Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Shibori, the Traditional Art of Resist Dyeing

Photo: VirtKitty on Flickr

Shibori, the Traditional Art of Resist Dyeing

Sanny Soedjatmiko Hartanto

You may notice that Japan is all about pretty things. When you look at photos or literally walk around the streets here you will find so many beautiful and interesting patterns. So did I, when I began researching about Japanese fabrics. Why did I research about fabrics anyway?



Photo: Meighan O'Toole on Flickr

Japan has tons of designs used for fabric patterns, but what really caught my eye was a technique called shibori. My curiosity level rose as I noticed that shibori looks a little bit like western tie-dye. It turns out that shibori is a traditional Japanese technique of dyeing fabrics, most often with indigo, and yes, it is a little bit similar to western tie-dye techniques but more complex.



Photo: pomo mama on Flickr

What makes it different than tie-dye? If you are familiar with tie-dye you know that tie-dye is often colorful and vibrant. It doesn’t leave as much white color on the fabric as shibori does. Secondly, shibori has many kinds of unusual techniques. Unlike tie-dyeing, where all you have to do is to tie some cords or rubber bands on your free-style-folded fabric as you like, then put it into the dye, shibori involves much more technique than that. As you can see below, shibori is less abstract and uses only two colors, usually indigo on white, instead of rainbow colors.



Photo: lisa sorensen on Flickr

So the first technique that I find very interesting is the folding technique or the suji technique. The fabric is folded to create interesting designs. Somehow this technique is simple and difficult at the same time. Even though you only have to fold the fabric, you need to think about how you should fold the fabric so that it will create a nice and even pattern. Shibori usually is about creating repetitive and symmetrical patterns. The secret to getting your pattern to come out evenly is to fold your fabric in a similar way, such as when you want a paper fan pattern. You have to be precise if you want it to be even. You can iron it while you fold so the effect will be stronger. If you want to create a triangle, you just have to fold a triangle from one end to another of your fan-folded fabric.



Photo: Susan Barrett Price on Flickr

The second technique is the nui technique or the stitching technique. The fun part is, it doesn’t require hard hand stitching techniques, all you have to do is a running stitch. You might want to draw your design first then you can do running stitch across the design. After that you pull your thread (it is recommended to use strong thread) until your fabric is gathered. It is the first time for me to observe such a technique of fabric manipulation.



Photo: lisa sorensen on Flickr

The last of my top 3 techniques is the pole-dyeing technique or the arashi technique. You need some poles or cylindrical objects that are big enough for you to wrap your fabric. Another thing you need is a long cord or twine to wrap around your fabric, to create the resistance. The last thing is some rubber bands to hold the fabric in place. The pattern of an arashi technique results in stripes. But if you play around with the width of your cord or the way you wrap the cord, it will create much more interesting stripe motifs. It's even possible to create stripes like a tiger’s.



Photo: Shiisa Quilts on Flickr

They are unique techniques, right? I've known tie-dye techniques for a long time now, but shibori techniques are new to me. There are several more techniques I didn’t mention about. They create pretty patterns too, but my top 3 here are the simplest among all of them. The good part about these 3 techniques is you can use random things around you to be creative with it. Try it out and have fun!