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Some shibori fabric hanging in sunlight, showing various techniques.

Shibori (しぼり / 絞り) is a Japanese manual resist 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 C.E., where it was recorded in the Chinese document Chronicles of Wei (Wei chih) that Queen Himiko gifted the Emperor of the Wei dynasty over two hundred yards 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 C.E. upon the death of Emperor Shōmu. The techniques seen on these earliest fragments show bound resists, wax resists and folded and clamped resists. Many of the possessions in this collection, however, are Chinese in origin, and none of the shibori examples surviving from the eighth century can be proven indisputably Japanese 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 C.E.[1]


Ne-maki shibori example

There are many ways to create shibori; however, most techniques have names, and these techniques have a number of varieties.

The technique chosen, and the desired end result, will depend on the fabric and dyestuff used; the end result may be to create a larger pictographic or geometric design (as seen in many shibori examples found on kimono), or simply to display the shibori technique 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 to achieve the desired pattern. Traditional shibori requires the use of thread for binding. 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. Therefore, this technique is very often 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]

Fragment of a kimono (kosode) with kanoko shibori and silk and metallic thread embroidery, 17th century

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 Wada, Yoshiko Iwamoto; Rice, Mary Kellogg; Barton, Jane (2011). Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing (3rd ed.). New York: Kodansha USA, Inc. pp. 11–13. ISBN 978-1-56836-396-7.
  2. ^ Shibori for Textile Artists, Janice Gunner, 128 pages. Kodansha USA; 2010, ISBN 978-1568363806
  3. ^ Elfriede Moller. Shibori: The Art of Fabric Folding, Pleating and Dyeing. 64 pages, ScreenPress Books (1999). 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.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]