For the past few months I have been wanting to try my hand at Shibori fabric dyeing. Everywhere I turn, it seems, there are examples of the most gorgeous colors and intricate patterns finding their way onto napkins or throw pillows. In addition to thinking they are so pretty, I figured that completing a project for our future kitchen would be a great way to tide me over until the kitchen actually comes to fruition. So, Eliza and I set out to dye napkins and tea towels. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day outside because this is definitely an outdoor project filled with splashing and spilling. Here is the process we used as well as some things I will do differently the next time around.
-100% Cotton fabric of your choice – I got cotton napkins and tea towels from Bed Bath and Beyond but if you can sew then you could head to the fabric store for nicer cotton fabric to turn into whatever your heart desires.
-Rubber Bands, Clothes Pins, Wood Pieces – I went to Hobby Lobby and they had a wide selection of all of these things
-Jacquard Procion Dye
-Soda Ash Dye Fixer
-5 Gallon Buckets (enough for each color)
-Wooden Dowels or Paint Sticks
Accordion fold all of the pieces of fabric long ways. At this point you can chose the Shibori method that you want to use. You can use clothes pins and place them along the edges of the fabric, creating and color heavy pattern or you can continue to accordion fold the fabric the opposite direction and then secure a wood piece on the top with rubber bands. This will create a pattern that has more white than color. There are many more techniques that can be found online like this one here and this one here.
Dying the Fabric:
In the 5 gallon buckets, mix the dye according to the package directions. For the Jacquard Procion Dye the correct mixing can be found here. For my purposes I used 3 gallons of warm water, 1 1/2 of salt, 1 TBS of dye, and 1/4 cup of soda ash dye fixer. You start by mixing the water, salt and dye together and then adding your fabric.
Soak the fabric for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and then remove it from the bucket. Add the soda ash dye fixer, stirring it into the dye, and then place the fabric back into the bucket. Soak the fabric for an additional 30-60 minutes, stirring frequently.
Rinsing the Fabric:
Once you remove the fabric from the dye you can start the rinsing process. This was a long and tedious process for me but it is amazing to watch the color change as you rinse. Keeping the fabric bound, I rinsed first with the hose outside. Then I moved in doors to the sink where I rinsed all of the fabric twice more, each time with hotter water. This process drew out more and more extra dye each time. After each rinse, squeeze the fabric as best you can to rid it of extra dye and water.
Finally, unwrap the fabric (you get to see the designs!), wash it in the washing machine and dry it. I had two different colors so I washed them separately and used warm water in the wash.
The whole process took about 2 1/2 hours for us. The results were beautiful but not exactly what I was expecting in some ways.
-The soak time is something I would work on for the next time. The two colors I chose were emerald and bronze. The emerald turned out lime and the bronze turned out sort of a sage green. I kept both colors submerged for a total of about 40 minutes. I actually was hoping to take the emerald out early to get a sort of sage so I’m glad one of them turned out that way! The lime I am not so fond of, but maybe for summer it will be fun!
-I would definitely make a small batch of dye and try out a few pieces of small fabric in it for different periods of time in order to get the right shade. Now I want to try so many more colors so that will be my plan in the future. The day before I will make some dye, cut up small pieces of fabric and then take them out periodically to see how long I would like them to soak. Practice makes perfect!
-I also want to try indigo dye, which is traditionally what is used for Shibori. I wasn’t too keen on blue for this first batch but now I am wishing I had gone with it.
I will definitely be trying this project again and I am very happy with the process and the result that we got. Eliza and I had a fun time watching the dyeing unfold and getting to see the designs emerge. I am thrilled that I was able to make something that I will be proud to use in our new kitchen! MEB
P.S. Eliza was intent on showing off our fabric to the goats who seemed equally thrilled, as always.