Tie dye and its Japanese Origin

Origin, Tie Dye -

Tie dye and its Japanese Origin

The Hippie community, the seventies and this famous Peace'n'Love, is that what the name Tie Dye makes you think of ? Know that, in reality this textile trend goes back several centuries ! 


Come on, let's start from the beginning. 

What does mean the name Tie Dye ? 

Tie Dye Round

The answer is (almost) in the name.

Tie Dye, Dip Dye or Tie and Dye, we find two verbs, two actions :

It's the coloring of textile in an artisanal way where the fabric is 

  • Tied (to tie) then 

  • Dyed (to dye) by dipping the fabric in question in a dye bath. This creates "stains", colored and irregular patterns on the garment. 

Now, time travel obliges, let's go back to past centuries ! 

Japanese Origins

Shibori tie dye

Throughout history, known in many countries, Shibori is a dyeing technique coming from Japan. Coming from its exact name "Shiborizome" in Japanese, it owes its name to the verb "Shiboru" meaning to twist, to pleat.

These techniques are not unique to Japan, they have been practiced and explored in cultures all over the world. Examples of different traditions can be seen on fabrics made centuries ago in Latin America, Africa, India, China and all over Asia.

(However, the term shibori is often used to encompass the various existing techniques).

Thus, the trend and patterns of Tye Dye would come (partly) from Japan, country of the rising sun, with Shibori technique.

When they say that fashion is an "eternal beginning" it's no joke ! Proof is in the pudding.

 Understanding Shibori

Shibori Technical

To understand this method and to realize a dyeing with this technique, just be patient, choose the effect you want and proceed step by step... Knot, twist, fold and finally dye and that's it! Be aware that all the knotted or swaddled parts will remain white, the other parts of the fabric will be dyed. 

The Japanese used to use the Shibori technique on silk or hemp, today, to our great delight, all fabrics are used.  The main and most known dye remains indigo... but the realizations, the shapes and the colors are infinitely variable ! 

To know more : The materials and methods found in different international shibori traditions vary according to environmental and social aspects.

But it is indeed in Japan, in the 8th century, that this technique of refinement of drawing and color became an art in its own right. This method was rare and precious during Buddhist ceremonies because they were reserved for canopies, banners. The technique evolved over time to reach a more and more perfect mastery, targeting the Japanese ruling noble classes.

Several types of techniques

Blue indigo shibori tie dye

Methods regularly used :

  • Knots tied with threads

  • Sewing and folding of all kinds

  • Torsion

  • Tissue compression

All pieces of fabric are either immersed in dye baths or covered with color with a random brush.

To know more : one of the most popular designs is the "Kanoko Shibori". It exists in all colors and can be combined with countless designs. This design is a dyeing technique with knotting and is adulated for the creation of celebration kimonos.

Other techniques of Shibori :

  • Kanoko Shibori : one of the most known and popular, it consists of tying a thread around the twisted fabric, it is also possible to fold the fabric before tying the thread.

  • Miura Shibori : one of the simplest and quickest to make, the fabric is pinched with a hook on a small area, a thread wraps the fabric twice without tying it.

  • Arashi Shibori : the fabric is placed between two wooden or Plexiglas molds and the fabric is then dipped in the dye.

  • Itajime Shibori : the fabric is wrapped very tightly around a sphere and diagonally. A thread is then wound on it in parallel and the whole thing is painted with a brush.

Their work is always done by hand but there are methods to achieve the desired effect more quickly. Indeed, using a hook, we place each part of the fabric where the ligature must be done to save time and precision ? Not always.

But isn't it the lack of control and the randomness in the use of the Shibori technique that creates its charm ?

Pigmentation / Dyeing, how and why Indigo ?

Indigo color

One of the distinguishing features of shibori, which differentiates it from other similar techniques in the world, is the use of indigo as a dye. This is partly due to the predominance of the Japanese indigo plant. (But it is also linked to a period in Japanese history when refined clothing was reserved for the upper classes. Indigo was one of the few bright colors that people were allowed to wear).

But still about the color Indigo ?

Well, it's simply a dye pigment extracted from indigofera tinctoria (better known as indigotier), a pretty herbaceous plant with blue-violet flowers, of the Fabaceae family.

It is difficult to give the exact geographical source of indigo, because its very long history, more than 4000 years, has ended up blurring the tracks of its origin.

If indigo has been used for thousands of years, today the color indigo blue is obtained by chemical processes.

A mixture of cultures through time

It is a meticulous process, and yet there is always an element of surprise. Indeed, it is impossible to predict the result once the fabric is dipped in the vat of pigmented dye. The colors, patterns and shades blend into each other and bring life to each piece. The magic of this technique is that each piece is unique. The methods used vary according to the fabric, the pattern you wish to have but also the color you want.

Nowadays, Shibori's popularity is coming back renewed from fashion, mastery and its use. Although this technique is currently thriving in the Western world due to these trends and lifestyles, there is a real fear of the disappearance of the tradition in Japan.

Actually, it is a traditional art form and a cultural heritage of the world. There is a fear that these Western adaptations will change the meaning of art.



But don't you agree that it is these adaptations to contemporary methods (Tie Dye style) that will keep Shibori's art and culture alive ? 

And if it keeps the traditions alive, if they are experienced by great designers, young artists, or curious people who are just inclined to learn like you, wouldn't it be worth it?


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