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A rectangle of indigo blue and white cloth lying on a wooden table covered with a tatami mat, viewed diagonally from the corner.
A section of kumo shibori (spider shibori) dyed with indigo, next to kumo shibori that has not been dyed yet

Shibori (しぼり/絞り, from the verb root "shiboru" – "to wring, squeeze or press"[1]:7) is a Japanese manual tie-dyeing technique, which produces a number of different patterns on fabric.


Some discussion exists as to the origin of shibori as a technique within Japan, and indeed, the exact country of origin of some of the earliest surviving examples. Much of the debate surrounds the technical capacities within Japan at the time to produce the variety of fabrics seen in some of the earliest shibori examples.[1]

One of the earliest written descriptions of shibori dates to 238 CE, where it was recorded in the Chinese document Chronicles of the Clans of Wei (Wei chih) that Queen Himiko gifted the Emperor of the Wei dynasty over 200 yards (180 m) of "spotted cloth" – potentially describing a form of wax-resist decoration on the fabric.[1]

The earliest surviving examples of shibori-dyed cloth date back to the mid-8th century, donated to the Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple in Nara in 756 CE, as part of the goods donated by the Emperor Shōmu upon his death. The techniques seen on these earliest fragments show bound resists, wax resists and folded and clamped resists.[1] However, at least some of the shibori-dyed fabric in this collection is Chinese in origin.[1]

Surviving examples of resist-dyeing in China (known as jiao-xie) date to a much earlier time period; the earliest surviving examples dating to 418 CE.[1]


A rectangular length of fabric, appearing to be relatively fragile in places, backed onto navy-blue silk. In places, the fabric has torn with age, and there are some sections of the fabric entirely missing.
An example of shibori tied in small dots to form a tortoishell (kikko) design

There are many ways to create shibori, with techniques generally grouped into three categories: kōkechi, tied or bound resists; rōkechi, wax resists; and kyōkechi, resists where the fabric is folded and clamped between two carved wooden blocks.[1]:11 Most techniques recognised within these three categories have names and a number of varieties of technique.

The technique chosen and the resulting dyed fabric depends upon both the type of fabric and the dyestuff used; shibori demands a pliant and easy-to-handle fabric, with some historic dyeing techniques - such as the original technique of tsujigahana - now impossible to recreate entirely due to the fact that the fabric necessary for the technique is no longer produced.

The desired end result for shibori may be to create a larger pictographic or geometric design (as seen on many full-shibori kimono), or simply to display the shibori on its own. Differing techniques may be combined in some cases to achieve increasingly more elaborate results.[2]

Kanoko shibori[edit]

Kanoko shibori is what is commonly thought of in the West as tie-dye. It involves binding certain sections of the cloth using thread - traditionally a type of untwisted thread known as shike-ito - to achieve the desired pattern. The pattern achieved depends on how tightly the cloth is bound and where the cloth is bound. If random sections of the cloth are bound, the result will be a pattern of random circles. If the cloth is first folded then bound, the resulting circles will be in a pattern depending on the fold used.

Miura shibori[edit]

Miura shibori is also known as looped binding. It involves taking a hooked needle and plucking sections of the cloth. Then a thread is looped around each section twice. The thread is not knotted; tension is the only thing that holds the sections in place. The resulting dyed cloth is a water-like design. Because no knot is used, miura shibori is very easy to bind and unbind, making this technique commonly used.

Kumo shibori[edit]

Kumo shibori is a pleated and bound resist. This technique involves pleating sections of the cloth very finely and evenly. Then the cloth is bound in very close sections. The result is a very specific spider-like design. This specific design requires very precise technique.

Nui shibori[edit]

Nui shibori includes stitched shibori. A simple running stitch is used on the cloth then pulled tight to gather the cloth. The thread must be pulled very tight to work, and a wooden dowel must often be used to pull it tight enough. Each thread is secured by knotting before being dyed. This technique allows for greater control of the pattern and greater variety of pattern, but it is much more time consuming.

Arashi shibori[edit]

Arashi shibori is also known as pole-wrapping shibori. The cloth is wrapped on a diagonal around a pole. Then the cloth is very tightly bound by wrapping thread up and down the pole. Next, the cloth is scrunched on the pole. The result is a pleated cloth with a design on a diagonal. "Arashi" is the Japanese word for storm. The patterns are always on a diagonal in arashi shibori which suggest the driving rain of a heavy storm.[3]

Itajime shibori[edit]

Itajime shibori is a shaped-resist technique. Traditionally, the cloth is sandwiched between two pieces of wood, which are held in place with string. More modern textile artists can be found using shapes cut from acrylic or plexiglass and holding the shapes with C-clamps. The shapes prevent the dye from penetrating the fabric they cover.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wada, Yoshiko Iwamoto; Rice, Mary Kellogg; Barton, Jane (2011). Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing (3rd ed.). New York: Kodansha USA. pp. 11–13. ISBN 978-1-56836-396-7.
  2. ^ Gunner, Janice (2010). Shibori for Textile Artists. Tokyo: Kodansha. ISBN 978-1568363806.
  3. ^ Moller, Elfriede (1999). Shibori: The Art of Fabric Folding, Pleating and Dyeing. Michigan: ScreenPress Books. ISBN 978-0855328955.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dubrawsky, Malka. Optical illusion: combining itajime with commercial fabrics. Quilting Arts. Dec/Jan 2009, pages 46–50
  • Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice, and Jane Barton. Shibori: the inventive art of Japanese shaped resist dyeing. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1983.
  • Galli, Andrew and Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada. "Arimatsu, Narumi shibori celebrating 400 years of Japanese artisan design". (DVD) produced by Arimatsu Shibori Mutsumi-kai (Japan) ; Studio Galli Productions (USA) Fremont, Calif. 2007
  • Southan, Mandy. Shibori Designs & Techniques. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Search Press, 2009.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]