Shibori – Japanese tie-dye technique

Two weeks ago, friends of ours took us to see the historic town of Arimatsu.It still has a lot of Edo period buildings.

beautiful building in Arimatsu

Located on the Tokaido (ancient road from Tokyo to Kyoto), Arimatsu is famous for ‘shibori’ or tie-dyed cloth. The cloth is tied up with rope before dying, thus preventing certain parts of the cloth from being dyed. It’s not just fuzzy circular patterns, it really leads to intricate patterns.

Everything in this shop is created with various shibori techniques

It turns out we could have a go at shibori ourselves. Our friends had arranged for a workshop in the local museum. Upon arrival, we were immediately given a piece of cloth and a needle and were put to work. Two ladies of a respectable age with at least 50 years of shibori experience each, taught these clumsy gaijin how to make a simple shibori cloth. Unfortunately we could not see the dying process but they will send us the finished cloth once it has been dyed.


Of course when these ladies have a go at it themselves, it’s a whole other story.

Arimatsu ladies showing us how it's done

a little more complicated than a mere handkerchief

Hiroshige made an ukiyoe (woodblock print) about Arimatsu in the series ‘The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido’, in which ‘shibori’ is pictured. You can see shops selling the cloth and someone sitting inside the shop tying some cloth in preparation for dying, or perhaps untying the knots after dying.

Hiroshige's print featuring Arimatsu

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7 thoughts on “Shibori – Japanese tie-dye technique

    • I’m glad you liked the post. The workshop was a lot of fun and while our project was very basic, those Japanese ladies can make amazing things with this technique. It is also interesting to learn how the dye is prepared in a traditional way, using plant extracts.

  1. Pingback: Life in Japan today « Bùn Phù sa

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