Shortcut Shibori

It’s magical. That moment when you first undo the clamp, remove the wooden blocks, and you carefully unfold your hand-dyed fabric, revealing it’s interior like a gorgeous new book. Traditional shibori dyeing is a true labor of love: an all-day process of folding, dyeing, exposing the dye to sun and repeating. Our method is a bit of a hack – a satisfying shortcut to the finished product. Instead of photo-reactive dyes, we just go for the gusto and use fiber reactive procion dyes. A quick dip in this dye and your fabric is ready to sit overnight to set. It is still a time-consuming process, but instead of being an all-day affair, it’s perfect for a solo-afternoon, a kid-filled few hours, or an evening with friends where the wine and fabric are flying.

Are you hankering for a new set of table linens, a beautiful scarf, or fabric for a cute clutch? Shortcut Shibori could be just the right thing for your next creative afternoon.

  • Supplies (Dharma Trading Company is a great supplier for all things dye related):
  • 100% natural fabric: cotton, linen, silk.
  • soda ash fixer
  • urea
  • fiber reactive procion dye (for a dark indigo color, use ⅔ Dark Navy and ⅓ Indigo)
  • measuring spoons and measuring cup
  • professional textile detergent
  • clamps, wooden blocks (squares, rectangles, triangles, circles), rubber bands, binder clips, clothespins, pvc pipe, heavy-duty string,
  • facemask for measuring soda ash and dyes
  • glasses to protect your eyes when rinsing dye from fabric
  • newspaper to cover and protect surfaces
  • latex and/or rubber gloves
  • plastic tub to work in
  • glass jar for mixing dye
  • large plastic bags for storing clamped and dyed fabric overnight

Step 1: Prepare your fabric

  1. Pre-wash all fabric using professional textile detergent to remove any oil or dirt on fabric
  2. Soak your fabric in a soda ash solution. Using a facemask (don’t breathe in the soda ash) and gloves, mix 1 cup of soda ash in 1 gallon warm water until it dissolves. Dip your fabric into the soda ash solution until it is completely soaked, then wring it out thoroughly.

Step 2: Accordion Fold and Bind your fabric

Here is where you really can let your creative juices flow. The idea here is that you get all of your folded edges exposed on the outside edge of your bound fabric and clamp blocks to them to hold everything in place (think sandwich here, the fabric = meat, bread = wood blocks). The blocks restrict the dye to the fabric edges, which pick up the dye and make your beautiful patterns. Wear latex gloves to keep the soda ash off of your skin.

Simple squares or rectangle: accordion fold the width of your wooden blocks in one direction until you have a long rectangle. Then accordion fold the width of your block until you have a square block of fabric. Place two wooden blocks on each flat side of your fabric bloc (fabric sandwich!), and bind until tight using clamps or rubber bands (A). Try making the square of fabric bigger than your wooden blocks so there’s more fabric overhang. Bind the blocks with clamps or rubber bands, and place binder clips on the corners (B).

Triangles: accordion fold the width of your triangular block in one direction until you have a long rectangle. Then fold your fabric at 45 degree angles to accordion fold in a triangular fashion (C).  

Fan: fold your whole piece of fabric in half, so that it forms a rectangle or a triangle. Pick a point and accordion fold on an angle, so that your fabric ends up in a long and narrow stack. Secure with rubber bands (D) or clothespins (E).

Wrap and bind fabric on a pvc pipe: Lay your fabric flat and roll it up around a pvc pipe. You can fold it in half before your do it, on an angle or not. Then, take a piece of strong string, and tie it around the base of the fabric. Start wrapping the string around the fabric on the pole upward on an angle, scrunching the fabric down as you go (F).

Get creative and experiment with your own folds!  Click here to check out our Pinterest shibori page for more ideas.

Step 3: Prepare your dye and dye your fabric

  1. Decide how much dye to mix. 4 oz. of dye is enough to dye a large adult t-shirt or two-three large kitchen towels, depending on how much dye you apply. For a good, dark indigo color, I use ⅔ Dark Navy* and ⅓ Indigo* Procion dye. These colors have one asterisk after their names, meaning that they need to follow the proportions from the DYE* column in the chart below:
  2. Wear gloves and a face-mask for this step! Measure urea and warm water into a glass jar, and stir to allow the urea to dissolve. Add the dye to the mixture, close the jar, and gently shake it until all of the dye dissolves. If you see lumps of dye floating on the surface, keep mixing until they all dissolve.
  3. Working over a plastic tub, pour dye over the edges of your clamped fabric. This is another place where you can get a lot of variation. You can dunk the whole piece into the dye, or just carefully pour dye on some or all of the fabric edges.

Step 4. Let it cure. Once you have applied as much dye as you want, take the piece and put it into a large plastic bag to cure for at least four hours and up to 24 hours.

Step 5. Rinse off the excess dye and wash

  1. Prefill your washing machine with warm water and ¼ cup of professional textile detergent. If you have a front loading machine, fill a bucket with warm water and ¼ cup professional textile detergent to hold your rinsed pieces until you wash them.
  2. Leaving clamps and rubber bands on, rinse your piece under cold water,
  3. Then under warm water, rinse the piece while you remove all binding materials. Keep rinsing until the water runs fairly clear.
  4. Toss the rinsed fabric into your prefilled machine or your bucket of water/detergent as soon as it is rinsed, then wash on a regular cycle. Don’t wash more than the equivalent of 8 t-shirts together at once or the dye might build up in the water and turn white sections of fabric blue.

Step 6. Enjoy your beautiful creations, you did good!










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