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Nui Shibori- Stitched-Resist Shibori technique for dyeing fabric

Updated on by Sarina

This post is about the different ways to do stitch-resist dyeing following the ancient Japanese resist dyeing technique known as Shibori.

bui shibori techniues using stitch resist

Let me warn you first – Nui shibori is a time-consuming dyeing technique, and on top of it, it is captivating. A deadly combination. If you get into it, you will be at it for a long time – literally.

The stitching that is a part and parcel of the resist dyeing technique that Japanese call Nui shibori takes a lot of time, if you want to do it nicely. And after the stitching is over, you may want to leave the thread as it is on the fabric if you love embroidery. Then when you resist this, and dye the fabric and remove the thread you find you are addicted to it and want to make more patterns.

The patterns that are created with this stitch resist dyeing technique, each time, are so unique and beautiful that you will want to exhaust all possibilities – you might end up creating never before seen designs on clothes and fabrics. More reason to be addicted.

Shibori dyeing involves dyeing a piece of fabric after tying, wrapping or stitching the fabric to prevent the dye from penetrating certain areas of the fabric. And Nui shibori is all about using stitching as a resist.

In Nui shibori, definite shapes may be drawn and then stitching is used inside or on the edges to create the resist. There are many different patterns you can make on a fabric surface with different ways of stitching the fabric. Here are the most traditional stitching methods.

Nui shibori dyeing – 3 methods

  • Mokume – this creates a wood grain pattern. A series of parallel running stitches are used here.
  • Ori Nui – In this stitching is made on the fold of the fabric.
  • Makiage – This is used to isolate a shape. A design is drawn, and the gathering stitching is made along the periphery

Nui shibori dyeing – some general guidelines

  • Shibori is usually done using indigo dyes. But you can use any dye according to your preference. You can use natural dye or the ready-to-use chemical dye – it all depends on the availability and the fabric you have.
  • Prepare the fabric for dyeing. Presoak the fabric in saltwater – this can aid in better dye penetration and fastness.
  • Use all precautions when using chemical dyes. Read more on How to dye fabric.
  • Use very strong thread for the stitching – I would use a topstitching thread or an upholstery sewing thread.
  • Whatever stitching you are doing, you should have enough thread tails on each side or at least one side to pull up and gather the stitches together tightly. After gathering the stitches, secure them with a square knot. This prevents dye from seeping inside and coloring your resist area. The tighter the gathering of the stitches, the better your design will stand out
  • All stitching is done and finished before gathering
  • Stitching is not only what creates the resist pattern – it takes a tight, super tight gathering of these stitches for the final clear results.

Related post: Different types of fabric dyes you can use.

Mokume Shibori

making wood grain patterns using stitch resist of shibori technique

Mokume creates a wood grain-like pattern on fabric. The stitching can be done inside a defined shape, or it can be a stitch-as-you-go design. Or you can make the pattern on the whole fabric.

How to do the Mokume Shibori Pattern with stitching
  1. Make parallel rows of running stitches – You will have to make these running stitches all over inside the design as you make in sashiko embroidery/Kantha work. The wood pattern will be made if you make same sized symmetrical running stitchesstart making running stitches inside the design
  2. Leave thread tails- Remember to leave thread tails at the start and end – this is absolutely necessary for tying later. 3 inches is usually the average thread tail left. You can either leave thread tails at the start and ending or just on one side – but then you will have to make a knot when starting. I left thread tails on either end.leave thread tails before and after the stitching
  3. Gather the stitches tightly- Gather the stitches by the thread tails and then tie them in place. Tie as tightly as possible. It is better if you tie two or three thread tails together rather than a bunch of them. This creates a more tight hold. gather the stitches
  4. Tie the thread tails- Together, individually or taking two or three thread tails tie together tightly. I would tie just two or three threads and not the whole together as this creates a better tightness. The tightness of the tying is very important in this dyeing. You can wet the cloth slightly to get it more tight.
  5. Dye the fabric- Dye following the manufaturer’s instructions for your particular dye. Place in a quiet place to dry
  6. Remove the ties/thread- Cutting off the thread (do this carefully so that you do not cut the fabric) will reveal the wood grain pattern.

Makiage Shibori

makige shibori technique defines a motif against the solid color of the base fabric

This shibori technique defines a motif, against the solid color of the base fabric.

How to do the Makiage Shibori Pattern with stitching

You will be working inside a drawn motif. Stitching is made along the periphery of this design – Gather the stitches.

Outline is defined with gathering stitches
Make gathering stitches along the outline of the motif

I also wrapped and knotted the inside of the motif with the remaining thread.

gather the stitch
Wrap the rest of the thread over the inside of the gathered motif to create white space inside the design

Dye as usual. And you get the defined resist motif very clear and distinct against the base dyed fabric.

Ori Nui Shibori

ori nui shibori with folded stitching

This method creates an outline. In this you have to make a fold of the fabric along the design lines and then make the stitches over the fold.

outline is worked with whip stitches over the fold of fabric
Make diagonal stitches over the design line – this will automatically create a fold

Make whip stitches over the fold. Stitch in a pattern- you can also make overcast stitches, running stitches – but all this should be done along and over the fold. 

Gather the stitches

Gather the stitches tightly after the stitching is over

Shibori is very similar to tie and dye. You can find a lot of detailed posts on tie and dye here : What is tie and dye ; Different tie and dye designs for t-shirts; How to do tie and dye -techniques of folding and knotting.

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