Introduction

The current dye trend isn’t so much “tie dye,” which is a method that became emblematically popular in the 60s and 70s. (You can learn to tie-dye here.) Today’s dyed pieces are created using an ancient Japanese technique called Shibori, which is a process in which fabric is bound, folded, stitched, twisted, wrapped and/or compressed. Traditional Shibori uses only indigo as a dye, but you can use any dye available to create the same patterns with a brighter palette. 

Step 1

Technique 1: Itajime

One of the most simple shibori techniques is itajime: compressing material between two pieces of wood bound together. For this technique, you'll need Rit Dye, rubber bands, a white cotton t-shirt, and two scrap pieces of wood.

Step 2

Accordion Fold

Fold the t-shirt, accordion-style, horizontally.

Step 3

Fold In Half

Then fold the folded shirt over once, so that it will fit neatly between the two pieces of wood. 

Step 4

Sandwich Between Boards

Place the folded shirt between the two boards, leaving about an inch of the folded edges hanging out of the boards.  Wrap the rubber bands as tightly as possible around the boards, to compress the whole thing like a sandwich. This will keep the dye only on the exposed edges of the shirt that were outside of the boards.

Step 5

Prepare Dye Bath And Soak

Prepare a dye bath of a few teaspoons of fabric dye to a quart of very hot water in a shallow dish. Place the exposed fabric in the dye bath, resting on the bottom of the container. The whole package should balance nicely upright — exposed t-shirt edges in the bath, with the rest of the package upright out of the dye bath. Soak for about five to seven minutes. 

Step 6

Rinse

Take the whole dye bath (very carefully) into the kitchen and dismantled the rubber band-board package. Rinse the t-shirt in a bath of very cold water, until the water was clear. Hand wash in very cold water and allow to air dry. 

Step 7

Technique 2: Roll And Wrap

Another Shibori technique is to fold fabric, roll it, and then bind it before dipping in a dye bath. To try this method, fold a white cotton t-shirt accordion-style. 

Step 8

Roll

This time, instead of compressing the shirt between two boards, roll the shirt as tightly as possible, then bind it super tightly with rubber bands. Using a bunch of rubber bands will create a pretty strong buffer against the dye. Leave an inch or so of folded fabric exposed to be dyed. 

Step 9

Dye

Place the rolled up bundle in the dye bath and letting it rest for five minutes. 

Pro Tip

Bonus: the little rolled up bundle sit perfectly in the dye bath. This technique would lend itself well to batch dyeing. Those left in the dye longest would be darker in color — a nice variation

Step 10

Rinse In Cold Water

Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear, then hand wash and air dry.

Step 11

Experiment!

With the basics of Shibori techniques under your belt, now you can play around with colors and folding techniques to produce different patterns.