A wide selection of vintage & antique Japanese kimonos
and collectables

wafuku - noun: traditional Japanese clothing


Kimono Information 9

Shibori and Tsujigahana Patterning Techniques - Including Video

Information Pages
1 About Kimonos
2 Japanese Womenswear
3 Japanese Menswear
4 Further Kimono Information
5 Wearing and Folding Women's Japanese Garments - Including Video
6 Types of Women's Kimono. Geisha & Maiko
7 Japanese Eras (Periods)
8 Uses for Japanese Kimono Fabrics
9 Shibori and Tsujigahana Patterning Techniques - Including Video
10 Lots of Great Links To How To Wear Kimonos & Tie Obis
11 Types of Obi
12 Types of Kimonos - Picture Reference
13 Haori Kimono Jackets - Japan's secret treasure
14 Traditional Japanese Footwear (on my blog)
15 My Wafuku Blog, with lots of information and random other things of interest

How shibori textile art is created.
Shibori is what we in the West know as tie-die but, as with so very many things, the Japanese textile artisans excel at it and their version is usually intricate, extremely precise, of great skill and very time consuming to create. In Japan it is considered a highly prized textile. Shibori garments are incredibly expensive and much revered. An elaborate, entirely shibori kimono can take a whole year to make and the cost is therefore exorbitant. One way many people can afford a shibori item is to have a shibori obiage, which is worn tied round the top of the obi.

There are machine done shibori fabrics nowadays but it is easy to spot, especially as the dots it creates are very regular (it is still rather expensive, though), and one sometimes sees prints done to look like shibori but they are completely flat, without the creped texture that the real thing has.

The more colours used to dye shibori, the more it will cost. Shibori work can be further enhanced by yuzen artwork or embroidery. Yuzen is artwork that is hand drawn or painted onto the fabric and shibori work may have yuzen details added to it; it is then known as tsujigahana. There's an example of tsujigahana further down this page.


There is an infinite number of ways one can bind, stitch, fold, twist, or compress cloth for shibori, and each way results in very different patterns. Each method is used to achieve a certain result, but each method is also used to work in harmony with the type of cloth used. Therefore, the technique used in shibori depends not only on the desired pattern, but the characteristics of the cloth being dyed. Also, different techniques can be used in conjunction with one another to achieve even more elaborate results.

Kanoko shibori
Kanoko shibori is what is commonly thought of in the West as tie-dye. It involves binding certain sections of the cloth to achieve the desired pattern. Konoko is literally trasnlated as 'fawn spots', because it looks like the spots on fawn's back. While traditional shibori requires the use of thread for binding, craftspeople in western civilization often use rubber bands. The pattern achieved depends on how tight the cloth is bound and where the cloth is bound. If random sections of the cloth are bound, the result will be a pattern of random circles. If the cloth is first folded then bound, the resulting circles will be in a pattern depending on the fold used.

Muira shibori
Muira shibori is also known as looped binding. It involves taking a hooked needle and plucking sections of the cloth. Then a thread is looped around each section twice. The thread is not knotted; tension is the only thing that holds the sections in place. The resulting dyed cloth is a water-like design. Because no knot is used, muirea shibori is very easy to bind and unbind. Therefore, this technique is very often used.

Kumo shibori
Kumo shibori is a pleated and bound resist. This technique involves pleating sections of the cloth very finely and evenly. Then the cloth is bound in very close sections. The result is a very specific spider-like design. This technique is very precise in order to produce this specific design.

Nui shibori
Nui shibori includes stitched shibori. A simple running stitch is used on the cloth then pulled tight to gather the cloth. The thread must be pulled very tight in order to work, and a wooden dowel must often be used in order to pull it tight enough. Each thread is secured by knotting before being dyed. This technique allows for greater control of the pattern and greater variety of pattern, but this technique is also much more time consuming.

Arashi shibori
Arashi shibori is also known as pole-wrapping shibori. The cloth is wrapped on a diagonal around a pole. Then the cloth is very tightly bound by wrapping thread up and down the pole. Next, the cloth is scrunched on the pole. The result is a pleated cloth with a design on a diagonal. The name "arashi" comes from the Japanese word for storm. The patterns are always on a diagonal in arashi shibori which suggest the driving rain of a heavy storm.

Itajime shibori
Itajime shibori is a shaped-resist technique. Traditionally, the cloth is sandwiched between two pieces of wood, which are held in place with string. More modern textile artists can be found using shapes cut from acrylic or plexiglass and holding the shapes with c-clamps. The shapes prevent the dye from penetrating the fabric they cover. Malka Dubrawsky, a textile artist working in Austin, Texas, patterns commercial fabric with itajime, making use of both dye and bleach to alter the fabric

In Japan, the earliest known example of shibori technique cloth dates from the 8th century; it is among the goods donated by the Emperor Sho-mu to the To-dai-ji in Nara.

You can see four of my hand applied shibori haori in the pictures below. The top two and the last one have all-over shibori, the third has partial shibori on rinzu (damask weave) silk and the fourth has an exquisite example of yuzen textile art, pine branches, and is a tsujigahana shibori haori. There are a few more in the Women's Clothes/Haori section of this site and I will add a few more over time.



The next photo shows a wonderful, all shibori, silk kimono. This will have taken many months to create and will have cost many, many thousands of pounds.

The photo below and the pine branch haori above show examples of tsujigahana. Tsujigahana is shibori work enhanced with painted details, embroidered details etc. The example below has embroidery and surihaku (applied gold leaf) detailing in the shibori design and the haori above has a wonderful, sumi-e (ink and wash) style yuzen textile art depicting pine branches.

The next photo shows a little gadget one attaches to a table, to assist in tying textiles for shibori work.


There is also a lot of other information on my Wafuku blog. This link opens in a new window, leaving this window open

I also have furoshiki tying instructions here and masses of other information in this site's Kimono Info section.

You can see photos here of the kimono that started wafuku.co.uk


Adjusting kimono length - an easy way to cheat and save time when shortening it the traditional way - when wearing a kimono shortened to length the traditional way, with a big fold tied in place at the waist, you can cheat a bit to save time by making the fold at the waist and just loosely stitching it in place with simple, very large stitches. Don't worry about the big stitches showing on the outside, the sash will cover them. This way, you can have your kimono adjusted to length the traditional way (rather than taking up a hem or losing pattern on the bottom) without having to faff about with making that length adjusting fold every time you put it on. The Japanese do this with children's kimonos (fold showing outside) and with men's ones (fold usually on the inside), although not with adult females' ones but it works just as well when done to women's kimonos.
How to do it: instructions and photos below.
Put on the kimono and, at the edge of one front, make a fold at waist level, to make the kimono the correct length (remember the sash will raise the kimono an inch or so, so make allowances for that). Use a couple of pins to hold the fold in place, with the pins exactly where your waist is. Repeat at the other front. Take the kimono off and pin the same amount of fold all the way round the kimono at the same level, then sew along the pin line. It doesn't have to be neatly sewn, just quick, very big stitches will do fine since they get covered by the sash. See the pictures below.

Click each thumbnail below to see an enlargement (opens in a new window, leaving this one open)




NOTE A plain kimono or one with an all-over pattern can easily be hemmed, although the Japanese never hem them. Just fold it up the required amount and loosely stitch it; you don't need to fold in the top edge, cut it or do anything complicated.

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