Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes


Tie Dye Japanese Style

This week I experimented with natural dyes and Shibori.  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this project. Plants have been used for centuries as sources for dyes.  The shades they can produce range from grays to reds, depending on the plants used. In my project I used blueberries, hibiscus flowers and red onion skins (the results are pictures left to right).

Making dyes from plants and fruit is easy.

  1. Gather the plant material and chop it up.
  2. Add to a pot of water (the amount of water needs to be about double the amount of plant material).
  3. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer it for an hour.
  4. Strain the plant or fruit from the mixture. Your dye bath is ready.

Not all fabrics will color well with natural dyes. You need to use all natural fiber fabrics such as 100% cotton, wool or silk. Of course, the lighter the fabric the better. I used 100% cotton gauze.  There is some prep work you should consider before you plunge your fabric in you homemade dyes. I have read several sources that say you must use a color fixative or mordant  to make the dye adhere, others say it’s not necessary. I chose to use a natural fixative for my dyes.

How to prep your fabric for a dyeing:

  1. Use a 100% natural fiber fabric: cotton, wool or silk
  2. Scour the fabric in washing soda. This is to deep clean the  fabric to help with even and good penetration of the dye.. There is a multi-step process for scouring. I put my gauze in my washing machine with some washing soda (found in the laundry isle at the store, looks like a big box of Arm & Hammer baking soda) on hot. That is the lazy version…it worked just fine.
  3. Soak the fabric in a fixative. For plant dyes, use 4 parts cold water to 1 part white vinegar. For berry dyes, use  1/2 cup salt to 8 cups cold water. Add the clean fabric to the fixative and simmer for an hour.

At this point you can add the fabric to the dye bath. But I wanted to use the Shibori technique, so I dried my fabric.

Shibori is Japanese tie-dyeing. There are  many techniques for Shibori.  For most of the techniques, it starts with the basic accordion fold:

Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

1. Fold fabric in half.







Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

2. Fold in half again.







Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

3. If the fabric is the desired width, pick up one end and fold a “square”.







Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

4. Fold again in the opposite direction, like an accordion.






Itajime shibori

This is a shaped-resist technique.  The cloth is sandwiched between two pieces of wood, which are held in place with string or clamps.

Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

1. Add a wood shape cut out to the top and bottom of your accordion folded fabric. I got the cut outs from Micheal’s. They are 30 cents each.






Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

2.Clamp the wood shape down on the fabric. You can use string or rubber bands as well.







Arashi shibori

Arashi shibori is pole-wrapping shibori. The cloth is wrapped  around a pole, usually diagonally. Then the cloth bound by wrapping string up and down the pole and then scrunched.

Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

 1. Lay pole on fabric.







Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

2. Roll fabric onto the pole.







Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

3. Wrap the rolled fabric with string. It helps to secure the top of the pole with a rubber band to help you get started.






Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

4. Continue down the pole and secure at the opposite end. Scrunch the fabric down to one end.







For the last “square” shaped Shibori, I secured rubber bands around a basic accordion fold.

Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

Now we are ready to add the fabric to the dye bath.







Wet the bundles thoroughly and squeeze out excess water before you add to the dye bath. Wetting the fabric helps absorb the dye better. I let my fabric sit in the dye bath for about 30 mins. The longer it sits, the stronger the color. Once you remove the bundles for the dye bath, rinse in cold water until it runs clear. Unwrap and hang them to dry.

Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes
From left to right: Itajime w/blueberries, Arashi w/hibiscus, and accordion fold w/red onion skin.

The fabric will dry lighter. Natural dyes are mostly color fast. They will fade over time. When you wash your naturally dyed fabric, use cold water and wash with like colors. Have fun!


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4 thoughts on “Shibori Tie-Dye with Natural Dyes

  1. have you done the final dyeing in a cold or hot dye bath? xxx

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