For Christmas this year I tried my hand at some Shibori-style dying. On previous Christmases I’ve made bracelets and necklaces, made chutneys and jams, and always made my own cards. I look forward to doing Christmas crafts, I like getting the most output possible for my money, and I feel like I can do a much better job of making a personalised and thoughtful gift on my current budget if I go handmade. I’m not here to preach that handmade is better than buying a perfect gift, in fact at times I’ve definitely felt like it was a bit of a cop-out, because I end up giving all my relatives similar things each year dependant on what I’m crafting, and while for some people it’s the perfect gift, I can’t help but feel that others would prefer something different. Anyway, I didn’t feel like making edible things this year, so I racked my brain for inspiration.
I have no idea why I thought of Shibori, but I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, so I may well have just stumbled upon something that sparked the idea. Here are some things I pinned by people rather more experienced than me:
The plan then was to source my indigo dye – I made the choice to use natural pre-reduced indigo, rather than synthetic as my internet search told me it does weird and wonderful things. This proved to be true, but I wish the online sources had warned me how much it STINKS, lol. I advise anyone wishing to do this to do it outside, or at least, not in the winter when you have to make the choice between freezing with an open window, but smelling good, or staying warm but smelling like something vaguely sulfuric and vile…
The indigo kit I bought came with all the pieces I needed to tie dye (rubber bands, wooden blocks etc) and all the chemicals and bits that needed adding. I highly recommend this as it makes everything really easy. All you need is (if inside) something like a big plastic sheet to put on the floor, and a large container with a lid to put the dye in.
It’s messy but it’s fun!
As you can see in the picture above, I started with four different ties (BTW I decided to make pillow cases, the material was a good quality white sheet I bought from a charity shop for £2.99, I also did a few t-shirts and vest tops). The four starting ties were concertina triangle, concertina square, pole wrap (you wrap the fabric diagonally around the pole than scrunch it down hard and tie it there) and a more traditional tie-die. The undyed fabrics looked like this:
And when dyed and unwrapped they looked like this:
I should mention these are all still wet in the pictures, and the indigo dried quite a bit lighter than this. For all but the vest top I wasn’t completely happy with the amount of white space, so I retied and redyed all of them, making sure that for the concertinas a different part of the fabric was on the outside and for the stick roll, I simply made sure the dyed portion was closest to the stick and the whitest portion on the outside. For some reason the dye seemed to soak in even more the second time and I ended up with this:
I also did a cool spotty one by tying small pebbles into the fabric using elastic:
There was no need for double-dying with this one as the fabric was so exposed.
The final cushions looked like this:
I almost didn’t want to give them away! So I consoled myself by dying my very boring white and grey bedcover and pillows!
I took some close-up pictures of the fabric for this as it really shows the randomness of natural indigo, it takes more strongly in some areas and oxidises differently giving a cool mottled effect:
This was definitely a tough project, one night I literally worked from 8pm till 1am tying and dying fabrics. Because the indigo dye oxidises and presumably eventually becomes unusable you’re working against time and with large fabrics the tying and folding can take ages. A word of warning also, I have a wash off fabric marker which is supposed to wash out in cold water. My mum swears by this thing, and it seemed to be working fine until I noticed that it was reacting with the indigo and leaving little brown marks which refused to be dyed or bleached out. I used in to mark out the spotty patterns, and each circle ended up with a little brown mark in the centre, which was quite upsetting, so perhaps use chalk to mark up fabrics, this might work better, but do a patch test first.
Good luck if you try this out x