Inspired by an accordion

I went to a benefit night for the Friends of Windmill Gardens on Tuesday (I have to declare an interest here – I run their blog as well). The sets were quite folky (apart from the flamenco opener), including the very eclectic No Frills Band.

Watching the accordion player, I became fascinated by the pattern on the bellows. As you can see in the (rather poor) photo above, when the bellows were closed, they showed the pattern of a white curve on a black background. However, when they were expanded (not shown), I could see that the background was red, and that the black and white pattern was only painted on the creases of the concertina folds.

So I started to wonder whether I could reproduce a similar effect using shibori. The cotton muslin we have been using in class to make samples won’t retain knife creases when it’s dry, so I thought about using a synthetic fabric like polyester instead, heat setting it into creases first, and then clamping something over the creases to form a pattern before dyeing with indigo. But synthetic fibres won’t take indigo very well!

The next step, then, is to move on to experimenting with other dyes, like Procion, on heat-set synthetic fabrics. But as we had a freshly mixed vat of indigo in class on Wednesday, it seemed a shame to waste it, so I decided to see what I could do with cotton muslin. I folded the fabric into concertina pleats and machine stitched along the ridge and furrow of each pleat to strengthen it.

I was planning to use bulldog clips as a resist so that the ridges of each pleat would remain white while the rest of the fabric dyed blue. However, the area covered by each clip wasn’t large enough. So in the end I used masking tape. I cut different lengths of tape and stuck them down overlapping the lines of stitching, on both sides of the fabric, in both the ridges and the furrows. Then I put it in the indigo for 10 minutes.

And here’s the result.


Despite the stitching, the fabric isn’t strong enough to retain the creases. But it doesn’t matter – I love the final effect. Especially:

  • the way the dye has leached along the stitching under the areas of resist
  • the areas of paler blue where the masking tape didn’t match up on both sides, so the dye could penetrate the cloth from one side but not the other.
I still want to try using synthetic fabrics that will hold the pleat, but I also want to try scaling this up and making something from it.

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