Shibori is Fun, and So Are Bloggers!

NEWSFLASH:  Dyeing stuff is way fun!

OK, you guys already knew that.  But seriously, shibori is WAY fun!  Wanna know more?

I was surprised last week by an invitation to a special workshop at the Textile Arts Center.  It was hosted by the good folks at Course Horse, and the attendees were fellow sewing bloggers.  I found the invitation especially serendipitous because I’ve been really interested in learning more about natural dyes and techniques, specifically indigo and shibori, ever since I attended the workshop at the Etsy Labs back in May.

But first– a quick word about Course Horse.  I wasn’t familiar with this site prior to receiving the invitation, but it actually looks pretty cool.  It basically gathers information about classes all over the city, so if you’re interested in taking a class in draping, for example, you type that into their search engine and it brings up available and upcoming classes.  As of right now, only classes in NYC are listed, although word on the street is that an LA version will be launching soon.  There aren’t tons of sewing classes listed, but there are quite a few in other categories (including one on egg pickling… in case you need to, you know, pickle some eggs… hmm….).

OK, back to the class!  Our teacher was Addison Walz, the manager of the 8th St. location.  Here she is demonstrating how to properly fold fabric:

You pleat the strips of fabric accordion-style to help the dye to permeate it evenly.  Below, Addison demonstrates how to find the center of the fabric to bind the fabric for a shell or spiderweb pattern.  Tip: use strong thread to prevent it from snapping as you bind.

Use tongs to lower the material into the dye vat slowly and carefully.  You don’t want to create bubbles, which introduce oxygen into the mix (your goal is to have as little oxygen as possible in the dye when you’re working with indigo).

Of course, since we were a group of bloggers, everyone was very anxious to document the process!  Do you recognize anyone here?  From left to right, it’s Addison, Wanett of Sown Brooklyn, Tricia of Clio & Phineas, and Devra of Puu’s Door of Time.


I was SO excited to meet these gals– with the exception of Wanett (we met at Gertie’s book party last month!), this was my first time meeting them in person, although I’ve been familiar with their blogs for a long time.

OK, moving on… one of the interesting things about indigo dye is that the fiber appears green when you remove it from the dye.  The oxidation process is what turns it blue.  Cool, huh?

Below is an example of using a resist to create a lovely pattern:

The jar lid, combined with the pressure of the clamp, creates a shaped “resist” that will repeat itself, forming a pattern on the fabric.  You can see that the fabric has been pleated, exposing the edges so they’ll all be dyed.  The bottom example has a series of small “shells” created by binding a little loop of fabric at the middle of the piece (like we saw Addison demonstrating earlier).  (PS– Look!  I told you it would turn blue!)

After your piece has fully oxidized (about 15 minutes or so), you can unwrap it, rinse it thoroughly, and hang it to dry.  Here’s Nettie demonstrating that for us with one of her creations:

And look!  Here’s Christine, of Daughter Fish, hard at work!  I squealed when I saw her and maybe sorta kinda petted her amazing coat.

I think we did alright, don’t you?

I love that everyone’s pieces turned out so differently, even though we made them in the same space, at the same time, with the same materials!  (The second piece from the left is the one I made with the clamp and the Mason jar seal– pretty interesting, huh?).  I found this process to be so much fun, and I love that although you can create patterns, you can’t completely predict the outcome!  Luckily, there’s a beauty in imperfection, and the slight changes and surprises aren’t really mistakes– they’re eccentricities!

Or, when you make a mistake (like I did, by using too much pressure and not allowing enough dye to permeate the fiber), you can either embrace the result, or you can just try a new technique and toss it in the vat again!  Here you can see that my pleating, shaped resist attempt didn’t carry through the whole piece– see the “x” in the top left corner?  And see how it doesn’t appear again in the piece?  Haha… I just tied it up again and bound it, starting from the middle, in a spiderweb fashion, before dyeing it a second time.  Two patterns for the price of one!

