Lessons in stitched and tied shibori part 1: Kumo shibori

Shibori is the ancient Japanese art of tie dyeing. It is a traditional method of decorating textiles in Japan with a 1500-year-old history. It encompasses a wide range of techniques: stitching, binding and tying, wrapping and compressing. Shibori was used on clothing, package wrapping, home décor and even bedding to create elaborate patterns and pictures. It is still used today and continues to thrive as both an art and craft.

Today’s technique is called “kumo shibori”, translated into English as “Spider’s web tying techniques”. Typically, kumo shibori is used as a space filling and patterning technique.

1. Select a thread to tie the shapes. My “go-to” thread is #10 crochet thread, but your selection should be based on the size of the shape, the type of fabric to be tied, and the spacing of the pleats you are wrapping. Generally thinner fabric with small shapes and narrow spacing will require thinner thread or cord. Important: make sure that your thread is strong enough for the tension you are putting on it! Especially in dry climates (like Reno) cotton crochet thread degrades over time until it is too weak! I prefer thread less than 5 years old to avoid the issue.

Please note: my example photos are of green thread on white fabric for visibility reasons. For real projects, I use white thread to avoid accidental color transfer.

2. Pluck the fabric into a cone shape. Be careful arranging the folds of fabric for the best pattern of wrinkles. Remember that if you are free handing the shape, it will be a rough circle of diameter TWICE the length of the section to be tied.

3. Secure the bottom of the shape and thread by wrapping the thread over itself several times.

Hold the string down with your thumb.

Wrap the thread around the fabric cone.

Pull the thread tight and wrap over itself several times.

4. Start wrapping up the shape, being careful to keep threads evenly spaced. The thread should put enough tension on the compressed fabric that the thread digs in as it compresses. Too little tension and the dye will seep through!

Wrap evenly, keeping the thread tight.

5. At the top of the shape, wind the thread over itself several times to keep it from losing tension as you continue.

6. Wind thread back down the cone, being careful to keep threads evenly spaced and crossing the “up” threads at the same angle.

Cross the previous threads evenly and at the same angle.

7. Wind the thread around the base several times.

Wrap the threads several times around the base.

8. Secure with a “latigo” or quick release knot.

Use your thumb to create a loop without losing tension on the string.

Pull the string around the base and back to the loop.

Pull the loose end up through the loop.

Pull on the string end loop without letting go of the base of the kumo.

Pull on the loose end to make the remaining loop a reasonable size.

9. Either cut the thread, or move on to the next spot to be tied. If you do your kumo tying in an orderly series without cutting the thread between latigo knots, the entire project can be easier to remove after dyeing.

10. Dye with a dye appropriate to your fabric. Towards the end of washing out you may need to remove the thread acting as a resist to allow fabric to rinse properly.

Dyed project with lots of tiny tied segments.

What if I break my thread?

If your thread breaks, immediately grip the loose end on the project to keep the entire cone from unraveling. If you have just started tying that kumo, consider unwrapping it and starting again. If you are farther along, hold the free end down on the fabric with one hand while wrapping the thread BACK over the end several times. Then, pull it all tight and continue wrapping in the correct direction. That puts enough tension on the thread to keep it from unraveling.

Happy wrapping! I would be happy to see pictures of projects!

Feel like you missed some parts?

Part 2 is all about Materials!

Part 3 will finally get to Ori-nui, the art of single and double line stitching.

Part 4 is about stitching Karamatsu, or Larch patterns.

Part 5 is about Mokume, or wood grain patterns.

#art #crafts #Japaneseshibori #SumireDesigns