Shibori Dyeing

Playing with Indigo Shibori

I do not profess to be an expert at anything, so this is definitely not a tutorial.  I just want to share the fun I have in making things, especially when I make them with dye.  Dye has a voice of its own and it's a pointless venture to try to control it.  The best you can manage is so share that voice and marvel in its message.  

This is especially true with indigo.  It is a natural dye made from plants and doesn't behave like chemical dyes do.  It seeps into the fabric in a myriad of ways, often not the way you wanted.  I find it's best just to wait until the process is done and revel in the surprises that await you.

To get started, you will of course, need the dye and (unfortunately) a few chemicals to start the process.  In Canada you can purchase pre-reduced indigo and everything you need at G&S Dye in Toronto, Ontario, or Maiwa on Granville Island in BC. 

Their websites also have loads of instruction so you can follow that as well.  This is just my journey.

I used the handy kit from G&S this time, that has pre-measured amounts of what you need.  The first thing to do is wash the fabric to get rid of any sizing.  You can only use natural fibres here, as synthetics won't pick up the dye.  You can use the soap that they sell at G&S, which is called TNA., and it works well.

The kit comes with:

80 gm of pre-reduced indigo

100 gms of thiorea dioxide or thiox

100 gms of sodium carbonate

 First add the indigo to warm water and dissolve in into a soupy paste.  Add that to a large vat of warm water.  I have one that is originally for canning and the dark blue seems to keep the vat warm. 

 One vat is for soaking the fabrics, and the big blue canning vat is for the indigo.  Always wear your gloves.  Blue fingers are a sign of a dyer, but not terribly healthy.

One vat is for soaking the fabrics, and the big blue canning vat is for the indigo.  Always wear your gloves.  Blue fingers are a sign of a dyer, but not terribly healthy.

Next, paste the thiox in some warm water.  This might be challenging so add a little more warm water until you can't see the thiox any longer.  Pour gently into the vat along the sides.  Do not disturb the water if you can.  Adding oxygen to the mix will deplete the indigo and you don't want to do that.

 It takes awhile to dissolve it thoroughly, but persist and add a bit more water until the mixture is clear.

It takes awhile to dissolve it thoroughly, but persist and add a bit more water until the mixture is clear.

Boil the kettle and dissolve the sodium carbonate in that.  This is also a tough thing to do, but keep bashing it against the sides, and perhaps add a bit more water until it is thoroughly dissolved.  Slide this gently into the vat as well, put a lid on it and, if possible, place it in the sun where it will be warmed up.  Let it sit until it forms a bloom and you're ready to go.

 It smells kind of weird and has a coppery texture, but this is just the most beautiful sight to see in an indigo vat.

It smells kind of weird and has a coppery texture, but this is just the most beautiful sight to see in an indigo vat.

Remove the bloom with a spoon and save it until you're finished, then return it to the pot.

Shibori is an ancient method of producing a pattern on fabric, and it has been practised in Japan for centuries. You can read a little about it at the World Shibori Network.

I used simple blocks and folding techniques because the repeating of the shapes creates the patterns, and it some how feels more traditional.  I'm all about traditions and old things, as you can tell by the textiles I use in my purses.  

 Because I have used my blocks a lot of times, I protect the fabric with a little bit of waxed paper to keep the fabric clean and the lines clear.

Because I have used my blocks a lot of times, I protect the fabric with a little bit of waxed paper to keep the fabric clean and the lines clear.

There are a lot of fun ways to fold and clamp, as well as tie off, wrap around poles, stitch and even just scrunch, so I played with a few methods, but mostly stuck with simple blocks.  Once you've got them ready, be sure to soak them well, at least 10 minutes in water before you dye them.  I let them sit in the indigo for at least 10 minutes, take them out and let them dry for an hour or so, before dipping them again.  It's the oxidation that makes the indigo work.  Then I repeat for 4 to 10 times.  It usually takes a few days to do the whole process.

 Basic block and clamping.  The long stick has been wrapped and the scarf was folded on the diagonal.

Basic block and clamping.  The long stick has been wrapped and the scarf was folded on the diagonal.

The best way to set the colour is to let it air out, preferably for 2 months.  But, who am I kidding, I don't have the patience for that!  Once it's finally dry, open it up and let it sit out for as long as you possibly can, before rinsing it out.

To rinse out, use the TNA mentioned earlier, or Ivory liquid soap.

Use a three step rinse:

Cold water, then cold with a drop of TNA,

Warm water, then warm with a drop of TNA,

Hot water, then hot with a drop of TNA

Rinse in cool water and air dry for another week.

The most important thing is to have fun.  I'll show you how they turned out in another post. Gotta keep you guessing for a little bit.