Indigo Dyeing – Shibori Techniques


Nothing white in my house is safe anymore. We got our hands dirty this summer and learned a lot about dyeing. I did some Tye-dyeing with my son early in the spring and now I’m hooked on Indigo Dyeing and Shibori techniques.

Shibori is a beautiful Japanese method of dyeing cloth by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, and compressing. We tried some of these techniques and also just made up our own!



  • Indigo Dye Kit: I used this this one.
  • Rubber gloves (my kit came with them!)
  • One 5 gallon plastic bucket
  • Strings, elastics, paint stir sticks, and/or a clamp for creating designs (my kit came with some of these supplies)
  • Stir sticks from the Home Depot paint section. These are FREE. Get several of them – both tall and short.
  • Garden hose or sink to rinse out the fabric
  • Clothes line to dry your fabric (we tied some string in the tree and got out the wooden clothes pins)
  • Natural fabrics, shirts or dishtowels


  1. Fill up the plastic bucket with 4 gallons of warm tap water.
  2. While stirring with a stir stick, slowly add the soda ash and reduction agent into the water.
  3. Add the indigo dye packet into the water. Stir.
  4. Gently stir the vat in a circular motion. When it’s well mixed, drag the stir stick along the outer edge of the bucket. This causes bubbles or foam to form in the center of your vat. THIS IS NORMAL. IMG_9166.JPG
  5. Cover the vat and let settle for 15-30 minutes or more. This is the perfect time to prep your fabric.

TIP: You can actually keep your vat and use it again. I’ve heard it’s good for at least a month, maybe longer.


fabric-01.jpgGather your fabrics and plan out the designs you want. Use stir sticks, elastics and string to tie and fold your fabric. Get creative! We dyed our fabric when it was dry.

dye-01.jpgThe longer you let the fabric sit in the vat, the darker your blues will be. You can even dye the fabric multiple times before you rinse it out. For our samples, we typically let each design sit in the vat for 2-3 minutes.

rinse-01.jpgWe used our hose in the yard to rinse the fabric. We rinsed both while clamped or tied, and after we unclamped and untied the fabric.


Here are a few techniques we tried and got the following looks:

This was our very first attempt.  In the image on the far right, the left most fabric was made with this technique. I folded the fabric, accordion style, down the length of the yardage into a long rectangle. Then accordion style into a square shape. Then clamped. We learned quickly the folds needed to be exact and the clamp tight if you want a crisp and trademark Shibori look.


This one was folded into squares, rubber banded, and clamped.


This fabric was rolled up lengthwise and string was wrapped around the whole thing.


This was one of everyone’s favorite for sure! The shirt was swirled into a ball, then tied a million different directions with twine. Not exactly a science, but one of the cooler dyes we did.


Here’s your daily reminder to dip-dye everything you own. This was probably my favorite! My sister Kathryn taught us how to do this one. She brought some rags and kitchen towels, some of which had a few stains. We dyed right over the stains and gave these towels a second life!

In the image on the RIGHT, we got an ombre look by dipping it part of the way down the towel, pulling it out an inch or 2, waiting, and repeating that process all the way down the length of the fabric. Other towels we dipped once and held for 2-3 minutes. Either way, dipping was one of my favorite ways to use the dye.

hang-01.jpgLine dry until fully dry. Then wash in your machine. For your dyed fabric’s first wash, I recommend keeping it separate from any other clothing, but now I wash my Indigo products with my normal laundry.


Don’t freak when your fabric comes out of the vat looking green! IT’S NORMAL. The Indigo dye looks green until it oxidizes. The left picture is immediately after we rinsed and unfolded the fabric. Slowly the dye oxidizes and turns a deep blue. The picture on the right was taken about 10 minutes after we hung it.

Here are some of our final products all hung to dry.

IMG_9220 copyIMG_9219 copyIMG_9233 copy

If you have any question, ask me in the comments below. Now go dye all the white things!

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