I had SUCH a great time!  I’ve been so interested in shibori for a while, but it seemed so complicated (not to mention messy!  I’m pretty sure the LAST thing Man Friend wants me to get involved in is a messy craft that has the capacity to permanently stain fingers, floors, countertops, and pugs!).  Not only that, it’s just always so fun to meet other people that love making things!  It’s great to be in the company of inquisitive, creative people (and that applies to all a y’all out in bloggyland).  🙂

The downside of this is that now I really wanna take every single class that the Textile Arts Center offers.  Sigh.  So many fun things to do, but so little time…

What about you guys?  Do you have any interest in shibori or natural dyes?  If so, you should definitely check out the Textile Arts Center (if you’re a local) or this book (if you’re not).  Do you enjoy taking classes or learning in a group?

Thanks again to Evan and Katie at Course Horse for the invitation, and to Addison for leading such a great workshop!  You guys are the best!

Tricia, Devra, Katie, Nettie, Addison, me, and Christine (photo by Evan)

59 responses

    • I’m thinking maybe a pillow or totebag with the larger, square piece, and a headband or something with the darker, rectangular piece. They aren’t big enough to make any garments…


    • It’s WAY fun! Maybe you could try some natural dyeing with the little one– the dying that I did at the Etsy Labs with dried flowers and tea is way less messy and likely to stain than indigo…


    • I do feel quite lucky to have classes so easily available, although I sometimes wish I had more workspace to practice at home! I bet you would really enjoy this– you should take a stab at it!


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  2. OMG, so awesome! I really want to learn more about dyeing with natural products. One of my co-workers from 10 years ago gave me a child’s set to play with and it was seriously awesome. The problem is, like you say, doing it in a small apt. without a lot of ventilation!


    • You should get into it again! The dyeing that I did a while back with dried flowers and tea wasn’t smelly, at least, so that would be a good indoor option. Indigo smells a little gross– like kimchee, sorta!


    • I really like the indigo colors, too– they’re so deep and beautiful! Addison told us that indigo is one of the hardest dyes to extract and use from a plant, so it was reserved for royalty! It really is a color fit for a king!


  3. This looks like so much fun!!! It looks like you gals had a great time – and SHIBORI IS SO COOOOOLL!!! Seriously – even the ones that “didn’t turn out” look amazing! I love that about dyeing.
    I would love to take more classes in groups – or really have any social interaction at all (ah ha… sort of joking there… but not really) but its difficult where i live. I keep dreaming of taking a “sabbatical” from work and spending a month or two in NYC, hanging with all my buddies there and learning something awesome – like egg pickling…


  4. This looks like so much fun! There was a shibori class at Toronto’s “The Workroom” but I never took it and now that I don’t live there anymore I kick myself. Love all the lovely shades of blue your samples produced.


  5. How fun! I love all the indigo–so beautiful! Definitely count yourself lucky that you live somewhere that offers such great classes. We need a fiber artist revolution down here in Atlanta!


    • Aw man, I wish you could’ve come! I can never get to stuff on weeknights, but luckily I had the day off for Columbus Day. Hope to hang out with you soon!


  6. You know, my boyfriend would absolutely GO MAD for that Egg Pickling class! He’s crazy about them (and therefore…is just crazy). They sell them in big jars in fish and chip shops in the UK, and until he bought some, I’d never seen anyone actually pay money for them. Even the guy serving us in the chip shop was surprised.


  7. I love that double dyed one you did. Your explanation is also super clear. I’ll have come back and look at it when I try to do this again! So great to meet you! I’d also been wanting that to happen for a while!:)


  8. Okay, this makes me want to move to the city. I may not leave when I visit today and tomorrow! So glad that you had tons of fun. I am interested in dying but like you have pushed it to the back burner for some time due to inexperience.


  9. I am so glad that you got a chance to take this class, I know that I would never have had the chance to try this if I had not taken a class too. Your pieces turned out beautifully! So jealous of all of the bloggers you got to meet!


    • Ahh! I was trying to remember on whose blog I’d seen the beautiful shibori pieces a while back– it was yours! I really want to do more dyeing– it’s so relaxing and rewarding!


    • I would love to try out some other dyes, too. Any recommendations? I’d like to dye fabric for a whole dress, and the instructor in this class said that you need a HUGE vat of dye with tons of room to dye larger pieces of fabric with indigo… maybe not super easy to accomplish… :/


    • Aw man, that’s a bummer! I’m hoping to try this out again soon, although I would prefer to try to do it out in the yard. Definitely don’t want to have an indigo spill in the apartment!


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