Kyoto Dreaming Japanese Dinner: Shibori Table Runners

When we hosted our first Japanese dinner at Bligh St. Bistro I couldn’t ‘resist’ Shibori dyeing some table runners for the event. Shibori is a traditional Japanese resist dye technique. Essentially it is a refined version of the crazy colourful tie dye of the good old hippie days, except it was around way before the hippies. A recent surge in an appreciation for old crafts and making by hand has seen the western world go nuts for Shibori. It is very simple to achieve beautiful results using this method (sometimes by accident) so why not give it a go?
I started by preparing some beautiful white linen for the dye bath. Since I knew the intended purpose of my dyed fabric I sewed the finished product before dyeing but it’s more common to dye the fabric and then play after. I cut the table runners a little longer than my table length (2m) and made them 50cm wide with a 1.5cm seam allowance. I like to create mitred corners on table linen for a professional finish (it’s super easy if you follow one of the many online tutorials like this one).
Stitched-resist designs: It is possible to create beautiful patterns by stitching and gathering the fabric. I tried out a simple stitch-resist technique, creating pleats in my fabric by folding the table runner in four lengthways and then stitching rows across.
Be sure to leave a long end of thread at the end of each stitching line so that you can pull the stitching and gather the rows, like so.


Methods for setting up an indigo dye bath will vary depending on the kit you use, so just follow the instructions (crazy idea, I know). For all your indigo dye supplies and tips on setting up a dye bath head to Batik Oetoro (a good, local one stop shop for dye stuff). It’s good to dampen your prepared fabric with water before putting it into the indigo dye. Lower it slowly into the dye to avoid letting oxygen in.
When you remove the fabric from the dye bath it will be green in colour and will slowly start to oxidise and change colour. Allow it to dry completely before rinsing in water and removing the stitching. 


Tie resist designs: You can tie various objects (such as pebbles, marbles & buttons) into the fabric with string or thread to create specific shapes. I used pebbles in a rough zig zag pattern to achieve spots on the fabric. 


Another stitch resist but this one is created by pinching fabric together and stitching in a circle. Again leave the end of the thread long and use it to gather the circle tightly to create a tooth pattern.
Folded and bound/clamp resist: This method creates really interesting patterns and is achieved by folding the fabric into wide vertical pleats and then folding in triangles and clamping between two pieces of wood. The piece of wood will determine the resulting pattern (along with the folding technique and how tightly the piece is bound).
Since the wood block stops dye from touching the majority of the fabric surface, the finished fabric has bigger areas of white and can look quite dramatic and beautiful when paired with the darker indigo cloths.
Next week I’ll be sharing how to make cute chopstick holder place cards out of matchboxes and shibori clouds to hang from the ceiling.
For more inspiration and technical tips I highly recommend Janice Gunner’s book Shibori: For Textile Artists. She explains the history of this incredible craft and illustrates many methods of achieving different results with wonderful images to get you really excited about your own project.
And if you prefer a more hands on approach to learning then definitely join a Shibori workshop at Prints Charming where you can experiment, play and spend time with my incredibly talented, super inspiring friend Cath. Cath is also hosting a natural dyeing workshop on the 14th of May which I am super excited to be taking part in, so come join us for dyeing and a bit of home baked deliciousness.

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