Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

I love learning a new word and suddenly having it pop up all over the place. It makes me wonder about all the words I simply gloss over in life. Shibori is one of those words. It comes from the Japanese word “to wring, squeeze, or press.” Also known as resist-dyeing, shibori is a design technique for creating patterns on fabric. The idea of bunching fabric tightly with ties to resist the penetration of color when it is dunked in indigo is a technique that has been around for centuries. Many of us know it as tie-dyeing.

Japanese artists raised the art form to a high level. From the book, Shibori, the Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Wada, Rice and Barton: “Here [Japan], it has been expanded into a whole family of traditional resist techniques, involving first shaping the cloth by plucking, pinching, twisting, stitching, folding, pleating, and wrapping it, and then securing the shapes thus made by binding, looping, knotting, clamping, and the like. The entire family of techniques is called shibori.

In May, the staff of The Nashville Food Project, a non-profit close to my heart, came up with the idea of making a shibori print quilt as a group wedding gift for beloved TNFP Meals Director, Christa Bentley. It was to be a surprise. The Executive Director of TNFP,  Tallu Quinn, has a degree in art (in addition to her MDiv) and learned the technique in college. She wrote out directions for the project, sent them to participants, and provided pre-cut 12-inch squares of muslin fabric for staff and volunteers to create their tied designs. Here is a partial collection of what was created.

The How-To
The first step was to tie the fabric to create a design. I used marbles, corks, and rubber bands to create patterns on the two squares I contributed.

This is how they looked after I tied them,

and when they were dyed,

and then after they were dipped and untied.

Here is another set of pre and post photos.
 

I wish I had taken more photos of the before and afters. It was exciting to see how each manipulation affected the final design. The design below was made by folding a cloth many times and using bull clips to hold the folds together. I think it is my favorite.

Although, I do love this one.

I thought this technique was interesting, too. The white area is where the fabric resisted penetration of the dye due to compression by a block.

Actually, I love them all, as I imagine Christa must since they were each made in the spirit of love and friendship.

D-Day: The Day We Dyed the Squares of Cloth.
Tallu prepared the dye vat using an all-natural indigo powder she ordered online. She invited me and another volunteer, Paiden Hite, to come over and help dye the squares.

This is the dye vat.

She prepped the tied cloths by soaking them in plain, warm water.

One at a time, we submerged the cloth bundles gently into the vat being careful not to add extra oxygen (in the form of air bubbles or drips) into the liquid. It’s a chemistry thing. I wrote a story about growing indigo, harvesting the leaves and making a dye vat in the post, How to Make Indigo Blue Dye.

As we pulled each tied cloth out of the dye vat, we watched it transform in color from a yellow-green to green-blue, to deep indigo-blue. This transition in color seems magical each time I see it happen.

Here are the squares after their first dipping. A few were dipped twice to intensify their color. Color is added in layers, by a redipping process, not by letting textiles soak for a longer period of time.

After the squares dried and were ironed, TNFP staff members sewed them together, backed the quilt, and then began the task of hand sewing the layers together.

The quilt was presented, in a semi-finished form, to the delighted couple, Christa and Todd, at a wedding shower given for them by the ever thoughtful and generous TNFP staff.

Here is a gorgeous photo of the newlyweds on their wedding day. I love it because it expresses hope and love within the beauty of nature. The Bentleys grow food and flowers at Sweeter Days Farm using sustainable practices. They sell their goods at farmers markets and through CSA shares. You can follow their vegetable and flower-growing pursuits and their muster of gorgeous peacocks at @sweeterdaysfarm on Instagram. 

I love when projects, whether they be craft-making, cooking, or planting seeds in a garden, are made in community and in the spirit of caring and fun. For me, it is a way of experiencing and expressing love and joy.

Soon, Christa and Todd will have the finished quilt to wrap themselves up in. Hand-quilting takes time!

A few of my favorite maker-projects:

How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards

 

 

Knitting Neck Warmers with Mom’s Stash

 

 

 

How to Make Gorgeous Birdhouse Gourds

 

 

Homemade Whole Milk Ricotta

 

 

How to Make Indigo Blue Dye

 

 

 

How to Make Plant-Based Dyes

 

 

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

4 thoughts on “Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

  1. I remember watching my grandmother and her friends sew quilt pieces in the winter. Oh the stories they would tell around their sewing…just reminds me of all of that woven into this finished quilt made in such a different way with a different appearance, but built with the same love and friendship. I always feel loved wrapped in my grandmother’s quilts and know this couple must too!

    1. So true, Meera! Thank you for writing. I love the way the staff at TNFP find creative ways to care of one another. There is so much respect, love, and friendship, as you say, shown to one and another. It’s contagious! Thanks.

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