Indigo and Shibori Dyeing Techniques

Shibori and Indigo Dyeing

Ingredients list

-100gms Synthetic Indigo Dye in powder form
-100 gms Sodium Hydrosulphite
-50gms Caustic soda (Supermarkets generally carry this, if not then try hardware stores
-Stainless steel pot (Large 5lt variety – Go to opp shops or tip shops).
-Bucket or a large tub -
-Measuring cup (old one because you can't use it later for cooking)
-Gas stove (camping stores, large stores like k-mart and Bunnings have these very cheap)
-Wooden stick, pole, old wooden spoon (remember you can't use the wooden spoon afterwards)
-Fabric ...pre-washed linen, cotton, rayon, silk, the lighter the better so try for white.
-Strong thread that will not easily break (Crochet cotton or polyester thread is good and a needle that will fit it.
-String, twin, thread, rope, wool (anything strong that you can wrap around the fabric)
-Scissors, pins, masking tape, unpicker, and clamps or two identical shaped objects such as wood pieces that can be used as clamps.


Personal Safety – Chemical dyes can be hazardous to your health and due diligence should be maintained whilst in contact with dye.

Personal protection via gloves, apron and other protective clothing should be worn to avoid chemicals coming into contact with your skin. Dyeing should be done in rooms where ventilation is good to minimize inhalation.

Whilst in contact with chemical dye formulations:

Never use in areas where food is stored or cooked, if need be purchase a small camper

stove they are very cheap from camping stores usually under $16, and worth the investment.

Always use protective clothing.

When using chemical powders wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in harmful dust.

Always store your left over dyes securely where young children or animals can not get them.

Shibori and Indigo Dyeing – Binding work

You can do this dyeing with any sort of dye either natural or chemical.
Bound your fabric with rubber bands, you get normally get larger packets from the newsagents.
The more rubber bands you add the more circles you will get, so think about the size of your fabrics and imagine how many circles you need there. Adding to few and your end result may not be as successful as you want. Also make sure your rubber bands are really tight, if they are not tight enough the dye will find it's way in and your circles won't be circles.
Dip your fabric into the dye and leave until the colour is your desired colour

Let's see the finished sample.
This is one of the easiest dyeing processes and the results are great...

The fun part is opening your fabric and seeing how your marks went. This one was opened straight away whilst wet.

Let's have a look at another one, but this time it will be left in the dye for a week and left to dry before unveiling, so you can see the difference in how different processes work.

Shibori and Indigo – Rubber Band Binding work 2

Bound with rubber bands
This fabric was left in the dye for a week and left to dry before opening, you can see a marked difference in the end result.
A completely different look was achieved.

Shibori and Indigo – Binding work - Wrapping

This time we are going to do something a little bit different. Create a snake like shape from your fabric and wrap it tightly using twine, or string, wool, or light rope, in this example plastic coated wire has been used but you can use anything that is a length and strong enough to wrap tightly without breaking.
A nice effect, sort of like a spider's web.

Shibori and Indigo – Pleating work 1

Now let's try pleating the fabric

Take your fabric length and make a fold, now fold it back the opposite way, your fabric should end up looking a bit like you could play it like an xylophone.

Once you have it folded back and forth wrap the folded fabric around a wooden stick, l found an old cricket stump, but you could use a wooden broom handle or even a good strong straight stick . Secure your fabric on with some twine or strong string.

Add it to your dye, you can experiment with how long it is left in the dye by doing a few different ones, remember how different the rubber band tests earlier looked when different time lengths were taken.

Pleat the fabric by folding it back and forth in a zig zag fashion.
Wrapped around a cricket stick or alternative stick like pole and secure with string.


Add to your dye, how long you leave it is totally up to you, but remember differing lengths of time produce varying effects. You will never be able to produce the exact same design twice. So have fun with different experiements.
This work was left in the dye for a week and left to dry before opening.
Indigo dye is a compatible dye for Shibori resist processes. The dye itself does not penetrate the fabric but coats it helping to achieve good resist marks on the fabric. Indigo dye is a very ancient dye. The colour is amazing!

Shibori and Indigo – Pleating work 2

Let's try something a little bit different this time by just pleating in the four corners so it becomes a diamond shape, then wrap this diamond around your stick and secure with string, twine or in my case plastic coated wire (bunnings) and add to your dye.
Pleated two sides.
Four sides pleated to give a diamond shape.
Rolled up
Bound in plastic coated wire, you can try all sorts of materials, string, wire, tape, fabric, experiment, remember it's how you learn what works and what doesn't and it build's your knowledge bank for future reference.
You can see how those pleats have turned out in the corners but also that nice rippling effect in the centre.

Shibori and Indigo – Pleating work 3

This time fold your fabric back and forth for a few turns and then change your direction simply by changing the direction of where your folding starting from a different side of your fabric, stitch your pleats into place with cotton and a needle and this time wrap around a wooden ruler and secure, l used a rubber band and dip into your dye.
Pleated fabric for a few turns.
Changed pleating direction to diagonal.
Stitched to secure fabric.
Secured around a ruler.
Add to the dye.
Here's the work result, you can definitely see how changing direction works, you may think what's the purpose of dyeing in this way... Well this would make a great artwork backdrop, feature pocket on clothing, book cover and so forth.

Shibori and Indigo – Folding and clamping work 1

Moving on to folding and clamping

Fold your fabric, in any way it doesn't really matter and add in some wooden items, in my example l found craft pop stick people and a butterfly so l went with those, but you could use anything that has a shape to it made from wood.

