the story

Of infinite possibilities

The verb shiboru means "to wring, squeeze and press" in Japanese. While the word shibori is often associated with the famous style of fabric dying particular to Japan, it in fact encompasses a wide gamut of fabric manipulation and dying found worldwide. 


Shibori has come into popular usage to cover this full range of techniques and styles because there is no English equivalent. "In fact, most languages have no term that encompasses all the various shibori techniques, nor is there any English terminology for individual methods, which often have been incorrectly lumped together as "tie-and-dye."

Three terms for separate shibori methods have come into international usage: plangi, a Malay-lndonesian word for the process of gathering and binding cloth; bandhani, an Indian term for the same process; and tritik, a Malay-lndonesian word for stitch-resist. However, these three terms represent only two of the major shibori techniques. In this context, the word shibori seems the most useful term for the entire group of shaped resist textiles." Source: World Shibori Network


Shibori can also be defined by what it is not: shibori as a technique for dying cloth differs from that of ikat where the thread is dyed prior to weaving the fabric, and from techniques like batik, ajrakh, mud cloth and tsutsugaki which make use of resists and mordants painted onto the cloth, such as wax, mud or rice-paste.


Linen, Fibre, yarn, and fabric made from the flax plant. Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres used by humans; evidence of its use has been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings. Fine linen fabrics have been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs. The fibre is obtained by subjecting plant stalks to a series of operations, including retting (a fermentation process), drying, crushing, and beating. Linen is stronger than cotton, dries more quickly, and is more slowly affected by exposure to sunlight. Low elasticity, imparting a hard, smooth texture, makes linen subject to wrinkling. Because linen absorbs and releases moisture quickly and is a good conductor of heat, linen garments feel cool to wearers.

“Many different types of shibori techniques have existed in the world. The oldest examples – pre-Columbian shibori alpaca found in Peru and silk found in fourth century tombs along the Silk Road in China – are from regions where the shibori traditions have not survived to the present day.


Shibori traditions existed for centuries in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent. Presently, active production in great quantities continues in western Africa, in southern China by minority people, and in the western regions of India. A lesser degree of production continues in northern Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and in the Himalayan region.


The materials and methods found in different shibori traditions vary widely, reflecting environmental, economic, and social specificities. The fibers may come from alpaca in the highlands of the Andes, sheep in the Himalayas, cotton grown in southwestern China, or from abaca grown in the jungle of the Philippines. The basic concept of shaped resist dying is apparent throughout a wide range of aesthetics, which are manifestations of cultural diversity.” Source: World Shibori Network


The technique

There are countless ways in which fabric can be manipulated to create shibori - it can be bound, folded, twisted or compressed; stitched, clamped or knotted. Each method results in different patterns, determined by how the fabric absorbs and resists dye; thus the intensity of the dye bath and the fabric composition and thickness are equally as important to the end result. But part of the mystery and magic of shibori is that the artist can never be sure of the final look. An element of surprise is always present.

"Perhaps it is the lack of control one has in using the shibori technique that creates its allure. It is a meticulous process, and yet, there is an element of surprise as there is no way to predict the outcome once the cloth has been dipped into the vat of indigo. Colours, patterns, and hues bleed into each other, bringing life to each piece, and ensuring that no one outcome will be the same. The popularity of shibori today has emerged alongside a renewed focus on slow fashion, workmanship, and functionality." Source: Sophie Lo, Madesmith.

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