We strive to deepen our understanding of the artistic uses of indigo by performing experimental research. Through our studies we have found that shibori is one of the most well-known uses of indigo, and this process can still be replicated today. The images and descriptions below detail our journey of producing shibori.
Shibori is one of the most popular artistic uses of indigo. The Japanese word translates as ‘to wring or to squeeze’ and the dyeing techniques dates back to the 8th century in Japan, but gained popularity during the Edo period, specifically among lower social classes who were seeking an alternative to silk.
From observation one may think that shibori and tie-dyeing are the same, however the two art forms differ greatly. Shibori uses thread and wooden blocks to produce a series of ties and folds that creates repeating patterns, however tie dyeing uses the twisting and tying of fabric to create spiral-like patterns. Furthermore, shibori incorporates one color while tie dyeing includes numerous colors. Tie-dyeing can be considered a Western appropriation of the Japanese artform. While shibori is strategic in its dyeing, folding and binding methods, tie-dyeing is simplified because its designs and binding techniques are often spontaneous and not predetermined.
The unique pattern that is produced on the fabric is determined by the way the dyer folds and binds the fabric. There are six different types of shibori techniques: kumo, miura, kanoko, arashi, nui, and itajime.
Kumo shibori is also referred to as spider tie-dye, due to its spider web-like shapes. This technique involves tying sections of fabric evenly with string or elastic bands.
Miura shibori is created through a series of loops. A hooked needle plucks sections of the fabric, then a thread is looped around each section twice. The thread is not knotted, tension is what keeps the sections in place.
Kanoko shibori is a technique that closely resembles western tie-dye. Elastic bands are used to secure the folds of the fabric as opposed to string.
Arashi shibori is when the fabric is wrapped around a wooden or copper rod, then the fabric is bound by strings or elastic bands. This creates a vein-like design on the fabric.
Nui shibori is one of the most intricate techniques and requires a needle and thread to sew the pattern onto the fabric. The thread is then pulled out of the fabric after it is dyed, and the fabric is left with the intricate design that was sewn on beforehand.
Itajime shibori is the technique that creates the largest patterns. It requires wooden shapes or blocks to create geometric patterns in the fabric. The shapes act as the resistance, and the indigo dyes the surrounding fabric.