gather and grow

Homegrown, hand-spun living in the city

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The best part about trying to create a network of local fiber artists is actually getting to know these incredibly talented and inspiring people, and watching how one connection leads to another.

That’s what happened when I connected with my friend Caroline, a fellow natural dyer. She found out about my natural dyeing classes in the fall and got in touch, and before long, we were sitting around my dining room table doing an excited show-and-tell together with my spinning and dyeing friend Barbara, whom I introduced to Caroline. Caroline, in turn, told me about Donna, who is reviving the indigo growing tradition in the South Carolina lowcountry, and put me in touch with Shanika, another active DIYer and dyer from whom I learned about dyeing with avocado pits. And there you have it — the beginnings of our local natural dyeing and fiber craft network.

Caroline is a talented textile artist and the creative force behind Chi Design, an indigo arts studio specializing in the traditional Japanese techniques called shibori. Shibori comes from the Japanese word root shiboru, “to wring, squeeze, press,” and indeed shibori designs are achieved by various methods of applying some kind of a resist to the cloth prior to dipping it in the dye vat. The methods range from intricate stitching work and stenciled rice paste designs to simply experimenting with rubber bands or threads that squeeze parts of the fabric together, preventing it from absorbing the dye. Last fall, Caroline traveled to Japan to study shibori indigo dyeing. Upon her return to Columbia, she launched her business, bringing a bright splash of blue (in the form of pillows, scarves, table linen etc.) to the weekly farmers’ market, and began to offer dyeing services and workshops.shibori-6

shibori-5This past weekend, I attended Caroline’s indigo and shibori class. The class was a total delight for the senses: patient folding and wrapping of cloth that could be either playful or precise; the earthy smell of the indigo vat, which I love; feeling the warmth of the dye solution while slowly working the submerged cloth, rubber gloves in hand — and then, the final results, which had us oooh’ing and aaaah’ing as the beautiful designs unfolded:

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When first dipped in the indigo dye vat, the fabric appears turquoise-green. It turns indigo blue only when exposed to air.

When first dipped in the indigo dye vat, the fabric appears turquoise-green. It turns indigo blue only when exposed to air.

shibori_finishedI came home with three cotton hankies I’d dyed during the workshop, each with a different technique and a different design. (If you know your shibori vocabulary, the techniques I tried were the arashi, itajime, and kumo.) I couldn’t get over how satisfying it was to get such beautiful results in just one afternoon. And I dare say I managed to impress my husband, too.

If you want to check out Caroline’s wares, visit her online boutique. Everything is made with natural fibers such as linen, cotton and silk, and combines the ancient dyeing traditions of Japan with Caroline’s own creative vision and careful craft.

3 thoughts on “Local fiber: Indigo shibori dyeing with Chi Design

  1. Tom says:

    I’m so envious of your life. It looks so fulfilling!

  2. Gorgeous! …….Would love to learn this technique. I’m imagining an indigo shibori linen tablecloth. Love the vivid blue. Great work and so fun to learn a new skill.

  3. Spring says:

    It’s so fantastic to learn more about your growing network of like-minded DIYers. I’m looking so forward to settling into a community of fiber artists in North Carolina. I’m developing a class for my home institution as an excuse to do just this!

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