Kumo shibori and other Japanese tie-dye techniques

kumo shibori

Tie-dye is a dying technique that has been widely used along times for creating custom decorated clothes.

The hippie movement was responsible for making popular in the Western cultures, but the truth is it actually is an antique technique that came from the Eastern world.

Nowadays, tie-dye is becoming trendy again as part of the environmentalist movement that promotes reusing and recycling clothes that you didn’t use anymore.

Let’s go ahead to see how you can use Kumo shibori and other Japanese techniques to renovate your clothing or even start a small business.

What does tie-dye consist of?

The concept of tie-dye implies dyeing fabric or pieces of clothing by (as its name says) tying it with thread or rubber bands and dipping it in colored water.

There are different variants among these techniques, for instance, using ice instead of liquid water, applying synthetic dyes or natural ones, etc.

However, the concept is always the same: tying the fabric with very tight knots will prevent the dye from impregnating all the surface and that way you will come out with very nice patterns and shapes.

shibori tie-dye

What is shibori tie dye?

Shibori tie-dye is a special kind of tie-dye created in the Asian regions and made popular in the Japanese culture in the 16th century.

Anyway, shibori fabric has been found from as early as the 8th century! But you might be wondering what is the difference between regular and shibori tie-dye.

Like any other Japanese art technique, shibori is a very intricate way of making tie-dye patterns, and it differs from regular tie-dye because it is made with only one or two colors.

Traditionally, it was only made with indigo pigments, so it always turned out into different shades of blue.

6 types of shibori tie-dye techniques

shibori techniques

Although there are dozens of techniques in Japanese history, there are 6 main shibori techniques you can make at home which might be easier to make:

  • Kanoko shibori
  • Kumo shibori
  • Itajime shibori
  • Arashi shibori
  • Nui shibori
  • Miura shibori

This list is organized from easiest to hardest, and each technique implies different elements to use. Keep on reading to find out how to make each of these.

kumo shibori

Kanoko shibori

This technique is the easiest to make as it is very similar to the regular kind of tie-dye we are used to making in the western culture. For this technique, you will need thread or rubber bands.

Pick sections all over the fabric and tie little blobs with the thread. Cover the fabric with these blobs and dip the piece into colored water. If you want, you can change the placement of the knots and dip into another color to make it more colorful.

But remember shibori is supposed to have no more than two colors. This technique’s outcome is expected to be white rings in every knot you did.

Kumo shibori

Kumo shibori is quite similar to Kanoko shibori, but instead of making knots with little fabric, you need to grab a bigger portion. This way, instead of having little knots, you will turn out with stick-like knots, wrapped with thread or rubber bands too.

You can make as many as you want, and you even try to make a pattern organizing these knots in a particular way along the piece of fabric. The outcome of this technique will be bigger white full circles.

Play Video about kumo shibori video

Itajime shibori

This is the first technique in the list that does not imply using thread or rubber bands. Technically, this shouldn’t be considered “tie-dye” as there is no tying involved in the process.

Rather, in this case, the process consists of folding and clamping. First fold the fabric into squared or triangular portions and then place clamps in some sections to create stripes.

You can also do this with any other hard object that can be used to apply pressure, such as a rock or metal pieces. In that case, you will need to tie those elements to keep them still in place.

After you have dipped the fabric into the first color, you can change the position of clamps and dip into a second color. This technique creates repeated patterns all along the surface instead of individual elements.

Arashi shibori

This is one of the most interesting techniques shibori can offer. It’s easy to make and has a nice, original result. For this option, you will need thread and a PVC tube or any other cylindrical object.

Make sure the tube fits into the bucket with the colored water. You will need to roll the fabric around the tube, covering it completely, and keep it in place with the cord. Once everything is tightly fixed, push the fabric downwards along the tube to stack it at the bottom.

Again, roll some thread on it to attach it firmly. Now it’s ready for dipping. The pattern created on the fabric will be straight lines parting from one corner, recreating the shape of water falling from the sky in the middle of the storm (“arashi” in Japanese).

shibori dyeing

The next two techniques are the hardest, most intricate ones you can recreate at home. For both of them, you won’t need the thread to wrap it around the fabric, but you will need to embroider it to create the pattern.

Nui shibori

This technique is very similar to regular embroidery, but you can only make full color shapes, like silhouettes. Draw the design you want to make with a pencil on canvas.

First, make basting stitches all along the borders of the figure, and then cover the inside with more loose stitches. Make sure the thread you are using is strong enough, because the next step is pulling it to crunch all the surface together.

This way, the only straight sections are going to be those you want the ink to dye. After dying, cut the end of the thread and pull it to release the fabric.

Miura shibori

The last technique on the list is, rather than difficult, time-consuming. For this technique, you will need a special needle that resembles a crochet hook to create tiny little bubbles all around the fabric.

In this case, you need a very thin thread that you can break by pulling. You can check how this is done at the Kyoto Shibori Musem page on Youtube.

This technique is useful, for example, if you want to dye the borders of a tablecloth or the bottom of a T-shirt. After dipping, pull the fabric strongly to break the thread and release the design.

shibori kumo

Wow! We’ve made such a long tour along the different shibori techniques. Remember, if you are just starting, probably Kanoko and Kumo shibori are the easiest, but as you get proficient with it, you can combine all these techniques to create a wonderful piece!

If you also are wondering Can you use Sharpie on canvas fabric?” click here to know the answer.