Shibori on a larger scale

Most of my indigo shibori work is in the form of upcycled scarves or relatively small (fat quarter size) pieces of cotton or linen.

This is for a couple of reasons. First, the plastic bucket that I rather grandiosely refer to as my indigo vat is not very large. And second, certain shibori techniques, especially those involving stitching, are rather time consuming to do, so the price I would have to charge for larger pieces quickly rises to stratospheric levels. :-0

So although I get regular enquiries via my Etsy shop for larger pieces, I usually turn them down. However, recently I had a request for three pieces of fabric about 1.5m x 1.5m in the honeycomb pattern (below), so I thought I would have a go.

fq honeycomb1

This pattern is produced by rolling the fabric around a rope and then compressing it, so no time-consuming stitching is involved, and once it is compressed it is small enough to fit in the vat.

The challenge with a larger piece of fabric lies in trying to keep the fabric straight as you roll it, and then compressing that thickness of fabric tightly enough to get a clear pattern across the whole area of the fabric. You also have to squeeze the fabric hard when dipping it in the indigo to get the dye to penetrate the inner layers as much as possible.

I dipped them all on the same day to try to ensure consistency of colour across all three pieces. My right hand in particular was quite sore after rolling, compressing and squeezing all three. Undoing and rinsing these larger pieces was also a bit of an effort to avoid splashing blue water all over the kitchen floor!

However, the pieces came out pretty well and consistent. Here they are drying on the line.

curtain1 curtain2 curtain3

The customer used them to make three Roman blinds, and I was delighted when she sent me a photo of one of the finished products. 🙂

shibori blind

I’ve since had another custom order for a larger piece of fabric in this pattern, which also went well.

However, given the frequency of requests for larger pieces, I am considering the possibility of scanning some of the more time-consuming patterns to produce digital files that could be used to print larger lengths of fabric. Clearly these would not be handmade (though they would be based on original handmade patterns), and there would be obvious repeats. But it would be quicker and cheaper to produce larger pieces.

What do you think? Is the one-off handmade aspect more important to you? Or would you prefer to pay less for a digitally printed reproduction?

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

23 thoughts on “Shibori on a larger scale”

  1. Beautifil work, I d prefer the magic of the handmade work, specially shibori, where each piece is unique you never know how different colors and shapes appears

      1. Your work is divine,i would like your handmade pieces the most but if i couldnt afford them or for whatever reason, digitally printed pieces would be great. Maybe test the waters with some digital pieces then reassess. Either way you are a talented artist and will be successful! Thankyou for sharing your techniques.

      2. Thanks For your kind words Helen. I still haven’t got round to learning about the digital process – both courses I signed up for were cancelled due to lack of interest! 😦 But I will get round to it one of these days.

    1. So beautiful, Kim! A labour of love. The hand speaks to the heart so here, I would skip the “spoonify” route – unless, perhaps, you get an offer to license the print. Thank you for the generosity of info in your posts

      1. Thanks Wendy – I love your work too!

        I suspect that most of the responses I get here will be in favour of handmade, given the type of people who take an interest in following blogs like this. Like you, I feel the hands-on making process is an important part of what I do, so it is something I need to think about carefully. 🙂

  2. The blinds are stunning! Thank you for the comment about squeezing to get the indigo to the deepest layers.

    And yes, the handmade aspect is crucial. When I look at the handmade items decorating my space, I enjoy both their beauty and the artist’s story – remembering the time necessary to become a master and the delight in interacting with other creative folks.

    Thank you for sharing your art, your techniques, and your thoughts through this blog!

  3. I’d be happy to pay less for a digital copy. It would make it affordable. You’re giving me ideas about my windows! Maybe we can talk at the Sprout Christmas show. Best wishes Julia


  4. why not offer both with an explanation for the price difference, I would also be sure to keep in mind how much physical stress this puts on your hands, and be sure to figure that into your price for handmade. I often add the price of a chiropractic visit or acupuncture treatment to my more physical project prices to make sure I am not putting myself at risk! cheri

  5. Well done Kim – the three honeycomb pieces are beautifully made and everyone here can appreciate the time and effort involved. I do think there’s a place for both. A printed reproduction is still showing the beautiful designs you have created with your stitching and dyeing process and provides a more affordable alternative. Looking forward to our time at Sprout Arts together very soon xx

  6. Beautiful Kim, and interesting to know that you managed to do pices this size on a domestic scale.

    I second the person who suggested having both the original pieces and the digital scans, with an explanation about the difference in price. the cloth on which the digital scan is printed would have a significant impact on the design, so it would be good if you could find a cloth to mimic your original cloth.

    1. Thanks Avril. I think you’re right about the quality of the cloth – I’d have to get some samples printed up. I’ll also need to brush up my somewhat rudimentary Photoshop skills!

  7. Kim – these turned out beautifully. There is a market for both hand made and for the digitally printed. These markets are different customers usually and perhaps different selling venues. You need to think out all the ramifications first but certainly for yardage, the printing would be much easier on you.

  8. I think reproducing your work digitally is a great idea. Make your art work for you! The hand made originals would be rarer and should command a higher price also. 😊

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