We've long been fans of Brooklyn designer Rebecca Atwood's intricate hand-dyed textiles, which are used on pillows and small accessories, and as the inspiration for wallpaper and artwork. So we were thrilled when she invited us to her Industry City studio to learn how to create hand-dyed fabrics in the traditional Japanese shibori method. Made by gathering and bunching materials before submerging them in the dye to yield kaleidoscopic results, the pieces are at once bohemian and completely chic, going from the picnic table to the family supper in no time. Block out a leisurely afternoon and give it a try. Or, you know, head over to Atwood's website for her expert iterations on the technique.
- natural-fiber linens (we used square cotton napkins), washed and dried
- rubber bands
- drop cloth
- rubber gloves
- (2) 5-gallon containers
- 4 gallons warm water
- metal spoon
- 4 teaspoons of pre-reduced indigo
- 1 cup reducing agent (thiox or hydrosulfate)
- 1 cup soda ash
- indigo dye kit (optional)
To start, place the fabric on a clean, flat surface. Fold lengthwise in half; repeat. Repeat with each folded half, accordion-style, until you have one long strip. Fold this strip, accordion-style, into squares or rectangles until you have one stacked square (or rectangle, if you prefer). Bind your stack with one or to rubber bands across the length or width of the pile. This technique will give you a uniform grid pattern, and the die will not penetrate the banded areas.
You may also choose to create a diamond pattern by folding your strip, again, accordion-style, into triangles. Apply your rubber band as shown so that it crosses the surface of each side of the triangle stack. Let your banded bundles sit in a pot of cold water, submerging them every few minutes, for about 15-20 minutes. The dye won't penetrate dry fabric, so you want them to be evenly soaked.
In the meantime, mix your warm water, indigo dye, soda ash, and reducing agent. Stir gently in a circular motion. Once mixed, reverse the direction of your stirring and drag the stick towards the outer edge of the container. Slowly remove the stick from the dye (oxygen deactivates it, hence all the slow, gentle movements), cover, and let sit for at least 20 minutes. When you're ready, submerge the bundles in the dye and allow them to sit for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bundles, hand-wash them in warm water with detergent, until the water remains clear. Dry and enjoy your DIY shibori creations.