Lessons in stitched and tied shibori part 2: Materials

Welcome to Part 2 of my lessons in creating stitched and tied shibori! I wanted to make today’s lesson actual stitching, but discovered that I needed to give a lesson in the materials and equipment used in shibori first!

Selecting a needle

A quick check online reveals that “shibori needles” can be purchased at most craft stores and online. But a specialty needle is not necessary, and most of these needles are, upon closer investigation, simply sewing needles made in Japan. In a pinch, most sharp sewing needles can be used for shibori. Sashiko and tapestry needles are NOT a good choice for shibori. They are blunt tipped to go between the weave of the fabric and unless your fabric is fairly coarse, will snag and make stitches erratic.

My go-to needles for most projects are Dritz 3-inch soft sculpture needles. They are fairly thin, long enough to gather fabric efficiently, and (most importantly) have a large threading eye.

Some pointers:

-Because ori nui shibori is used to stitch lines and linear features, a longer needle is preferred, but too long and the needle will be hard to use when stitching curved lines.

-Use a thin needle, especially when stitching thin or delicate fabrics such as silk. Thicker needles can stretch the warp of the material and create holes.

-Keep a couple of needles on hand in the sizes you prefer (I have an entire little needle book.) because needles get dull, bend and eventually break under the stress of stitching. If a stitching project is “just not going well”, switch needles.

Different types of needles

1-a 4” upholstery needle, it is too thick for most work but I have used it on heavy canvas sewing

2-a 5” doll needle, perfect for long straight lines

3-a 3” soft sculpture needle, what I use most of the time on most fabrics (note that the needle has a slight bend in the middle from extended use!)

4 and 5-regular sewing needles (called “sharps” I think?), a good size for small patterns or patterns with a lot of curves.

6-a 2” seed bead needle, great for really fine silk but horrible to thread. I tend to just use example 3 instead.

Selecting thread

Upholstery and crochet thread against my hand for scale.

Use thread that is strong and flexible enough to easily tie in knots. As I stated in the last post (part 1), my go-to thread is #10 crochet thread: its strong, cheap and easy to handle. Because our Reno climate is very dry and thread ages fast, I am careful to use thread that is no more than five years old. (I love the thrift store, but it is not a good place to get shibori thread!)

When doing ori nui shibori on silk I often use heavy duty polyester upholstery thread. You can find it in the “special” section of the thread aisle.

Selecting fabric

When selecting fabric, keep in mind what you want as finished work. The fabric should be heavy enough to stitch without ripping, but not so heavy that it is hard to handle. Silk can be used to create gorgeous and intricate designs but is not a “beginner” fabric as it is slippery and easy to damage, making stitching difficult. Canvas is so heavy that tightening ori nui shibori can be thread-breakingly difficult. Medium weight cotton, such as Kona cotton is excellent. Other material such as cotton voile, linen or hemp are also good choices.

Some pointers on fabric selection:

-Make sure that your choice of fabric can be dyed by the dye method you wish to use. Remember: indigo will dye any plant or animal fiber, fiber reactive dyes only dye plant fibers (like cotton) and acid dyes only dye animal fibers (wool or silk). It is really depressing to finish a project only to discover that your chosen dye doesn’t work….

-Do not attempt to do ori nui shibori on jersey or other knits. Jersey and other knits shred very easily if poked the wrong way with a needle (think of how t-shirts develop holes!).

-Do not attempt to do ANY of the tied or stitched shibori with rayon based fabrics. Fabrics with a rayon content tend to be very delicate when wet. I have had rayon shibori projects rip from the simple stress of compression by the thread! Arashi and itajime shibori might work better for those types of material.

Marking equipment, stencils and other supplies

Important: Always experiment with your choice of pattern marking BEFORE using it in a dye project! There are many horror stories about chalks or pens that stained projects!

Drawing and marking supplies

-Marking pens are easy to handle but where most of the staining horror stories originate. I use “wash out with water” pens, because the 24-hour fade pens fade too fast in the dry desert air. My favorite are blue Washable Wonder markers. TEST before use!

-Chalk is easy to use but creates a thicker line and should be dusted out BEFORE soaking the fabric to avoid staining.

-Transfer paper can be used to create fine, delicate lines and complex shapes. It is my go-to marking material when making complex pictures or transferring a pattern from something else. It mostly washes out, and because of the fine lines tends to be hidden in the dye phase of shibori.

-Ball point pens and graphite pencils have nice sharp tips and are easy to handle, but do NOT wash out at all. If you have to use one, use them under sections that will be DYED in completed projects. (And in projects that are using dye dark enough to hide the lines!)

-Stencils and rulers. Whatever your heart desires! Use quilt patterns and graph paper, trace bowls and silhouettes, or draw pictures. Just remember that you’ll have to stitch the pattern you are creating. I have an entire set of round and square stencils, rulers, curved edges and paper patterns. Sashiko patterns also work well as shibori.

-Gloves, cloth tape or palm thimbles. I have calluses from years of stitching, you may discover that you are wearing holes in your hands with needle or thread. When tying kumo shibori I wear fabric garden gloves because the crochet thread can and will cut through skin while under tension.

Where to purchase:

Any craft store or store that carries craft supplies will have crochet thread and an array of marking supplies.

I get fabric and dye at Dharma Trading Company. www.dharmatrading.com

Have more questions about equipment and supplies? Contact me and I will be happy to try and help!

Feel like you missed some parts?

Part 1 is all about kumo shibori!

Part 3 is all about ori-nui, the art of stitching lines in shibori!

Part 4 is about stitching Karamatsu, or Larch patterns.

Part 5 is about mokume shibori, or wood grain patterns!

#Japaneseshibori #art #crafts