When Shibori and Batik Love Each Other Very Very Much . . .

Remember this chair that I scored off Craigslist this spring? She’s a beaut, but seriously in need of a new ensemble.

chair cushions

You might remember that for the short term I took off the back cushion and covered the seat cushion with a wool blanket.  But with sub-freezing temps all of a sudden I kind of want my blanket back, so I thought I would try to make some new clothes for this guy.


The blanket I was using is a white and grey plaid, and I liked the look of the pattern in my living room.  I thought I would try to replicate it with a simple accordion fold shibori technique (you can read my shibori tutorial here).

I had some yardage of really nice heavyweight hemp fabric left over from a previous project, so I folded it up and dyed it with the indigo I had left over from my first attempt at shibori.

I don’t know if it’s because I was using a larger piece of fabric, or something about the fabric itself, but it didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

Red House West||Shibori Batik

The dye bled unevenly, some creases didn’t get any dye and others got too much.  It was just a mess.  Luckily I wasn’t totally wedded to the idea of shibori on this chair, so I wasn’t too disappointed.  I decided to see what would happen if I did a little batik on top of the shibori mess.

I had read that Elmer’s blue gel glue works as an alternative to wax for batiking, so I grabbed some out of Opal’s craft supplies.  I was still stuck on the idea of plaid, so using the glue I drew lines diagonal to the shibori pattern, and then another set of lines parallel to the shibori pattern.  I used the side of a cardboard box as a rough guide to help me draw relatively straight lines.

Red House West||Shibori Batik

I let the glue dry overnight, and then gave it a quick dunk in the indigo bath.  Wearing gloves, I swirled it around in the dye for about two minutes or so, and then laid it flat on top of a drop cloth to oxidize and dry.

Red House West||Shibori Batik

When the fabric first came out of the dye bath the glue lines where dark, almost black, and I wasn’t sure whether that was just the glue, or whether the fabric was actually going to be darker.  I liked the look of the dark lines, but when I rinsed the fabric (after letting it oxidize for about 10 minutes) the glue rolled right off and the fabric underneath was still pristine white.

After rinsing I let the fabric dry thoroughly.  It was sort of sticky all over from the glue, so I just tossed it in the washing machine and washed it in warm water.  It came out looking really great, not at all sticky, and the indigo didn’t bleed into the batik lines at all.

Red House West||Shibori Batik

Red House West||Shibori Batik

Actually, the non-batiked side of the fabric is pretty fetching too:

Red House West||Shibori Batik

I laid the fabric on the chair to get a sense of what it would be like.  I really like the pattern, but I’m not sure it’s quite right for this chair.

Some might say that there's something not quite right about that cat, but not me.  To me he's perfect.

Some might say that there’s something not quite right about that cat, but not me. To me he’s perfect.

Cromwell did his best to convince me that the fabric was perfect for the chair, but even his entreating gibbous eyes and sweet, loose-fleshed belly couldn’t convince me.

Red House West||Shibori Batik

Maybe it’s that my shibori-batik lacks any hint of the preppy gray and white plaid, or maybe it’s just that there’s too much going on.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but despite the fact that this emperor chair still has no clothes I’m glad to have experimented with this batiking technique, and I’m sure I’ll make good use of this fabric in another project.  Cromwell suggests a down-stuffed, heated cat bed.

Thanks for reading along, stay tuned for Wednesday when Katie posts about creating a gallery wall!


12 responses on “When Shibori and Batik Love Each Other Very Very Much . . .

  1. Carol Crump Bryner

    It’s a very interesting technique, and it was generous of you to share it even though you weren’t sure the fabric will work on the chair. I like it that you used Opal’s glue for the batik part. Maybe a little pillow for the chair – something Cromwell could rest his head on – would be a nice use for the fabric once you get the cushions covered.

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks Carol! I’m sure I’ll find a good use for the fabric, and the real gain for me is learning just how well the glue batik technique works. Lots of possibilities with this simple craft!

  2. michellet2013

    Thanks for sharing this glue batik technique—it sounds much easier/less messy than the traditional wax. It will be interesting to see what you end up choosing for the chair. And yes, Cromwell is more than deserving of a custom cat bed!

    1. meramatthews

      Super easy, and not at all messy! Cromwell most certainly is deserving of a custom bed, but don’t let him fool you: he already has two that I made from old sweaters and shrunken wool mattress pads–very lux!

  3. y2knina

    Yeah, I’m with you, no matter what Cromwell thinks. I like the fabric and I love the chair but I am just not feeling them together. Now stop thinking about it and get on that heated cat bed project pronto.

    1. meramatthews

      Right? It’s just . . . wrong. Cromwell really does need a heated cat bed, his current favorite sleeping spot is on top of my old veggie burger Halloween costume in the basement. So undignified.

  4. mcncampion

    So cool. I love these dying / batiking / shibori projects you do. (And – comforting that they don’t all work exactly as you’d like.) So, tell me: the photo where the “glue” looks bronzy-gold (I was SO struck by it!) … you say it actually looked “dark, almost black.” Is the bronze/gold look a trick of the camera?

    1. meramatthews

      I think the gold tinge is a trick of the oh-so-flattering basement lighting. It really was almost black–if it were gold I would have done everything I could to keep it that way!

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks Katy! Yes, another post is forthcoming about the chair! For now I’m still shivering (through our first real snow!) without the blanket still.

  5. wanda

    Love the work you did. You make me want to do my bedroom over.

    I would love to make cotton scarves for the ladies in the office for holidays using this method. What kind & size of material should I buy? Most of my ordering is done online, so I kind of need specific type.

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