Indigo Dyeing and Shibori Techniques

Indigo Dyeing and Shibori Techniques

I’m busy prepping to teach a workshop on Shibori and dyeing with Indigo (or other dye) for Knitters At Home Expo in early November. Please join me in the class. We will be using either an Indigo kit (you can get on Amazon) or Dylon cold water dyes.

Indigo Dyeing Workshop
Samples of Indigo Dyeing with Shibori techniques.

Here is the info

I wanted to share with you one of the most memorable experiences of my creative life.. which has inspired to continue working with Indigo. This was a visit to the Little Indigo Museum outside of Kyoto, Japan in 2015.

Indigo Dyeing with Hirojuki Shindo in Japan

The Little Indigo Museum

Two trains and two buses. That is what it took for us to get to the magical village of Kita in Miyama, which lies 60 km north of Kyoto, Japan.

The goal; to visit the Little Indigo Museum, and meet Hiroyuki Shindo, a master of Indigo dyeing. He is known in the fiber arts community and has shown his art indigo pieces in numerous major museums throughout the world.

Shindo-san and his family live in Kita, a village composed of amazing thatched-roof dwellings, many of which are more than 200 years old. The Little Indigo Museum’s dwelling is the oldest, and functions not only as a museum, but a workspace, and living quarters.

A typical house in the village of Kita

The Shindo family was most gracious. The museum, in the upstairs of the home held many examples of indigo fabrics, demonstrating dyeing and printing techniques from around the world.

A view of part of the Indigo Exhibit
A fringed indigo veil worn by a Berber bride in Tunisa 
18th century Indigo print, France
Shindo-san cutting hemp for our projects

The workshop part of our visit allowed us to experience indigo dyeing first-hand. Shindo-san provided each of us with a meter of vintage hemp, and discussed various techniques we could apply using a clamp-resist process. 

The first step was to fold the fabric vertically, so as to expose as much of it as possible in the dye bath. Then, we sandwiched the fabric between wood pieces and clamped them in place.

Folding the fabric vertically
Folding the fabric vertically

Off to the dye vats!

Indigo Plants
Dried Indigo

Indigo, as a dye substance, is processed from the leaves of the indigo plant.Here you can see the plants, and leaves once dried, that will be pulverized for use. I was intrigued to learn that a healthy dye bath will be capped with a crowing ‘flower’ formed through a vigorous stirring process, which signifies a healthy ph value.

Stirring to create the ‘flower’
The ‘flower’

Don and I decided to use two different techniques. I dipped my cloth completely, and Don space-dyed his, meaning he kept part of his cloth from immersing in the fabric.

The amazing thing about indigo dyeing, is that the bath is a yellowish-green. One doesn’t start to see the blue/navy until oxidation takes place. This can happen through exposure to the air, or through the oxygen in water. Here you can see my fabric as I have unclamped the wood.

Here are our finished pieces; This was too much fun!

Don’s space-dyed piece (left) and my complete immersed piece (right)

This visit was one of the highlights of my Japan trip. I cannot thank the Shindo family enough for their generosity in sharing and in spirit.
To learn more about Hirojuki Shindo and his Little Indigo Museum, click on the link below:

Susan Lazear

Cochenille Design Studio

Visiting Shibori Techniques

Visiting Shibori Techniques

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Shibori Workshop in Kyoto

I’m going to be teaching an Indigo/Shibori workshop for Knitters At Home Expo in a few weeks, and so I’ve been thinking more about my experiences with the textiles art of Shibori. Here is a link to my class on November 7th, 10 am – 12:10 pm and 1:00 – 3:10 pm

Join me for a class of Shibori techniques

A few years ago, while on a sabbatical to study textile, I spent three weeks in Japan. I spent a morning taking a Shibori workshop at the Kyoto Museum of Shibori. This museum has excellent exhibits about the process of Shibori, as well as many mind boggling examples in the form of kimono, wall hangings, and samples. If you are a textile artist, I highly recommend a visit here.

Shibori is a dyeing technique that is practiced around the world. It has many forms, and of course, the name changes from region to region. Basically, it is a type of resist-dyeing, where part of the fabric is either bound or clamped in order to prevent the dye from penetrating. There are many ways to achieve the ‘resist’ process. You will find resist dyeing in Indonesia, Africa, India, etc.