Add those items into your folds making sure they are secured within the fabric and into the dye you go.

Let's check it out.......

Folded fabric by turning two corners to make a triangle at one end.
Added wooden clamping sticks back to back of fabric and secured with rubber bands.
After dye bath.
Can definitely see the butterfly impression

Let's try another one.....

Shibori and Indigo – Folding and clamping work 2

This time you will require some wooden pop sticks and wooden pegs. Fold your fabric anyway you wish and add pop sticks across your fabric and peg the pop sticks into place securely. Gently add your fabric to your dye.

Let's see how it went.....

Folded fabric, experiment with different folding techniques and see what you come up with, remember learning to dye is all about experimenting, make sure you take step by step pictures or draw images documenting your techniques so you can duplicate later.
Added pop sticks back to back on both sides of fabric and secured with pegs.
After dye bath.
Those pop sticks made quite an interesting impression.

Shibori and Indigo – Folding and clamping work 3

Fold your fabric in any way, l have done triangular folding patterns and clamp your folded fabric using two wooden timber pieces, one of either side of your fabric and secure together using string, twine etc. Carefully place into your dye bath.
Folded fabric into triangle shape
Wooden clamps were added to both sides of the fabric.
After dye bath.
It's a really great effect using the clamps and those triangular folds are pretty awesome.

Coming up next is Wrapping but first let's just do one more....

Shibori and Indigo – Folding and clamping work 4

Fold fabric into a length then fold to make a square, place on wooden clamps to both sides and secure fabric inside a bit like a sandwich, and place into dye bath.
Folded fabric into lengths
Folded again into square
Square wood added either side of fabric
Secured with wire
After dye bath
A really cool pattern

Shibori and Indigo – Pole wrapping work 1

Wrap your fabric around a larger pole, pvc piping or in my case an old plastic drinking cup, here is where you can try different more unusual ways to explore line marking, using different thicknesses of twin could be one way or using different directions of securing the fabric on, it's all really about experimentation.
I scrunch wrapped the fabric around the cup.
I knitted a few lines of twine, l wanted to see the patterning it makes
I wrapped the knitted twine around the fabric.
I then wrapped more twine around to see the variation of line marking.
After dye bath.
I really like how this one turned out, it reminds me of the beach with surf board looking shapes and that knitted twine really added some special line marking.

Let's try another one....

Shibori and Indigo – Pole wrapping work 2

This one is a pretty simple one, simply roll your fabric and roll around your pipe or in my case plastic cup and secure with rubber band. Dip into dye bath.
Rolled fabric
Twisted rolled fabric
Wrapped around plastic cup and secured with tape.
After dye bath.
Not a technique to write home about but an easy one all the same.

Shibori and Indigo –Combination process....experiment 1

For combination processes, your going to need access to a sewing machine or needle and thread. Start by sewing some large spaced lines across your fabric (gathering stitch if your using a machine). Gather up your fabric by pulling your thread, then add some rubber bands and fasten tightly to various sections of your fabric. Add to your dye bath.
Stitched sewing machine lines on gather stitch.
Stitched and gathered
Bound in rubber bands
Unpick your sewing when dry and reveal your mark making patterns.

Shibori and Indigo Combination process experiment 2

Combining different processes can really work to give you intense patterning outcomes, experimentation is the key to growth in art.
Wrap fabric around a stick.
Slip off the stick.
Then pleat the rolled up fabric, into a zigzag motion.
Bind in plastic coated wire or string.
After dye bath.
This was a very intense pattern

Let's try another combination process....

Shibori and Indigo -Combination work – Experiment 3

You'll find that the more you experiment the weirder your experiments will become, because your always trying to find ways to create that perfect impression and get that creative marking.
Air filled plastic bag.
Cut ends of fabric into strips.
Wrap fabric over plastic bag.
Bind corners with rubber bands then pop the plastic bag to deflate it trapping fabric.
After dye bath.
The results from weird experiments can really surprise and spur you on.

Shibori & Indigo –Sewing Sample 1

We tried this earlier, but now we will delve into it a bit more, so start by folding one side of your fabric, you will need a needle and some strong thread, hand sew in lines a pattern onto the folded edge of your fabric. Fold the other side of your fabric and do the same to that side. Repeat the pattern 2 more times each side. Gather the string so your fabric bunches up and place into the dye bath.

Let's see the result...

Folded edge and hand stitched one side.
Folded other edge and stitched.
More stitching rows were added.
Gathered up - pull your strings and gather up the fabric.
We tried this earlier, but now we will delve into it a bit more, so start by folding one side of your fabric, you will need a needle and some strong thread, hand sew in lines a pattern onto the folded edge of your fabric. Fold the other side of your fabric and do the same to that side. Repeat the pattern 2 more times each side. Gather the string so your fabric bunches up and place into the dye bath.

Let's see the result...

A very intricate weave of patterns.

Shibori & Indigo –sewing Sample 2

Try folding techniques and hand sewing a line right by the fold edge, gather your thread so your fabric is all bunched up and place into the dye bath. Unpick the sewing when dry.
Folded and stitched
More folding and stitching in diagonal directions.
Gathered and ready for dyeing.
Patterning turned out great it reminds of fern leaves.

Shibori and Indigo – Sewing Sample 3

Sew some machine lines across your fabric then individually gather each line up and add to your dye bath. Leave to dry before unpicking and taking out the sewing .
Machine stitched line using the gather stitch.
Gather your lines tightly.
Completely gathered and ready for dye.
After dye bath.

For more dye styles please download the full version of this lesson

Lesson download can be found at the start of this lesson.


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