Shibori Truancy

I played truant from the office recently to spend a day with friends at a Shibori workshop. What fun!

Mary's "Chinese Pine" design after it has been in the dye bath.

I thought Shibori designs were created by wrapping the fabric with heavy thread, or twine, but we discovered that this was only one method.

The method that we used in the workshop actually involved a lot of stitching.

Preparing my "Chinese Pine" design, stitching with a thread that was a little too thick.

Here I have a very sad confession, as the owner of a business that specialises in thread, I took all the WRONG threads to the workshop!

As I said earlier, I was expecting to need a heavy thread to wrap / tie the fabric to create the designs so I took a heavy crochet cotton (luckily I did not take the string that we use to tie up the paper recycle!).

Others in the group had also taken thicker threads although, fortunately, Gwen had a nice fine crochet thread in her collection that she shared with the group.

Of course, because I had packed a thick thread I had also packed a BIG needle in my workshop kit.  Next time I will know better.

However, this turned out to be an excellent lesson in the value of using the right thread for the job.

  • Some of the thick threads, that appeared to be strong, did not pass the “snap” test and were deemed by the tutor to be unsuitable. … looks can be deceiving.
  • Some of the threads had a coarse twist and were difficult to pull through the fabric to create the stitched designs.

A thicker thread was also more difficult to gather up to create the “resist” pattern

After the design has been stitched, the threads have to be gathered up to pull up the fabric to create the “resist” patterns.

I tried  three different threads for my stitched designs:

  • the coarse one,
  • a thick but smoother crochet cotton (shown in the top photo) and
  • Gwen’s fine, very smooth, crochet cotton

Of the three, I have to say that the finer, smooth, cotton was the easiest to use for stitching as it didn’t grab the fabric as I made a stitch.

Further, after we had finished our first sampler Gail, another friend,  pointed out that using a thick thread with a big needle meant that the needle holes were visible after the fabric had been dyed.

The last, tricky technique that we had to master was unpicking our stitching while the fabric was still wet. This is not an easy task  … it was not possible to simply “pull” the gathered stitches out, they had to be cut out and we did not want to accidentally cut our beautiful fabrics at this stage.

  • We all found that our white cotton crochet threads picked up the dye at much the same rate as our white fabrics so it was quite tricky to selectively cut the thread without cutting the fabric

Unpicking the stitching required great care, and attention, as the white thread picked up as much dye as the fabric and was well disguised.

I decided that the black thread that I had used for the “Chinese Pine” design was the easiest to remove … it was a smooth thread and it was visible as a different colour to the dyed fabric.

Knowing what I now know about preparing shibori designs with stitching, I have to say that next time I will use Cotton Mako’ 12, in a rich colour,  as this good quality, smoothly twisted, thread will make it much easier to stitch & gather up the designs and will be visible when it is time to remove the thread.

Next time I will use the nice smooth, evenly twisted, Cotton Mako' 12 in an unusual colour

I think that it could also be fun to experiment using the Cotton Mako’ 40 to stitch closer rows of folds to create a finer more delicate design.

This colour of cotton Mako' 40 would also work

I have to say that during this workshop it was obvious that a good quality, well made thread, made the stitching easier, and faster.

When there are so many beautiful threads available, it really is false economy, and a waste of creative time, to use just any old thread no matter what the task.

I wonder when we can have another shibori day … my head is buzzing with ideas.

Read more about Shibori, written by people who really know what they are doing:

Japanese Textiles (From a Westerners pespective)

Smitha Nayar’s Blog

2 Responses

  1. This looks it would be a great workshop! A lot of fun and then you end up with some unique fabric to boot! I think I’d like to try that.

    • It was great fun Candy, especially as all the technical stuff of making up the dye bath was done for us by the Tutor. She uses a real indigo dye bath not a chemical dye solution, so it did require special care.

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