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Definition of Shibori



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    Definition of Shibori

    Shibori in English is translated as “tie-dye”[1]. According to the World Shibori Network, a more accurate translation of Shibori is “shaped-resist dyeing”. This is better described as dyeing which involves transformation of a two-dimensional cloth surface into three dimensional shapes before compressing it in the dye. Carol Lane Saber (Lane, 2006) describes Shibori as the process of dyeing fabric that involves stitching, gathering and scrunching and tying of fabric before immersing it in the dye bath.

    This form of tie dye originated in Japan and it was estimated that this had been practised since the eight century[2]. There are a number of labor-intensive resist techniques that had been practiced for Shibori dyeing, this would be discussed further in this paper. The materials found in different types of shibori vary widely. These materials may reflect the environmental, economic and social specifities. Cultural diversity also plays a part in the materials and the designs used in shibori dyeing.


    According to Dr. Paula Burch, tie-dyeing began in the pre-historic era. Dyers in many countries tested and experimented with the use of bindings to make patterns on cloth that had been immersed in dyes. Different types of tie-dyeing are evident in the countries of India, Japan and Africa centuries. The World Shibori network noted that an earliest surviving example of such is the pre-Columbian alpaca. This had been found in Peru. Another example is the silk from the fourth century Chinese tombs.

    Japanese tie-dye or Shibori began around 400 BC[3]. The dye techniques was introduced by China afterwhich, the Japanese use their creative ideas and formed the well-known shibori dyeing technique. According to the Yamasa Institute’s website, Shibori is originally an art of the poor. In feudal Japan, many Japanese cannot afford to buy fabrics like cotton or silk. Back then, clothes were made of cheap hemp fabrics and people cannot afford to replace their clothes regularly. The clothes that they have are repaired and redyed. Because of this, Shibori was born. It has become as a means of making old clothes look new.  In the period of peace under the Tokugawa Shogunate, different forms and techniques of Shibori had emerged. This art had become a method of decorating the kimonos for the aristocracy of Japan and as a folk art differing from one region to another.

    In the period of the Meiji Restoration, mechanization processes were developed to improve the production of Shibori, however, the art is still a labor intensive process. In the depression following the second war, demand for expensive silk shibori dropped. In the 1960’s economic boom, popularity for the kimono had been raised. Thus, there had been an increase demands for the skills of the artisans. When the artificial fabrics and dyes had been introduced with the event of fully mechanization of fabric production, shibori returned to a handmade high quality high price artifact.

    Shibori methods existed around the world. Some of which that had been identified by the World Shibori Network are the Plangi, a Malay Indonesian word  for the process of gathering and binding cloth, Bandhani, which is an Indian term for the process of plucking and binding cloth in small points and Tritik, a  Malay Indonesian word for stitch resist.

    Some of the basic techniques used in Japan according to Yamata Institute are Miura Shibori, Arashi Shibori, Kumo Shibori, Nui Shibori, and Suji Shibori. Miura Shibori is named after a doctor’s wife who brought the technique to Arimatsu from Shikoku. Most shibori are made through the tying of knots around the points of material. However, Miura shibori is made through looped binding, keeping out less dye. This produces softer effects to the fabric and is much cheaper. This is used for common clothes like yukata. Arashi Shibori as translated in english, “Storm” Shibori, is a technique which uses a length of cloth being folded and wrapped around a four-meter pole. The design of the technique procudes a storm-like effect of lines and dashes in the fabric which created the name of the  Arashi Shibori. Kumo Shibori is also known as the “spider web” shibori. Arimatsi is considered very famous for the quality of this technique. Nowadays, it is possible to produce highly regular spiderweb pattern through machines. However, the dyers in Arimatsu is very renowned for the regularity of the hand-made Kumo Shibori in their work. Another technique is the Nui Shibori also known as the “stitched” Shibori. Unlike the other techniques, Nui Shibori is a method where the fabric for dyeing is sewn to form a pattern.  Suji Shibori is a technique where the fabric is hand folded over a rope core in a similar fashion as the Arashi Shibori, it is then bound and dyed.

    After employing the different techniques, the artisan dyes, dries and unties the fabric. One of the most important phases of Shibori is the untying. In this phase, there is a possibility of distortion of the material or the entire piece. It is very important not to ruin the material. After which, the material is steamed and stretched to remove the creases.

    According to, dye can be described as a colored substance that has an affinity to substrate to which it is applied.         Dyes may be classified in several ways. It could be based on chemical constitution, application class and end use. According to North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Pollution control, the primary classification of dyes is based on the fibers which they can be applied and the chemical nature of the dye. Textile companies consider selecting a dye based on the type of fibers being dyed, desired shade, dyeing uniformity and fastness. In the old days, dyes were obtained from either animal, vegetable or mineral origin, with no or very little processing. The plants are the greatest source of dyes. It usually is from the roots, berries, bark, leaves and wood. Small quantity of which is used on a commercial scale.  Examples of dyes from animal origin are the Cochineal Mordant Dye, Kermes Mordant Dye, , Tyrian Purple Vat Dye and Techelet. Dyes from vegetables include Safflower, turmeric, Indigo, Woad, Alizarin, Dyer’s Broom, Logwood, Brazilwood, Weld, Old Fustic and Cudbear.

                There are also inorganic dyes. According to the fiber-images website, the first man-made inorganic dye was discovered by William Henry Perkin in 1856. Ever since then dyes had been improved and this had quickly replaced the traditional natural dyes. Inorganic dyes are now classified according to how they are used in the dyeing process. First is the Acid Dye these are dyes which are applied to fibers such as silk, wool, nylon and modified acrylic fibers from neutral to acid dye baths. Second classification is the Basic Dye, usually the acetic acid is added in the dye bath to help the absorption of the dye to the fiber. This is used in the coloration of paper. Next is the Mordant Dye, this is used to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber. The Vat Dye which is insoluble inwater and incapable of dyeing fibers. The reactive dye, which is the most important method for the coloration of cellulose fibers. This is applied under weakly acidic conditions. The Disperse Dye, this was originally developed to dye cellulose acetate, there is a dyeing temperature of 130 degree Celsius and a pressurized bath is required. Lastly is the Azoic Dye, where in the final color is controlled by the choice of the diazo and coupling components.


                Very few changes in the practical application of Shibori had changed throughout the years. Almost the same methods are being employed by the artisans of today. However, there are some techniques that have been forgotten that some Japanese would like to resurrect. An example of this is the Shirakage Shibore. According to a website of, an artist named Asako Sakakibara who has a shop in Narumi is spending half of every month travelling to different places in the Tokai Region and to Tokyo to teach aspiring artisans shibori techniques. She took up the challenge of mastering Shirakage Shibori. Steive Beimel and Robert Schulteis, wrote about Shigeki and Shihoko Fukimoto. These two are married couples and practicing the art of Shibori. Shihoko uses indigo dye in her fabric and Shigeki uses various dyes, then cuts fabrics into small pieces and reassembles them into artistic creations. The method of Mrs Fukimoto is the modern version of ancient Japanse kimono Indigo dyeing while Mr. Fukimoto’s work focuses on the modern version of the intricate dyeing of silk kimono.  Rearrangement of fibers on the work of husband and wife is one of the difference that they have done to innovate the traditional shibori dyeing process. They may have adapted the art of shibori but they had injected modern culture in their designs but basically the dyeing process is the same.

                As a conclusion, changes from the past practice to the present practices of Shibori dyeing is very minimal. Most changes had been in the dyes used, the kind of fabric where shibori is practiced has grown in numbers and several shibori techniques had emerged in the present days. Shibori Designs had been customized with an added modern style. This had been adapted by artists of the present day. However, there are also those who still preserved the traditional designs of Shibori today.

    C Saber, ‘Japanese Fabrics and Textiles’, Carol Lane Saber Designs, 2006, retrieved 7

    August 2007 <>

    World Shibori Network, ‘World Tradition – Welcome’, World Shibori Network, 2007,

    retrieved 7 August 2007 <> World Shibori Network

    D Murphy, ‘Shibori’, The Yamasa Institute, 2006, retrieved 7 August 2007


    Rangineh Gallery, ‘A brief history of tie-dye’, Rangineh Gallery website, 2007, retrieved 7

    August 2007, <>

    Fiber Images, ‘Dyeing’, Fiber Images website, 2007, retrieved 7 August 2007, <www.fiber->

    North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, ‘Types of Dye’, North

    Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, 2007, retrieved 7 August 2007, <>

    S Beimel and R Schelteis, “Opposites Attract: Dyers and Innovators, Shigeki and Shihoko

    Fukimoto’, Kyoto Diary: Esprit Travel and Tours , 2005, retrieved 7 August 2007, <>

    Kougei Organization, Interviews with Asako Sakakibara, Kougei Organization, 2007,

    retrieved 7 August 2007, <>


    World Shibori Network

    [2] 1999-2007

    Rangineh Gallery website

    Definition of Shibori. (2016, Dec 09). Retrieved from

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