Binding material to produce a pattern

In principle, shibori tie-dye involves immersing cloth into a dye liquor to color it.  Shibori’s delicate patterns are expressed by leaving certain areas in the original color, often referred to as “white”, undyed or resist dyed.  In other words, the beauty of a competed shibori pattern will be decided by how to keep some parts “white.”
The most typical way to make the pattern leaving “white” is to bind the cloth with thread so that the dye liquor doesn’t reach certain parts.  However, of course, this simple method alone is insufficient for creating the elaborate shibori patterns.  During its long history, experienced and knowledgeable craftspeople contrived a variety of methods for creating different patterns.
There is a certain beauty only shibori tie-dye can depict that other fabric decoration methods such as painting and tracing cannot.  Elaborate and honed shibori techniques have been devised over generations, and passed down to today.



Release binding to unfurl the design

Shirome (cloth with bindings before dyeing)

The area to be kept white (undyed part) is bound with thread and is called "shirome," or “white of the eye”.  Every “shirome” bind is made firmly by the hand of experienced craftspeople one by one, which never allows the dye liquor to pass through.  There is no painting directly on the cloth or added colors into the layer of cloth - Shibori is such a unique technique in which craftspeople focus most of their concentration on creating “undyed” areas.

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Different methods of making shirome.

One kind of shirome represents large waves and the other represents water’s surface.


Unbinding and Steaming

There are some binding techniques requiring extreme fingertip dexterity to manually produce individual beads of shirome.   Sometimes a craftsperson patiently makes extraordinary numbers of shirome reaching well beyond 100,000 bindings only on one cloth taking several years to complete.
Ito-toki or unbinding is the process of removing all the thread from the cloth.  They pull the cloth quickly and firmly but not so much as to cause damage to the cloth; a process requiring constant delicate power adjustments.  Then, the cloth is steamed to remove unnecessary twists and creases.

The moment of unbinding.

After steaming.



Basic Process of Kyo Kanoko Shibori

There are several different Kyo Kanoko Shibori techniques but basically, the production process remains the same from start to finish.
The entire process is divided into various stages and a different craftsperson undertakes each stage.  Division of labor is one of the characteristics of shibori tie-dye in Kyoto.

1. Shitae (Design)

Left: Sketch of design is applied with blue ink.
Right: Place the stencil on the fabric and rub blue ink over the stencil.

2. Ito-ire (Sewing)

Left: Fabric with thread sewn around the outlines of sketch.
Right: Sew the fabric with thread following the contours of the design.

3. Kukuri (Binding for tie-dye)

Gather the sewn parts together firmly to form cylinders, and bind with thread from bottom to top.

4. Shirome

The cloth with completed bindings is called shirome.  Depending on the size of cloth or number of bindings required, it can take more than one year merely to complete this shirome process.

5. Some (Dyeing)

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In shibori dyeing, the cloth finished with shirome (binding) is thoroughly immersed in the dye liquor.  To ensure the dye does not soak through undesired parts decides the quality of design, thus, prefect resist dye is essential.

6. Ito-toki (unbinding and finishing)

After dyeing, the binding threads are cut and removed.  The undyed part is left as white.  Next, the shrunk cloth is steamed to remove unnecessary twists and creases.



Main Shibori Patterns at Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten

Bai Shibori

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Bai is a type of shellfish and this shibori is so named as its form looks like the shellfish.  There are two different methods to make Bai Shibori: One is with an Ito-ire process (sewing) before binding with thread and the other is without Ito-ire.

Tsukidashi Shibori


Only the bottom of the gathered cloth is bound by thread.  The pattern looks like the pattern on a fawn’s back.

Moku Shibori

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The cloth is sewn following the sketch and keeping the sewn part undyed creates this elegant pattern.  As the pattern looks like wood grain, which is called Mokume in Japanese, this pattern is named so.

Tesuji Shibori

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No sketch is taken for this pattern and it relies instead on the craftsperson’s sense for how the finished cloth will appear.  Only an experienced craftsperson can achieve this technique, as it requires folding the cloth incredibly finely in order to create the elegant and finely striped patterns.

Miura Shibori


The finished cloth with this shibori technique depicts a pattern of tiny dots.  It directly reflects how the craftsperson treated the cloth in the binding process; thus, no individual pattern is the same.

Hitta Shibori

The pattern of this shibori technique is used to make the Kanoko Shibori or Fawn Pattern as it looks like the back of a fawn.  Of all shibori techniques, Hitta Shibori has been claimed to be the most elegant and gorgeous since the Edo period (1603-1868).  Since then, Hitta Shibori produced in Kyoto was honorary known as Kyo Kanoko Shibori and hugely respected as the very best.