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Shibori Tips

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Wild Colours natural dyes > indigo dye > shibori > shibori tips

Shibori Tips & Tricks

Tie dye tips

Shibori tie-dye with natural indigo on cotton | Wild Colours natural dyes1. Before you tie
Remember that you need to scour your cotton fabric or T-shirt well before applying the ties. You will also need to mordant your fabric beforehand for dyes other than woad and indigo.

2. Experiment with fabrics
It is a good idea to practice by making several samples on small pieces of fabric first, (for example, if your fabric is 110 cm wide, divide the width in three and make sample squares of about 36 cm by 36 cm). If you have time, hem the edges of your samples before you dye them. Unfinished cotton samples unravel at the edges and the unravelled threads tend to tangle up with your tie dye thread.

You can also experiment on white cotton T-shirts or white handkerchiefs which are available quite cheaply online. The advantage of using handkerchiefs for samples is that the edges are neatly hemmed.

3. Tie placement
Your ties can be placed at random or, if you prefer, you can mark your design with water-soluble marker pens placing dots about 5 cm apart in staggered rows. With this spacing your designs are likely to touch each other. If you use wider spacing you will have a larger amount of dyed background between each design.

4. Strong dye
Make your dye stronger than usual as you want the dye to work as quickly as possible and create as much contrast between the dyed and undyed areas.

5. Achieve better pattern definition
It is very important to keep moving the tied fabric inside the dye pot, working at the cloth to allow the dye to penetrate in all the nooks and crannies in between the ties. Use your fingers (wearing gloves) to move bumps and gathers, aiming to get the dye right up to the resist.

6. Remove the ties at the correct time
Before removing the ties let the fabric drip dry for a couple of hours, rinse and only then remove the ties. You may need to use embroidery scissors to avoid cutting the fabric when you remove the ties. Handle these sharp tools carefully.

An alternative is to remove some of the ties and then add the fabric to the indigo vat again. If you do this you will have light blue as well as white rings.

7. Make it better
After you have dyed your fabric, you may notice that some of your designs have ‘tails’ that spill into the background. If you don’t like these tails, next time be extra careful when you gather the fabric not to include any fabric that should be outside the tied area. Likewise, be sure that none of the fabric that should be in the tied area has been left out.

8. Away from the edge
Start your pattern a few centimetres away from the edge. The area between the pattern and the edge of the fabric often has unexpected results. If you are using your fabric for sewing, you don’t want these interesting areas hidden in a seam.

9. Double-check
Before immersing the fabric in the dye pot, check again that all the ties are tight.

Then Go to:

a) Fabric for tie dyeing

b) Natural dyes for tie dyeing (opens a new page)

c) Choice of threads for tie dye (opens a new page)

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Contact Teresinha for enquiries
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Updated on 22 April 2024
Website & photos by Mike Roberts ©2006-24 Wild Colours natural dyes


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