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Shibori – the process

The shibori process has four steps, consisting of design, stitching, tightening and dyeing.


- First the design is conceptualized.

- There are certain linear and non-linear patterns that form the basic motif of a shibori design. This however does not limit the choice of design, which could come out of an array of combinations within the basic framework.

- The chosen design is traced on paper or put on a computer page and later transferred to a plastic sheet.

- The plastic sheet is run through a sewing machine without thread.

- This creates a stencil with uniform tiny holes all along the outline of the design.

- This stencil is now laid on a natural unbleached cloth.

- A duster dipped in kerosene and silver solution is pressed along it.

- The solution from the duster seeps through the tiny holes marking the design on the cloth.

- Kerosene that acts as a binder evaporates shortly. The silver stain is easily removed by washing the cloth.


- The next level of the process is stitching.

- With the marking done on the fabric, a running stitch is manually made with needle and thread along the design.

- After the natural fabric has been transcribed with the design, at the two ends of the thread a small piece of cloth is attached that allows the thread to be pulled from both the ends, thus crushing the fabric.


- Tightening is an important part of the shibori process.

- Here, two people are required, one holding the cloth, the other pulling the two ends of the thread in the opposite direction. The cloth along the thread gets compressed and a knot is then made to bind the cloth and not allow the color to seep into it (the area compressed by the knot) at the time of dyeing.

- The right amount of pressure is required to tie the knot as a loose loop could allow the color to percolate into the knot where the color is not required.

- It is because the entire area on the fabric gets colored other than spot within the knot that the process is referred to as a stitch-resist dying technique.


- With the tightening done, the fabric is soaked in a mild soap solution for some time. Thereafter, it is dipped in a bath for dyeing.

- For preparing the bath, the material to liquid ratio (MLR) should be maintained in the region of 1:20. e.g. 1 kg of fabric or yarn requires 20 litres of water.

- Similarly, for the concentration of color, a 5 per cent description refers to 50 g of color (or any other chemical) to be dissolved in 20 litres of water for 1 kg of fabric or yarn.

- Apart from indigo, all the other colors are ‘hot processes’, i.e. they require water to be mildly heated while the dyeing process is on.

- For all the colors, the cloth/yarn is to be kept in the bath roughly for 45 minutes.

- In natural dyeing, in order to increase the absorption of color as well as for fastness, the concentration of dye should be increased incrementally. e.g. once the 5 per cent indigo bath is ready and the fabric/yarn has been immersed in it, if a darker shade is required then more indigo should be added slowly (1-2 per cent) till the desired shade is achieved.

- For various colors, chemicals are mixed with water and indigo and atmospheric reaction with them yields different results as desired.