Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MAKE: 5 Ways to Indigo Tie-Dye, The Shibori Method

Shibori is one of the earliest known Japanese fabric dying techniques. It is a form of tie dying, also called resist dying. The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of the dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. There are countless ways to bind, bunch, fold or wrap your cloth in preparation for the dye bath, all producing different pattern results. I checked out a few books from the library (this one was especially helpful) and read up on the art before diving into this DIY, which I recommend. It felt good to have a little bit of knowledge on the subject since it was pretty new to me. 

The first step is to gather your materials. This takes a few days so I recommend planning ahead. After doing a little research online, I settled on buying this kit from Amazon, which worked great and I highly recommend! It makes the process very straightforward and inexpensive. It basically comes with everything you need absent a 5 gallon bucket and a stir stick. I did end up buying a few extra things at the Dollar Store and Ace Hardware, but if you don't want to fuss with all the different techniques you can really do a lot with this little kit. In terms of the fabric pieces I used, I wanted to start easy so I bought some flour sack tea towels, a set of cotton pillowcases and a top from Target. I also had a white dress I got on sale at Old Navy so I threw that in too! It felt a little risky but I'm glad I did it. When picking things out just make sure you are choosing natural fibers and not synthetic materials. 

- 5 Gallon bucket with an air tight lid
- Stir stick
- White fabrics for dyeing

- Extra gloves (they only give you one pair in the kit and they are not the best, a little flimsy and they don't go past your wrists. Next time I am going to get something like this so my hands don't end up blue for a week!)
- Wooden pole or maillot
- String
- Scissors
- Marbles
- Extra rubber bands
- Tongs
- Notebook and pen (to document your patterns and results)
- 2 gallon bucket (for the water dip, this is necessary if you don't have a sink near your work space)
- Plastic tablecloth or drop cloth
This DIY takes several hours, so I'd set aside most of the day if you have it. Shibori is not meant to be rushed. Your pieces will not turn out well if you are in a hurry. I suggest waking up early, setting up your work space, and putting on some good tunes. Since I don't have the luxury of having a yard (I live on the 4th floor of my apt complex), I had to improvise a bit with my 'work space'. I picked a shaded spot by the corner of my building, laid down a drop cloth (which was actually a plastic table cloth from the dollar store), filled one 2 gallon bucket with warmish water, and set the other 5 gallon bucket out for my dye bath. If you have a sink nearby you won't necessarily need to 2 gallon bucket for water, but I didn't want to have to be running up and down the stairs so this was my solution. 
Making the Indigo dye bath: The kit has thorough instructions on how to make the dye bath, so if you follow them carefully you should be good to go. That being said, this was definitely the most intimidating part for me. The dye is sensitive and is not supposed to be exposed to oxygen, so just remember not to slosh or splash around. Stir in a gentle, steady motion to avoid introducing oxygen into the liquid in this phase (it can ruin the whole process). Once you have made the bath, it needs to sit for at least 30 min (an hour is recommended) so at this point you can use this time to fold, bind and tie your fabric. 
Shibori Techniques:
If I can offer any tips at all for this part I would just say go for it. There is no right or wrong way. This is the fun part, so don't dwell too much on how things might turn out. Photo documentation is helpful. I took a picture of the before and after of every piece so now I pretty much know how to get similar results in the future. Also jotting things down in a notebook and sketching beforehand is a good way to go once you get more familiar with the results you will get. I definitely felt like I was winging it a little, this being my first time, but I was really pretty happy with my results! Mistakes can often be beautiful in this art which is a major bonus :)

1. Itajime: aka Accordion Fold technique. Numbers 1. and 3. both use the triangle accordion fold technique. This was a super simple and quick folding technique that involves folding the fabric forwards and then backwards (like an accordion) making pleats in the fabric and then doing the same in a triangle shape. Here is a video example. Number 5. also uses this technique except for instead of folding it into a triangle I continued with a square pattern. This is a good video example for this technique. You may use wooden blocks or claps to secure your shape, but just keep in mind that anything covering the fabric is going to be white underneath. I just secured mine with a couple rubber bands. See below for results.

2. Arashi: aka, the Pole Wrapping method. See number 2. The term arashi is the Japanese word for "storm" which seems fitting for this method producing chaotic designs on a piece of cloth. This was one of the fastest and easiest methods in my opinion. Here is a good video (if you are a visual person like me). Basically you just lay your cloth diagonal to the pole, wrap it around, and secure it with a bunch of string. If you want a more linear patten, make sure not to cross the string, but I was aiming for a random design. See below for visuals and results. 
3. Ne-Maki: aka Bound Resist, circle method. Used in number 6.-- this technique involves placing marbles on the fabric (you can also use rocks, or even just bunch the fabric) and securing them with rubber bands. The rubber band creates a beautiful circular pattern. See below for visuals and results. 
4. Kumo: or Spiderweb method. this technique takes a little time but the results are beautiful. It involves randomly tying areas of fabric in place with ties (you can use yarn, string, plastic, wire, rubber bands etc.) in a cone or horn. I used this technique for number 4. I randomly gathered fabric, tied it at the top and wrapped it down. I did this in several places throughout the piece. It produces a beautiful spiral. See below for results.

{Match the numbers from the previous pic to the corresponding numbers in this picture to give you an idea of the techniques and finished results}
Once you have bound and bundled and done all you need to do to your fabric to produce beautiful patterns, you are ready to start dyeing! You must soak all of your fabric in warm water first and then one at a time place your pieces into the indigo bath. Make sure to stir your bath and remove the 'bloom' before your start. All of this is explained in the kit instructions. During this phase it is very important not to just drop your piece into the dye bath and let it sink to the bottom. Using your hands or tongs, gently submerge it just under the dye surface, making sure not to introduce oxygen into the bath (no splashing, hold very still). I put each piece in the bath for at least 3 min. When removing your piece wring it out underneath the surface and try to avoid as much dripping as possible. Place your piece on the drop cloth and let it oxidize for about 20 min. You will notice that at first the piece is a greenish yellow color, but slowly begins to turn indigo blue as it is exposed to the air. Repeat this process as many times as you'd like to achieve desired results. (I did it 3 times just to ensure a deep blue indigo color)

Now that you have dyed all of your pieces, let them dry completely in the sun, and then wash in cold water  to set the dye. Take pictures and label your results so you can do it again, even better next time! I'm so pleased with this DIY. You really can't go wrong with tie dye and learning the traditional Shibori technique is very cool if you ask me! Happy dyeing!

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