Japan calls this type of resist dyeing Shibori. It dates back 1300 plus years. Kyoto is a important center for Shibori, and here it is known as  Kyo-Kanoko-Shibori. Thetechniques are varied, and have been passed down from generation to generation. In Kyoto, silk was the primary fabric used, and the resultant fabrics traditionally would be used by the men, women, and children of samurai.  In the Edo period, high-class shibori was created on silk in Kyoto and the ordinary-class indigo shibori was created with cottons and linens in the country areas.
Our instructor was Ryo Shimada. He is Japanese, but speaks perfect English, with an Australian accent (quite amusing to me). Ryo was fantastic. He was informative, helpful and patient. I’ll discuss one technique in this blog post, and another technique is a separate blog post.

working on shibori techniques

Technique One: Stitch and DyeThe first technique we covered involved stitching into the silk cloth with strong cotton thread. I believe this technique is called Kasamaki. We began by choosing a pattern we liked from the example wall. For the sake of time, all the stitching process had already been completed on our scarf, so we simply focused on the drawing-in of the threads to create the resist areas of the cloth. Here you can see a sample of the pattern I chose to do, and the threads that were already stitched with either a single strand or a double strand of cotton.

Dyed examples of Shibori

 The ‘flowers’ of my design were created with single strand thread. My task was to use a stand tool to hold the knots of the ends of thread and allow me to get good tension while tightening the thread first (which outlined the flower), and then binding the projection (which would create the striations of the ‘flower petals’.

Bound sections in the cloth

Below, you can see how the ‘protrusion’ of fabric was wrapped tightly, letting the wooden stand device aid in the process.

Wrapping the protruding fabric and the results

The second stitch technique (which I’ve seen called Nui), involved using a double-strand running stitch, and drawing the threads ‘tight’. Little pieces of cotton at each end, protected the fabric later, when it came time to pull the thread out (acting like washers). Some of these were done for me (in advance), and some I pulled and tightened myself.

Once prepped, the pieces went into the dye bath. Synthetic dyes were used, and these were heated and ready for us when we got to the de studio. After the dyeing, we spun out the excel moisture and then waited for the pieces to dry.

Into the dye bath (love the stirring sticks)

To remove the running stitches, one simply pulled the fabric with the palms of your hands to break the threads. To remove the threads from the ‘projections’ we snipped the end knot and undid the threads with our fingers. Then came the magic moment when two people pulled the scarf from the opposite end, and let it ‘bloom’. Wow!  Too much fun!!

The ‘bloom’ and running stitches and my bloom

I’ll be posting a bit more on Shibori and Indigo. Watch for a post on clamping techniques which are much simpler to do than the stitching.

Kyoto Shibori Museum127 Shikiamicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8261, Kyoto Prefecture+81 75-221-4252
An American Site with info and tools, etc.

Lecture & Workshop: Indigo & Shibori Dyeing techniques

Lecture & Workshop: Indigo & Shibori Dyeing techniques

Lecture & Workshop: Indigo & Shibori Dyeing techniques hosted by The Machine Knitters Guild of the San Francisco Bay Area and Cochenille Design Studio owner and designer, Susan Lazear. She will be sharing the inspiration that she found during her travels in Japan.

In the morning there will be a lecture on Indigo. In the afternoon, there will be a workshop with indigo dying using some of the Japanese Shibori techniques that we saw in the morning.

You are invited to bring in a scarf knit with natural fibers (wool, silk, cotton, alpaca) to dye. You may also knit some swatches or washcloth size pieces to practice different techniques. The following is a list of items to use in your Shibori dyeing. Some items will be brought but please bring some of your own. The afternoon session is open to Machine Knitters Guild of the San Francisco Bay Area members and will cost $25.

Shibori Devices:
Various clamps
Pieces of thin wood (matching pairs)
and C-clamps
Cord/Rope – maybe ½”
Rubber bands (elastics)
Plastic PVC Piping – 1-2” diameter, and longer than the depth of liquid in the bucket (we will be using standard 5 gallon buckets like you would find at Home Depot).

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