Japanese Shibori

For a while, I had been seeing this beautiful indigo blue and white fabric all over the internet, on blogs and pinterest, on online shopping sites. I loved it instantly–it was like a sophisticated version of tie-dye.


I did a quick google search to discover the name of the style, and learned it’s called shibori. Once you get accustomed to Japanese, you often can spot words that have Japanese origins. So instantly I thought hmm, that sounds Japanese. So I looked into it further, and yes, it is Japanese and the style of dyeing fabric in this manner has its roots right here in Japan!

Through my searching, I discovered the exact place of origin, which is Arimatsu, a small town in Aichi prefecture. Not only that, but shibori is such an important part of their tradition and culture, that there is a museum and a hands-on shibori lesson available!

I was so excited so I booked a room at a hostel in Nagoya (a large city very close to Arimatsu) and made the trip. A lot of people thought it was a bit funny that I was going all the way to Aichi just to dye some fabric, but I was really excited! It really wasn’t that long of a trip–only about two and half hours by shinkansen (bullet train).

My lesson was so much fun, thanks to the help of a very sweet shibori master. Despite the fact that my Japanese is horrible, and she couldn’t speak any English, I managed to get through the lesson. Not gracefully though, I should probably add. This had little to do with the language barrier, however. It was my stupid fingers! I couldn’t seem to move them the way she asked me to, and they would sort of lock up on occasion. I signed up for the simplest lesson–just making a small handkerchief. While it would have been wonderful to make something larger, a curtain, for example, there is no way I could have managed it! I think I took way longer than normal just to complete the handkerchief. I kept telling her “I’m sorry I’m a little stupid” in Japanese as I asked her over and over again to help me or show me one more time, etc. But if you are more adroit with your fingers than I am, I really would suggest making something bigger because it’s so fun and beautiful!

Of course the version I did was incredibly simple in comparison to the complex patterns and designs the experts can create. To create complex patterns, the cloth must be tied over and over again in a very specific way.

IMG_3474-001 IMG_3474-002

Those photos show my teacher working on one of her projects. The actual piece of fabric was incredibly long. And she was tying those little bundles over and over again, across the entire length of the fabric. When she finishes, this piece will be dyed and then all the thread will be removed, reveling a beautiful pattern.

Here I am hard at work on my own project, sewing and twisting and tying!

Nagoya May 2014

I really love shibori and I hope to try some more complicated versions in the future. Although I know my own will never turn out as amazing as the experts in Arimatsu, I can at least give it a shot! Thankfully there are a ton of blogs out there right now with awesome instructions about how to do this at home. Here are just a few I found!

Take a look at Design Sponge, Honestly WTF, and Free People Blog.

Of course I took some other pictures of what I did while I was staying in Nagoya, so if you’d like to see them please look at my flickr album(it’s mostly food though…? Not sure what happened there.)




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