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I’ve always read that people become a bit 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.
what is shibori?
Before we begin, you might be wondering what Shibori is. It’s basically a tie-dying technique from Japan. It’s become more well known recently due to all the DIY and home bloggers out there, and also because of 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 just cut them into four equal squares. Drop cloth works really well too! It won’t have a super white background though. I love this drop cloth from Amazon. I’ve used it for pillows and zipper pouches.
- 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.
How to Make DIY Shibori Cloth Napkins
Total Time: 1 day
Cut fabric to size
I started out by cutting one of my tea towels into four equal squares. I only made a total of four napkins but there is plenty of dye to make a lot more! The nice thing about using tea towels to make your napkins is that two of your edges are already done for you. So when you go to sew the hem, you only need to do this to two sides. Yay!
Prepare Shibori dye bath
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 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 it was mixed, I put the lid on it and waited about 20 minutes.
Tie and bind fabric for dying
During the 20 minutes I was waiting for the dye – I bound and tied my napkins in different ways. See the picture for the different “folds” and “ties”.
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 each of my napkins with water and rinsed the excess water out. I gently brushed the foam to the side and then slowly submerged each napkin into the dye. Remember – not a lot of splashing. I kept each one submerged for about 2 minutes or so. You don’t really want your fabric to hit the bottom of the dye bath because there is sediment at the bottom that could splotch up your patterns.
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 individual dye kit. You can either untie the napkins at this point or keep them tied if you want a second dye dip. (or third, or 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!
Repeat dye bath as needed
After 20 minutes, you can redip in the dye and then let 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.
rinse and wash fabric
Since I only dipped once and then rinsed after the 20 minutes, my napkins are lighter in color. But I actually 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.
sew cloth napkins
I ironed down a little double hem on each of the two unfinished edges. This keeps those scraggly edges from peeking out when you wash them. And it just gives the napkins a really nice finished look to them. Remember – your other two edges are already finished. Sew down the ironed hems with your sewing machine. Done!
What do you guys think? I really think these turned out beautiful. I can’t wait to use them!
To give you some perspective on the patterns. I labeled the “folds” photo with A, B, C or D.
A pattern: This is a straight-up tie-dye look. 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 quite 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 when it was folded, the dye didn’t get to some of the inner layers. You know what? I still like it, but next time I’m going to try to get more dye into the other sections.
This was a really fun project too and I have TONS of leftover dye. The leftover dye is still good for a couple of days, just 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.
- If you have time and a few extra scraps of fabric – practice. That’s the best way to really 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, 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 was running 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.
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.
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!