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Language: English / Japanese

Hand Dye Coordination

Words by Katie Searle-Williams Photographs by Anais & Dax

Put on your apron and use our detailed instructions to make your own striking indigo textiles.

In Japan, the shibori technique dates back to the eighth century. Indigo, a natural chemical extracted from plants, is one of the oldest organic dyes used for coloring cloth and is most commonly used for shibori. Indigo dye must be applied to natural fibers and clothes that have not been treated with any finishes nor blended with synthetic, man-made materials. The deep hue of indigo is ideal for creating contrasting resist patterns on light-colored fabrics. The exploration of patterns, combined with the meditative process of indigo dyeing, is a rewarding pastime.

100% natural fabrics, clothing or yarn to dye
Rubber bands or string and small pieces of wood to make patterns
Latex gloves (preferably long)
20 grams (.7 ounces) pre-reduced indigo (available in most indigo dye kits)
250 grams (9 ounces) reducing agent  (available in most indigo dye kits)
Five-gallon (19 liters) bucket for dye bath
A long stick to gently move items in the bath
Tray or flat sheet of wood for oxidation process
Laundry rack and clothespins for drying
Mild soap (like Woolite) and plain white vinegar to set the dye
Five-gallon (19 liters) bucket for water/vinegar rinse

Dampen your fabric with water and choose one or more of the following shibori techniques: bind, tie or twist with rubber bands or string, or compress and pleat using small pieces of wood and rubber bands.

Put on latex gloves and follow the indigo dye kit directions to prepare the dye bath in a five-gallon bucket.

Gently dip your shibori-prepared fabric all the way into the indigo dye bath; do not splash. Stir gently using a long stick.

Pull fabric out slowly up the side of the vat to avoid drips. Your fabric will be a yellow-green color when it emerges from the bath for the first time. Place fabric on a tray in the open air and allow all parts of the fabric to oxidize to the color blue (turn fabric over for full oxidation). Once all is oxidized to blue, let sit for 20 minutes and then repeat steps three and four for darker shades of indigo.

Dip at least three times for a medium shade of indigo and up to eight to ten times for a deeper shade. The fabric will look very dark when wet.

Rinse the fabric with water and undo the shibori bindings to reveal the intricate patterns created.

Hang the dyed fabric on a laundry rack and let rest overnight.

Conclude with a final rinse of the dyed fabric with a small amount of mild soap (about 1/2 small cap). Mix tap water (two gallons) and a small amount of plain white vinegar (1/3 cup) in a five-gallon bucket, and set the dyed fabric in this bath for at least five minutes.

Wash separately.


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