Remember summer afternoons spent with a Hanes T-shirt, a pack of rubber bands, and some buckets filled with Rit dye? You’d tie a couple of random knots, dunk the shirt in a bucket, and voila: Your very own tie-dyed T-shirt.
Think of shibori—an ancient form of wrapping, binding, and hand-dyeing fabric—as tie-dye for grown-ups. Big-deal designers like Stella McCartney, Band of Outsiders, and Michael Kors have recently sent shibori-inspired patterns down their catwalks, and high-street stores like Madewell, Anthropologie, and Free People are all offering up intricately patterned, indigo hued pieces too. Shibori is definitely having a moment.
“Shibori gives fabric a vibrant liveliness that other prints can’t offer,” explains Kalen Kaminski, who along with pal Astrid Chastka, founded shibori-based clothing label Upstate four years ago. “There are always inconsistencies with shibori that must be embraced.”
With that in mind, I asked Kaminski and Chastka to walk me through my very own shibori DIY.
What we used:
—silk caftan (use any white cotton or silk item you like, but be sure to choose 100 percent natural fibers as those absorb dyes best)
—bendable tube (or any cylindrical item—a branch, wood dowel—you don’t mind getting dye on)
—string (rubber bands work too!)
—indigo dye, salt, soda ash, synthropol (try a handy indigo dye kit, priced from $9 to $14, or classic Rit dye.)
What we did:
Fold the fabric in an accordion lengthwise, like you’re making a fan. We folded ours about four times. Since we were going for the “Arashi” technique, which literally means storm in Japanese, we werent’ trying to be too careful with our folds. “Every crinkle and fold in the binding process registers as a dyed texture, and these are graphic but still organic,” Chastka says.
Lay the fabric on a flat surface and place the tube across it lengthwise so that you can wrap the fabric completely around it. Use a clamp at the top to hold the fabric tightly in place.
Starting near the clamp, scrunch the fabric together. You want to push it so it looks like a long hair scrunchie and is about one-third of its starting length. Use a clamp at the bottom to secure it.
Tightly wrap your scrunched-up bundle with string to further secure it. The tighter you wrap, the better: It’ll protect the fabric from the dye and you’ll end up with more white areas.
Mix your dye bath in the bucket and dunk your masterpiece in. We let ours sit for a few hours to fully absorb. (Follow the directions on your dye packet.)
Carefully cut the string, remove the clamps, and rinse your fabric in cold water. We soaked ours in a bucket of synthropol to set the dye, then we washed it in a gentle cycle in a washing machine. (Follow the directions on your dye packet.)
Now you’ve got one heck of a cool shibori item. And it’s one-of-kind! “The beauty of shibori is how versatile it is,” Kaminski explains. “Each piece is adaptable from day to night, from vacation to office.”