A few summers ago I tried this Shibori dying technique with kids in my summer art camp and the LOVED it!! I tried it again this spring with my son and I wanted to add a few new photos to this post. He is 14 and really wanted a tie-dye hoodie in one color. Little did he realize how VERY EXCITED I was by this request. Like, too excited, lol. He said, “Mom calm down” like a true teen.
Shibori is a Japanese tie-dying technique. There are an infinite number of ways one can bind, stitch, fold, twist, or compress cloth for Shibori, and each way results in very different patterns. When we tried this in summer camp back in 2015. I had eight kids that week, ages 5-7, and each of them took a turn with the indigo dye. The best part by far was cutting off the rubber bands at the end. No matter how you tied it, the patterns were SO COOL!
[ I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn small fees at no cost to you by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. ]
Supply list for Shibori dying with kids:
~ White 100% cotton t-shirt (or napkins or any white fabric)
~ Wooden blocks, clothespins, corks
~ Large bucket or pot for fresh water
~ Large 5 gallon bucket with lid for indigo dye
~ Stick for stirring
~ Tarp for drying
~ Scissors for cutting off the rubber bands
Shibori dying technique with kids:
1. There were five blogs that I looked at before I tried shibori: Honestly, WTF, In Color Order, Park and Cube, and Design Sponge. You will find everything you need in these four posts (plus there are instructions inside the box of dye), but I will add some of my own insights that could help you when doing this with kids.
2. Little fingers have a hard time with rubber bands. It all depends on a child’s determination. But at the very least, you and your child can do it together. You can guide their hands, or do every other. The easiest technique for kids would be to accordion fold their t-shirt or fabric, then add a block on each side and tie just a couple of rubber bands.
3. After tying up your t-shirts, soak them in some water first. But before heading over to the buckets, I gave each kid a pair or rubber gloves so their hands wouldn’t be completely blue afterwards.
4. After the fabric is nice and wet, squeeze it out a little before gently placing it in the dye bucket. Once in the dye, the kids had fun pushing down and swirling around their fabric. They did this for about 10 minutes.
5. Then it’s time to pull it out of the dye, squeezing out as much indigo as possible. It’s really cool because the color at first is a bright green. The indigo reacts to the oxygen in the air and turns blue within a few minutes. That part was really fun to watch.
6. Rinse the fabric a few times in fresh water, until no more dye runs out (or almost no more).
7. We dried ours for a bit on a tarp. Then, after everyone had dyed their piece of fabric, I cut off all of the elastics with scissors while the kids played with the hose.
8. Here are all of the wet pieces hanging out to dry. Once air-dried, I threw them in the washer on cold with some detergent, then in the dryer.
Some Shibori tying techniques we tried:
1. Accordion folding (starting at the bottom of the shirt and moving up, and then sideways to make it a small square), tie in the middle with rubber bands and add clothespins.
2. Corks (I cut them in half first, you could also use marbles) with rubber bands to create “Fireworks”.
3. Sunburst with evenly spaced rubber bands (pull shirt from the middle and tie).
4. Rolling on a diagonal with rubber bands only on the bottom half (roll the t-shirt from one corner all the way into a “snake”, then tie with rubber bands half-way down the shirt).
5. Accordion fold diagonally into a “snake”, then tie evenly with rubber bands.
We also tried a traditional tie-dye swirl design:
6. We used a white hoodie and did a swirl technique whereby you pinch the middle, keep turning it in a spiral, tucking all the fabric around, and then tying it securely with rubber bands. We watched this tutorial to learn how.
I just LOVE the way the indigo dye turned out. And the best part was that it didn’t fade too much in the laundry. The wet and dry pieces looked very similar. The kids (and the moms) were SO impressed – maybe the moms more so. In fact, I think I’m going to do a shibori craft night next summer!!
Shibori folding and dying TIPS:
I did make a few rookie mistakes which I will share with you:
1. It really does help to double dye your fabric. I was being quick and lazy during camp but when I tried again the next day, I double-dyed (dipped it back in after squeezing it out and letting it turn blue) and the colors stayed stronger in the wash.
2. It’s better to accordion fold your t-shirt and tie than roll and tie. When rolling, the fabric on the very inside doesn’t get any dye at all so when you unroll, one side of your shirt will be white. It does give it a cool ombre effect, but I personally liked it better when the dye was evenly displaced. So accordion folding will create a more even distribution from side to side.
3. If you do roll (rather than accordion fold) then make sure the front of the t-shirt is on the outside. It will get the heaviest amount of dye.
4. If you are doing the traditional tie-dye (big circle) and you have a really thick t-shirt, you may want to tie the front and the back separately, rather than at the same time. This will give you a strong circle on both the front and the back. Also, if you look below at the pink t-shirts you can see that I also tied the sleeves with three rubber bands. This is kind of cute, too, when doing the traditional circle.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Did you like this post? Here are some more DIY ideas: