Shibori Indigo Dyeing

HelenSewing Inspiration14 Comments

Shibori Indigo Dyeing

This summer I had the pleasure of dyeing some fabric with friends using a shibori method and indigo dye. I took loads of photos and I have had this post planned for some time now, but it took some time to get the pics edited. I wanted to share the methods we used and the results we got from them in case you try indigo dyeing in the future! We had so much fun (and worked our butts off) dyeing 4 pieces of fabric each! There wasn’t much information online for dyeing large pieces of fabric and it comes with its own set of challenges. This was our first attempt and we are pretty pleased with the results, but if we do it again there are some things I think we would do differently. Let’s get into it!

Shibori Indigo Dyeing

We bought all of our materials (except fabrics) at Maiwa here in Vancouver. This is the PDF instruction sheet we used. I will not be going through the whole process of making the dye because it is all explained in this free sheet here! You can buy supplies from Maiwa online.

We used four different types of fabric for our dyeing.

  1. Cotton Lawn
  2. Hemp Cotton Knit
  3. Organic Hemp Cotton
  4. Rayon linen blend

Before meeting up to do the dyeing we scoured all of our fabric using the synthrapol soap recommended by Maiwa for cotton fabrics. We used a washing machine to scour the fabric by running it through 3 times with the soap before sticking it in the dryer. Scouring is an important step because otherwise, your fabric might not take the dye.

There are many methods you can use to do shibori. We experimented with a few that we found online and got a variety of interesting results. All of our methods are shown at the end of the post with the corresponding dyed fabric for reference.

Now, let’s get into the process!

Here we are all bright eyed and bushy tailed before we begin the 8-hour process of dyeing, washing, and hanging the fabrics to dry. Yup, it took 8 hours. Next time we will tackle fewer pieces of fabric, we may have gotten a bit carried away. Special thanks to my parents for letting me use their backyard and my mom’s pottery studio for this project.

Shibori Indigo Dyeing

First, you have to take the concentrated water and indigo/lye/thiourea dioxide mixture (read about how to make that here) and mix it with water and more lye and thiourea dioxide in a large bucket.

After stirring, the vat will be a yellowy-green colour with purple bubbles on top.

Take your prepared fabric pieces (skip to the end of this post to see our methods used) and get them nice and wet in a bucket of water. Squish them to get water in the folds and let them soak.

Take the wet fabrics and place them into the indigo dye vats. Be careful not to stain whatever surface you are working on. We put in as many in as would fit without overflowing.


The pieces have to sit for a while in the dye, and you can squish them around and keep them down under the surface with your hands or a stick. They will not turn blue immediately, they will be an acid green/turquoise colour.

Once they have soaked long enough (again, more details on exact times and measurements here) you can pull them out and leave them to oxidize in the shade. You can see below how the colour comes out light teal initially and quickly turns blue during oxidization. We used a vinyl matt for laying them out.

We dipped some of the pieced into the vat 1 or 2 more times to let them soak up more dye. The more you do this, the darker the colour will get. The dye in the vats can also get used up, so you can make a fresh vat in order to get really deep blues. We thought our blues were pretty dark, but they dried MUCH lighter than the colour you see in the wet pieces. If we did it again, we would dip more times and make more vats.

Next step is releasing all the elastics and knots and washing the fabric.  This part was so exciting and SO exhausting. The fabric needs to be thoroughly washed until the water is running almost clear and these large 3-meter pieces were a pain. It was also a struggle to remove elastics from wet fabric, but we eventually just got scissors and cut them off – much quicker.

The part where you get to see the results of your shibori methods was the most exciting part! It was so fun to unravel the pieces and discover what was inside. In some cases, the result was much more white on the inside than we expected!

Once the pieces had been rinsed clean, we hung them to dry on the line. It was so nice to see them up there, blowing in the wind.

We took a well-deserved cider break while they were all drying!

I made sure to document our shibori methods for reference. Check out our ressults below!

Method 1 – Plywood Resists
Using wooden shapes and elastic bands, you can fold up your fabric in a variety of shapes to get cool geometric patterns. We did not expect these pieces to come out so light on the inside, the dye barely got into the cracks! Next time we might expose more fabric to get more blue colour and secure them less tightly.

Tasia experimented with a woodworking clamp and had some interesting results. You can see where the circle of the clamp was on the very end of the fabric. Even though the fabric seemed fairly exposed on the edges, the inside of this piece was still very white.

Method 2 – Elastic Bands

You can have a lot of fun with this method and it delivered some of our favourite results of the day. We had two pieces that were scrunched up lengthwise (not rolled) and turned into elastic snakes. Depending on the tightness and distribution of the elastics, the snakes came out quite different.

Another method we played with was this one described here. It is easy and fun to make, and the results were beautiful! It was certainly my favourite piece of the day.

Method 3 – Tying Knots

The last method we tried was simple knot tying. This results in wide stripes and patches. We liked this one, too, and we found it worked best when the knots were spaced further apart. Tasia turned hers into a gorgeous dress.

Indigo sundress finished 👏🏽💦💙swipe to see more photos! The fabric is a hemp linen, started as a natural cream colour dyed with indigo dye. To get the dye pattern I scrunched along the length of the fabric and tied it in four knots, that’s it! Pattern is Burda magazine 3/2016 128 for the bodice, Deer&Doe centauree for the skirt. I’m pleased with how the dyed pattern falls across the dress, pretty good as I had a limited amount of fabric to work with. Piping strengthens the top edge, I made adjustable fabric straps, and self-lined the bodice. I like the little dip at centre back and the sweetheart neckline. Overall I’m really happy with this project! And this pattern combo – a good basic sundress 👗I plan to make it again and swap in different skirt styles #indigo #indigosundress #ddcentauree #burdastylemagazine #sewing #sundresses

A post shared by Tasia Pona (@tasiapona) on



I turned one of my pieces into a Suki Robe for the beach this summer! Check out more photos of that here. 

Sierra Swimsuit

Thanks for checking out our shibori dyeing! If you know how to shibori dye and you have advice for us, don’t be shy! We are not even close to experts at this and would love to improve for next time!

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

14 Comments on “Shibori Indigo Dyeing”

  1. What a great adventure! Thanks for a really complete step by step on the process, and I love your results. So exciting to open them up to see what you’ve got.

  2. WOW! Loved seeing the whole process, so well documented. The colours are beautiful and I love the photos especially the ones against the blue hostas and the sky. Well done.

  3. I love your methodology and matching up the types with outcome pics. Knotted was my favorite. I am way too lazy to do this, but great post!

  4. looks like both a lot of fun and a lot of work. The results are fantastic, I especially like the geometric results with the plywood.

  5. So fun, Helen! I haven’t done any indigo dyeing since college, but I loved it! I remember us letting the indigo dye bath “cure” or “cook” longer in my print and dye class- I think for around a week? It was quite a long time ago though, so I may not be remembering it right! Loved seeing the whole process and the resulting fabrics are so gorgeous 🙂

  6. Enjoyed your photos, Helen. I met a lady in Sointula who is doing a lot of eco-dyeing, mostly on recycled clothing.

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