How To: Shibori Dyeing Large Pieces

As I continued to experiment with shibori dyeing I began to wonder how to approach dyeing large pieces of fabric. In our last post I shared a variety of dyeing techniques each resulting in a very unique look, but all of my pieces were quite small- about 14″ square. While small pieces like this are great for napkins, pillows or patchwork, they aren’t so great for garment making!

Line Drying Shibori Pieces

Line Drying Shibori Pieces

In thinking about taking on larger pieces for garment sewing I figured there are two ways to approach it- 1) dye the finished garment or 2) dye the yardage required for the garment I want to make. Either seem like a valid approach and I can think of advantages and disadvantages for both.

After pondering it a while, I settled on dyeing the yardage. While this will produce a bit more waste, use more dye and be a bit harder to handle, I will have more control of the overall outcome of the piece. It is easier to manipulate and anticipate what will happen at large rectangle rather than a finished top or dress. Right? You can also then fussy cut your garment pieces from the larger fabric giving you more control to your finished look as well.

Time start planning fabric and pattern choices! I, of course, started with the fabric and may have gone a little overboard by picking five very different fabric types. The natural indygo dye kit that I am using calls for natural fibers- preferably plant based- so rayon, linen, cotton, bamboo, etc. Since I wanted to make a variety of projects I selected on the following: a more structured cotton twill, a drapey linen/rayon blend and a soft tencel/cotton shirting all in white/vanilla (it is shibori after all!).

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I also picked a couple of reach fabrics, choices that are a bit less conventional. The first is a white-on-white printed gauze, I wasn’t sure how the synthetic printing would react but I thought I would give it a try. The second is a cotton/silk blend– the manufacture of my kit says silk may not react well in the dye vat due to the basic environment. I figured, the blend is more than 50% cotton and the results will be amazing if it works so why not?

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For pattern choices I was mostly thinking about tunics and tops and settled on dyeing 2 to 2-1/2 yards of each piece except for the twill, which I only dyed 1 yd. I did’t finalize my pattern choices ahead of time because I wanted to see how each piece turned out and pick the pattern to really show off the stunning shibori designs.

Now let’s get to the fun part- methods and results! I decided to dye each piece differently and chose the technique based on what I thought would look best with that particular fabric.

1) Japanese Tencel Shirting + Mokume Shibori (Stitched)

This was probably the most time intensive piece to prepare. With two yards of 45″ wide fabric, we marked a 1″ grid across the entire piece using a washable fabric pen. My mom then spent an entire afternoon stitching each of the rows (thank you mom)! Based on the results of our test run, I knew the basting stitches needed to run selvage to selvage so that the resulting lines would run the length of the fabric.

Once all the stitches were in place, I pulled each of the strings gathering the fabric up and tied them off. This gave me a 72″ long snake of gathered fabric that was actually pretty easy to maneuver in the dye vat. After a series of dips, I rinsed the piece and began popping the strings to open it up. I didn’t wait for the piece to dry completely because I wanted a more fluid look and the results were amazing!

Stitched Mokume Shibori with Japanese Tencel Shirting

Stitched Mokume Shibori with Japanese Tencel Shirting

I have no idea yet what I want to make with this pieces but I love how this technique and the fabric paired together. This tight stitching method looks amazing with lighter weight fabrics where you can gather it easily and tightly. We used a 1″ grid, but I would love to see what a larger grid and stitches would do- similar look but wider lines and more indigo, maybe?

2) Radiance Cotton/Silk + Kanoko Shibori (Bound)

For my cotton/silk blend I was thinking a soft camisole and thought large bursts would be really interesting. I settled on binding it with rubber bands as I liked the bolder lines and patterns it created in our trial.

I randomly started pinching bits of fabric and binding it with rubber bands. It was incredible how small 2 yards of fabric can shrink into in a matter of a few minutes! I just kept binding until there wasn’t any fabric left to grab.

Prepared Cotton/Silk and Linen/Rayon Pieces Ready to Dye

Prepared Cotton/Silk (Right) and Linen/Rayon (Left) Pieces Ready to Dye

Again, I used a series of dips to get the density of dye that I wanted and untied it before it dried. I love the randomness of the bursts and the variability in the indigo color. The subtle shine the silk gives the piece is really unusual and striking look as well.

Cotton/Silk

Bound Kanoko Shibori with Radiance Cotton/Silk Sateen

3) Linen/Rayon Blend + Itajime Shibori and 4) Cotton Twill + Itajime Shibori (Folded Resistance)

With the heavier fabrics I thought it would be easiest to use a folding technique and go for a larger geometric design. I had no idea how the folds would translate but decided to take the techniques I learned from before and apply them in a larger scale. Rather than 2 inch folds, go for 8 inch folds or whatever they would end up being.

For the linen, I accordion folded the fabric in eighths across the width of the fabric giving me a 2 yard giant fan. I then folded one corner up into a triangle and continued alternating the triangle fold from the front to the back across the entire length of the piece. Bound with 2 rubber bands, I ended up with a tight little triangle bundle (shown in photo above). When dyed I knew the edges of these triangles would be what would take on the most dye creating a triangle or diamond pattern.

Fold Resistance Shibori with a Linen/Rayon Blend

Fold Resistance Shibori with Linen/Rayon Blend

The results were a bit different from what I expected, I think because of the thickness of the fabric. There was also more white than I wanted in the final piece so I ended up over-dying the whole piece again to give it more a blue color. I love the resulting distressed look! P.S. Don’t ask how the fold pattern turned from the triangle/diamond print to squares, I have not idea but it still looks cool and totally unique! I’m dreaming of the Lottie Pattern for this piece (pattern from Christine Haynes), it will be fun to plan out where the pieces will go and what design elements to highlight.

For the twill I did a similar technique, a bit easier to do since the piece was only one yardm  and used the folding instructions included in the kit for a chevron pattern. The results gave me more of an arrow pattern, I think it could have used a lot longer in the vat to let more dye absorb, but I love the look. Perfect for the Stowe Bag I have planned for it!

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Folded Resistance Shibori with Cotton Twill

5) Printed Gauze + Dip Dyed

Rather than compete with the pattern already on this fabric, I decided to dip dye it as a whole piece and see what it looks like. The biggest challenge with this was keeping it as small as possible while still letting it flow and open up so that the dye would apply evenly. Remember the goal is overall, even coverage.

After a series of dips I ended up with this amazing indigo piece with great texture from the printed leaves. The printing took on less dye giving it a slightly lighter shade and produced a really cool effect.

Indigo Dip Dyed Cotton Gauze

Indigo Dip Dyed Cotton Gauze

So simple, but very impressive all the same. This will be perfect for a summer tunic or cover up! Light weight and airy and a beautiful shade of medium blue!

Each piece turned out better than I imagined. I thought dyeing larger pieces would be much more difficult. While they do take a bit more planning and have some limitations, it is so impressible to open up your two yard piece and reveal the amazing shibori pattern you created. I can’t wait to get sewing with these pieces- I think my linen/rayon Lottie will be up first. If you have any other pattern suggestions please leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you would make!

~Michelle

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