Shibori Tye Dye Experiment

Shibori on the line

In number #3 of ‘things to do when recovering from an illness’, Shibori is a bit of a winner. You have to be able to potter about, add a pot of commercial dye to your online shopping order, and most critically, be strong enough to lift wet strips of cotton onto the line, or your drying mechanism of choice.

So I’d ticked off all those, and found a charity shop sheet otherwise destined for banner making and one lazy afternoon scoured Pinterest for examples and methods, eventually landing on a how-to on Instructables. Put ‘shibori dye’ into an image search for some really stunning examples

For my first experiment, this is what I used:

  1. Cotton sheet material. This one was from a charity shop, a single sheet, which already had a strip lopped off the bottom. Make sure yours is cotton.
  2. A good handful of elastic bands, the type the postman leaves lying on the ground after his rapid scoot with his walk full of mail. I’m going to start collecting them.
  3. A rare lot of string or cotton thread, more than you think you’ll need.
  4. A packet of commercial dye or any recipe you choose of home grown, home made natural dye. Walnut shells give a very rich brown, onion skins  golden yellow. I used a packet of Dylon I’d found in the back of a cupboard when my kitchen was refurbed.


This is what I did.

Thinking that I could make cushion covers, I tore the cotton into 4 strips lengthwise, each strip with the width potential for 3+ faces of cushion. So that’s 4 different types of knotting and tyeing, haha!

The two pictures above show tightly wrapped pinched sections with lots of scrap cotton yarn. I went back along the length and made some more of these wrapped pinches in between the bigger ones and I’m glad I did. There could have been more.

elastic ties

This sausage is wrapped a intervals with elastic bands and firmed up along the length with cotton thread. The fabric was folded in a narrow concertina and halved width wise before tying. The number of concertina folds and the number of ties will give the resulting pattern.

The 3rd sausage was made by folding the fabric in triangles and diamonds and unfortunately this one wasn’t tied as tightly so the design is a pale, subtle version which doesn’t show well in the photographs but is looking better as it dries.


The 4th strip was intended for use as bias binding to cover the piping on the eventual cushion covers, but I did tie it in large knots across the length just to see what might happen.


Two out of four isn’t bad for a first go  – I’m very happy. The pieces here will make cushion covers for sure or a wall hanging or curtain and would make great patchwork for something like a baby quilt or throw.

Some general tips:

  • the Dylon black is a soft graphite grey. I’ve never managed to get a true black from any commercial dye. I’m happy with this faded dark grey though.
  • the undyed resisted parts are blue in the transition to white. Again that’s ok by me, it’s giving the pieces an authentic indigo vibe.
  • it’s really important to tie wraps very tightly. The dyes will leak through in a conventional long washing machine cycle and I found lots of bits of my ties had become unravelled.  It’s a mare to untangle while wet, too.
  • be careful removing the threads and elastic. It’s impossible to unravel if you’ve tied them tightly enough, they will need to be cut. You could use a stitch ripper but I used my sharp embroidery scissors with great care, it would be easy to knick your beautiful hand dyed fabric.
  • might be easier to untangle when dry but even in high summer the drying time would be a lot longer and I was too impatient to wait.


shibori in the yard

I took the opportunity to add a couple of garments to the dye wash and now have  really wearable blouse and crochet jacket in an elegant dark grey

The sharp sun of our early autumn days shows contrasty on the little yard, showing me where potatoes need lifting from their pots, little cherry tomatoes need picking and their host plants composting, and I long for someone to come and chop my winter log pile.  One day soon.

Next #shibori post will show the fabric in better detail and give some basic instructions for making simple cushion covers. I’m very pleased.

Happy dyeing!



One thought on “Shibori Tye Dye Experiment

  1. What a fun read; I have always wanted to do shibori but I Never have. Hope you are better and didn’t wear yourself out over the dye pot.

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