Shibori and Indigo: a match made in heaven

Immediately after I finished the Fibres West 2023 residential programme, I was lucky enough to take someone’s spot in Cathy Moon’s two day Shibori class. It was fabulous and I’ve been completely distracted by the process ever since.

I did the class with Megan from Meggipeg, and did enjoy the handstitching elements. It’s so exciting to see the results.

I came home and immediately set about organising a vat and began stitching. I did some research and played with a few different designs.

I used bias binding and cotton tape to practice an assortment of stitches, and then turned my attention to six white linen table napkins that I had acquired, perhaps from my mother.

Here are the six napkins, dyed at different times. The ones top left and middle were done during the class and then I did the checked one. The bottom two were stitched a couple of weeks ago and then dyed in the last couple of days.

You’ll note that there’s one missing, I forgot to take a separate photo of it, but here is a photo of all of them, and it’s the one top left. I felt that it didn’t work that well, but when I look at the photos I don’t think it’s too bad. I was trying a different design. The little birds are inspired by our blue wrens which are just appearing for spring. I really love these little birds.

During my experiments I found some Bengala indigo and thought I’d try it in the interests of providing as much information as possible. Yes, I made a hat from the results, it’s the bucket hat from Liz Haywood and I’m happy to be able to enter it in the SewOver50 challenge currently happening on Instagram. The outside is Bengala Indigo dyed on cotton damask. The inside is lined with plain indigo dyed fabric. The silver yacht was a gift from Tom and Bridgette.

This is a much easier way of dyeing, but is nowhere near as interesting. The fabric is soaked in a pre fixer and then dyed in the indigo liquid which has been added to water. When the water is clear the fabric has absorbed it all. If you want to play with shibori and indigo but don’t want the faff of a vat, then this might be the solution. Bengala also do other coloured dyes, all of which are easy to use, but which are still natural products. The colour is very similar to a natural organic indigo vat or fruit vat.

Speaking of natural organic indigo vats, Megan (Meggipeg) had created one and invited Katherine and me round to play. We had such a lovely day, dyeing all the things.

I had prepared a top to dye. I used the Pattern Union Cora blouse with a slight shoulder extension to create a cap sleeve. Not a massive success, but I’ll do it again at some point and improve it. I wanted to try a resist paste and made one from a mixture of soy flour, calcium hydroxide and water. I created some art nouveau style stencils on my Cricut and painted the paste on.

I had, for some unknown reason, presewn the darts and found that there was a white line where the fold created a resist.

I decided to sew another dart seam a scant mm away from this seam and that covered it up. Phew!

I really like the stencil designs, but I’m not sure I got the resist right. I can’t get it off! I’m hoping that it comes off after a few washes, although I did simmer a small sample piece and it seems as though this is how it will remain.

Next time I will use a bit more water and paint it on in several layers, drying the layers each time. Lining up the stencils could be a challenge though. I may have to make more and leave them attached.

I felt the need for a set of different sized poles for some pole wrapping. Archie found me all these sizes at home and he capped them top and bottom for ease of carrying. They now have an elastic holding the caps on. It’s a recycled swim goggles strap. Unfortunately the buckle part was glued on before I realised that it needed to be tightened, hence the knots.

I’m really very fond of pole wrapping; the effect reminds me of ice dyeing with lots of organic patterning.

It is widely rumoured that I look like a smurf when I finish dyeing (thanks for spreading one that Megan!), and it is true, I get covered in blue, but this first photo proves that I do wear gloves. The middle photo shows pieces that will become a top and the one on the right is a big piece that I just scrunched up and dyed. I left it like this to oxidise and put it back for a second dip whilst holding this shape. I don’t think I’ll do it again, it wasn’t hugely successful. The bottom photo is a smaller piece which I scrunched but only dipped once (the norm is three times). I am liking this piece.

I have many more plans for my dyeing. I want to do some shibori dyed with natural dyes like onion skins and calendula, which I’m growing, so stay tuned.

Finally, I thought you might like to see Miss G attempting to put on a sock I bought to turn into a sock monkey (it’s name might become Rosie!) – it’s huge and she had some trouble. I can feel her frustration! She is now at the stage of putting on her own shoes and socks, but the shoes are nearly always on the wrong feet!

What’s really exciting about this photo is that she’s hanging out on my cutting table with me. We sewed a monkey glove puppet from a couple of old towels. Hopefully for playing with in the bath. I made the one on the left completely hand stitching it. The one on the right was done on the machine with Miss G’s help.


4 thoughts on “Shibori and Indigo: a match made in heaven

  1. simmering won’t help get rid of the resist – it will just cook it on. you have made something like baked on soy cheese with the calcium and the soy flour.

    things that you may want to try on your sample:
    * a lot of salt (like maybe half salt and half water), blobbed on to the resist/wait a while with some scraping, then rinse)
    *a dishwasher tablet – but not if either the fiber was protein based, or if the dye is pH sensitive (because dishwasher tablets are essentially protein-destroying enzymes and high pH)

    1. Oh thank you so much! I had a book that gave the recipe for the resist but not how to remove it! I shall try the salt and water and get back to you!

  2. Hi, Sue.
    Happy birthday. I wish you all the best and also as great ideas as before. Have a nice day.

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