Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

This week I finally got around to using my Shibori dye kit. And let me say – I’m in love! So I’m sharing a tutorial for making these pretty DIY shibori cloth napkins.

I’ve always read that people become obsessed after doing Shibori dye, and now I can see why. I’m just looking for things around my house to dye.   For now, I’m starting with these easy DIY Shibori cloth napkins.  You can also dye the fabric, then make no-sew napkins.

What is Shibori?

Before we begin, you might be wondering what Shibori is. It’s a tie-dying technique from Japan. It’s become more well-known recently due to all the DIY and home bloggers and the rising popularity of Shibori decor.

Things You’ll Need

  • Cotton fabric (synthetic fabrics don’t work) – I used one of these tea towels I had on hand and cut them into four equal squares. Drop cloth works well too! It won’t have a super white background, though. I love this drop cloth from Amazon.
  • Sewing Machine and thread
  • Indigo tie dye kit – I used this one and highly recommend it.
  • Rubber bands and clothespins to make designs – you can get creative here!
  • Plastic bucket or old bin with a lid to hold dye
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic bag or something to protect the surface and lay your napkins on after coming out of the dye bath.
shibori napkins on a plate

How to Make DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins.

Total Time: 1 day

  1. Cut fabric to size.

    Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

    I started by cutting one of my tea towels into four equal squares. I only made four napkins, but there is plenty of dye to make more! The nice thing about using tea towels to make your napkins is that the two edges are already done. So when you go to sew the hem, you only need to do this to two sides. Yay!

  2. Prepare Shibori dye bath.

    Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

    I got my plastic bin and put it in my sink. I filled it with the appropriate amount of warm tap water.   Put on your gloves!  🙂 I added the dye ingredients per the instructions in the dye kit. Then I slowly mixed it with an old wooden spoon. (I have an old wooden spoon designated for dye projects). Slow is the keyword when mixing. You don’t want a lot of splashing because that will bring oxygen into your dye. After mixing it, I put the lid on it and waited about 20 minutes.

  3. Tie and bind fabric.

    Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

    During the 20 minutes I was waiting for the dye – I bound and tied my napkins differently. See the picture for the different “folds” and “ties.”

  4. Add Fabric to Dye Bath.

    After about 20 minutes, I opened the lid to ensure the dye looked good. It looked good! It had foam on top, and the color underneath was yellow/green. I rinsed my napkins with water and rinsed the excess water out. I gently brushed the foam to the side and slowly submerged each napkin in the dye. Remember – not a lot of splashing. I kept each one submerged for about 2 minutes or so. You don’t want your fabric to hit the bottom of the dye bath because sediment at the bottom could splotch up your patterns.

  5. Take out fabric and let oxidize.

    After 2 minutes in the dye bath, I took my cloth napkins out and laid them on plastic bags for 20 minutes to oxidize. That’s how long my dye kit recommends. I would check with your dye kit. You can either untie the napkins at this point or keep them tied if you want a second dye dip. (or third, fourth, etc.). When your fabric comes out, it will look yellowish/greenish. That’s normal. It will slowly turn blue with exposure to air. It’s beautiful magic!

  6. Repeat dye bath as needed.

    After 20 minutes, you can redip in the dye and let it sit for 20 minutes again. That’s the process. Dip and submerge – take out and wait for 20 min – then redip or rinse. I only dipped my napkins once – I had a toddler begging to play train tracks with me, and I didn’t have time to mess around.

  7. Rinse and wash fabric.

    Since I only dipped once and then rinsed after the 20 minutes, my napkins are lighter in color. But I love the way they turned out! It’s a beautiful blue for Spring. After I rinsed them, I washed them on a delicate cycle with warm water and tumbled dry low.

  8. Sew cloth napkins.

    Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

    I ironed down a little double hem on the two unfinished edges. This keeps those scraggly edges from peeking out when you wash them. And it just gives the napkins a nice finished look to them. Remember – your other two edges are already finished. Sew down the ironed hems with your sewing machine. Done!

Shibori Dyed Napkins

SHIBORI Tie Dye patterns

To give you some perspective on the patterns. I labeled the “folds” photo with A, B, C, or D.

Beautiful DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins

A pattern:  This is a straight-up tie-dye look. This is also called the “spiral.” It’s the top left napkin in the picture above.

B pattern:  This is the napkin that looks like a spiral tie-dye but also has a few rings around it. It’s the bottom right napkin.

C pattern:  My Favorite! Also called “Kumo.”  The rubber-banded sections create little circles. It’s the top right napkin.

D pattern: This one didn’t entirely turn out how I expected. It’s the bottom right napkin. See the cool-looking section of it in the top left? I thought the whole thing would look like that. But it’s because the dye didn’t get to some of the inner layers when it was folded. You know what? I still like it, but I will try to get more dye into the other sections next time.

DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins : Cute Cloth napkins just in time for Spring! Make some for yourself or gift one to someone you love! These napkins are easy to make, beautiful, unique and look good on any table.

This was an enjoyable project too, and I have TONS of leftover dye. The excess dye is still good for a couple of days; keep a lid on it when not in use.

Tips for Success

  • You might want to have more than one pair of gloves. Taking them off and on when covered with dye is tricky! It’s easier to grab a new pair.
  • Suppose you have time and a few extra scraps of fabric – practice. That’s the best way to learn how the dye works with certain folds.
  • Remember – mix the dye slowly. Submerge the fabric slowly.
  • Everything you use with the dye will become dyed – the clothespins, the stirring spoon, and your hands (lol). Just something to keep in mind.
  • If you can do this project outside – great! It can be a bit clumsy and messy to do indoors. I did my project in the kitchen sink, and it was ok. The dye bath took up the whole sink, so I ran back and forth to the bathroom to rinse my fabric. Oh well!
  • The fabric will look darker than it actually dries to when you pull it out of the dye bath.
  • Each successive dye dip will create a darker design. You have to wait 20 minutes each time after you dye it.
  • Try not to touch the bottom of the dye vat with your fabric (due to sediment that settles at the bottom.)
  • If you like to sew, you can hand stitch a design in your fabric and pull the stitches taut so the fabric gets all pulled together. Then dye it like that. This will create a really cool pattern! There’s even a book about it.
DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins : Cute Cloth napkins just in time for Spring! Make some for yourself or gift one to someone you love! These napkins are easy to make, beautiful, unique and look good on any table.

If you are not quite ready to get your hands this dirty – then you can try this tie-dye kit which is somewhat similar and comes with the squirt bottles. Check out my post on tie-dye pillows to see more.

DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins : Cute Cloth napkins just in time for Spring! Make some for yourself or gift one to someone you love! These napkins are easy to make, beautiful, unique and look good on any table.

This makes a really great housewarming gift, too, because each piece is unique. And bonus – people will always know which napkin is theirs. I just tied some jute string around them with a little bow to give you an idea. This could be part of a housewarming gift basket or even wrapped up in a cute gift box. I just love handmade gifts!

Have fun,

Xo Karen