’ shape.

6. Rotate the fabric bundle and tie another knot at 90 degrees. You will get a more defined pattern if you make your bundle very tight (if your bundle is not really tight it will come undone in the dye pot) Keep rotating the bundle and tying more knots until the bundle is secure.

7. Use the thread tail which you left at the beginning to tie off.

8. If you wish, after you have dyed and rinsed your fabric, you can scrunch it again and dye it a second colour.

ii. Spirals

1.Soak your fabric, squeeze and lay it flat on a table as before

2.Pinch the centre of the fabric and swirl it (twist it) in a clockwise or anticlockwise motion (you may need to hold one side of the fabric steady). You will be creating a large spiral that radiates from the centre outwards. Make sure the corners are also swirled.

3.Keep the bundle tight and aim for a round cake shape as above.

4.Bind the fabric with thread as above making sure the corners are neatly held in.

Alternatively you can place your scrunched fabric inside a fine stocking. This approach will result in a softer pattern. The net bags sold with oranges or onions are not as suitable as stockings, as they can disintegrate inside the dye pot.

Go to:

a) Fabric for tie dyeing (opens a new page)

b) Natural dyes for tie dyeing (opens a new page)

d) Tie dye tips (opens a new page)

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Updated on 30 March 2023
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