I Tried It: Shibori Dyeing

When we debuted our semi-regular feature DIY Friday, one of the tutorials I mentioned wanting to try was Shibori dyeing.  I gave it a go this weekend, and I’m really happy with the results!

Shibori is a Japanese method of dyeing cloth by binding, wrapping, or folding the cloth to create different patterns. On the recommendation of this tutorial from Design Sponge, I bought an indigo dyeing kit.


The instructions were simple.  Basically you just dump the contents in a bucket and gently stir. I didn’t want to use the whole thing, so I just eyeballed 1/2 of each of the three substances and poured them in.

Materials gathered.

Materials gathered


Mixing the dye

The dye has to sit for about 30 minutes after you mix it, so the next thing I did was to fold my fabrics.


A basic accordion fold of a pillowcase


I tried the accordion fold different ways, and I bound them differently, just as an experiment.


Another accordion fold, but bound between wood blocks.

I also tried a technique called Arashi, or pole-wrapping. I took another pillow case and wrapped it around some PVC pipe. I then tied strings tightly up the pole in about one-inch intervals.


Once I had all the strings tied on, I scrunched the pillow case down to create folds and pleats.


Next, I wet the folded fabrics thoroughly, and then submerged them in the dye bath.

Indigo bath.

My dye wasn’t deep enough to submerge the Arashi Shibori, so I used a foam paint brush to apply the dye while it was standing in the bucket to catch the drips. Each piece of fabric stayed in the dye bath for about 5 minutes. When they first emerge, they are a sickly green color, but exposure to air quickly changes them to a rich indigo. I let each fabric oxidize for a few minutes and then gave them another dose of dye. For the accordion folds, after the second time in the dye bath, I rinsed them in cold water and then unfolded them and let them dry before washing them in the washing machine. For the pole-wrapped version I let the dye dry overnight before rinsing them, just to give the dye a better chance of penetrating the inner wrapped layer of the pillow case.

I really like the results!  Here is the accordion fold that was bound only using rubber bands:


And here is the accordion fold bound with wood blocks:


And last but not least the pole-wrapped Arashi:




Just because no Red House West blog post is complete without a kitty pic.

The whole process was very easy, and unwrapping each folded fabric after dyeing was a fun surprise.  I will definitely try this again–I’m thinking reusable wrapping paper, and maybe a tablecloth for the breakfast nook.

Have you conquered something on your DIY to-try list lately?  We are always inspired by your projects!


31 responses on “I Tried It: Shibori Dyeing

  1. patigator

    Friday eve a friend shared her Shibori projects – indigo on both silk yardage and cotton t-shirts. She rubber banded marbles freely and in patterns for some interesting designs. Yours are quite wonderful!

  2. Katy Gilmore

    What a treat to learn about this dye method in your clear instructions. I had no idea of how all those folds turn into intriguing and satisfyingly regular patterns (with charming irregularity). I love also this series of photos with touches of orange, including Cromwell, of course.

    1. meramatthews

      Cromwell looks spectacular in indigo, doesn’t he? Thank you, Katy, and thanks for being such a willing photographer! 🙂

  3. Carol Crump Bryner

    This is fantastic Mera! You’ve created such appealing patterns. The last one is especially beautiful, and you have just the right touch when you arrange them for their “photo shoots.” The indigo color is the perfect foil for orange, so your cats must feel that you did it just for them.

  4. dwhmmatthews

    Terrific information and directions. My favorite is the last one, also. You could take up hand modeling; they are beautiful as well.

  5. Susan Glassow

    I love the whole process! And the fabrics themselves at the end of…So many ways to wrap and then unwrap, magical – these gifts of color and design.

  6. Rebecca

    oooooh this looks great! I found this through your comment on design sponge and wanted to check out how it looks when a real person does this =) and you did awesome. im totally gonna try this =) thanks!

    1. meramatthews

      Thanks, Rebecca, so glad you found us! It is super easy and satisfying–definitely give it a try, and let us know how it turns out! I hope you’ll keep checking out the blog, we do lots of fun textile tutorials, like Katie’s block printed tea towel post today. Thanks!

        1. meramatthews

          The instructions say it can be discarded in the sink, so I did that. I used our utility sink, which is already quite stained so I didn’t pay attention to whether it had stained it more or not. I probably wouldn’t experiment with my porcelain farm sink, but I bet if you run the water while dumping it it won’t stain. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  7. Michelle

    I’m very interested in trying this! 🙂 But I worry about this bleeding when washed with my regular laundry. Did you have any problems with this?

    1. meramatthews

      I haven’t had any problems with bleeding and I regularly wash the pillowcases with my other white sheets. If you’re concerned about it, maybe try heat-setting the ink by ironing it after the fabric has dried (and with a piece of cloth on top of the dyed fabric to protect your iron, just in case). Have fun, and let us know how it turns out! 🙂

  8. Tiff

    I realize this post is old. But I just tried this technique and am wondering how you machine washed your pieces? Did you use laundry detergent and what temperature? Did you ever notice any dye rubbing off on your other fabric in contact with the indigo? Thank you so much!

    1. Katie & Mera

      I’ve washed my shibori pieces tons of times on the normal setting in warm water and haven’t had any problems with dye bleeding, fading, or transferring. I think it’s really important to thoroughly rinse your fabric in cold water after dyeing in order to help the color set. Good luck! 🙂

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