Asheville, dyeing, fiber art

A long weekend in Asheville: Shibori with Heather Allen-Swarttouw

This Labor Day weekend was so fabulous that I am going to divide it up into several posts. First, the reason I went: Shibori + MX Dyes with Heather Allen-Swarttouw at Cloth Fiber Workshop.

The Japanese word shibori translates as “to bind” in English. I’m not going to try to give a lesson in shibori here because there are plenty of resources online. But any kind of design technique in which the dye is prevented from penetrating the fabric due to some type of binding would come under that definition. The tie dyeing that everyone is familiar with is an Americanization of shibori. Designs on cloth can be made by stitching and pulling the thread and knotting, clamping objects to cloth, scrunching and tying, wrapping around objects, folding and pleating…there are a lot of ways to go.

Lately I came to the realization that more than anything else in the world, I love surprises in my art. Since you don’t really have total control with dyeing (well, the way I do it you don’t), every little wrapped bundle is a present.

Heather demonstrates the “shippo” (interlocking circles) technique.

This is “karamatsu” (pine cone). I used this on my rayon scarf, which I’ll add a photo of later.

Heather demonstrates “bomaki” (pole wrapping).

The cloth is sewn into a tube and pushed down onto a pole so that it has many natural folds. Patterns can be made by tying thread and manipulating the fabric. The pattern she is showing us is “mura kumo” (village cloud).

The stitching and knotting takes a long time! Fortunately there are a few quickie techniques which combine folding and tying or clamping. We put a lot of bundles in the dye pots and went to lunch. One nice thing with this kind of dyeing – you can use small containers. Oh God, another reason to hoard. But it’s nice to reuse these items, since our city doesn’t accept this kind of plastic.


A dye box

What a great idea. This is a way to keep dye powder from flying around and getting in trouble. Cut two holes for your arms. Line the bottom with newspaper and dampen it to catch the dye. Put all your materials in there, put the lid on top, and mix your dyes without having to worry about that tiny speck of stray dye powder landing on your other work and ruining it. It’s happened to me, and I’m making one of these.

We raced the clock to get as much as we could into the dye pots before 3:30, so that the cloth would have at least one hour to dye. We were able to overdye some pieces from the morning.

Show and tell

Shibori dyed cloths hanging to dry. In the photo above, the orange and white cloth is mine.

Really, in an ideal world I could have played with this for days, stopping only to eat and sleep. I loved seeing how different fabrics took on different colors in the same dyepot. When you start overdyeing, you can really go down the rabbit hole.

I hope to take more workshops at Cloth Fiber Workshop. And Barbara Zaretsky’s work is fabulous. You can see some of it in the background of the third photo.

Photos of my fabrics are in the next post.

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