It's Not Tie-dye! Shibori Explained.

For a decade plus some years, I worked in Tokyo, Japan, a place of diverse magnitude. Technology, food, fashion, culture, tradition are all intertwined with precision-driven daily life.  

Recently, I have come to realize I have taken for granted certain facets of my life in Japan, as folks around me raise the question  “What is the difference between Shibori and Tie Dye?”                         

Here is to define Shibori;
Shibori: A Japanese word, that describes a method of textile design which uses threads or yarn, applied by hand to bind designs through pinching, gathering and stitching fabric. The threads create a resist pattern which is revealed post dyeing. Shibori has been employed since 8th century Japan some 1,300 years ago and originated in China.
 A scarf I started last year ... yes still working on it.
These days, shibori can be found within niche craft markets and on US retailer websites such as; Gap, Urban Outfitters, JCrew and the mothership Anthropology. At Adored1 we’ve used this technique within our own collections House & Home and Sarongs & Scarves .  The revival of shibori most often can be seen traveling hand in hand with use of natural Indigo dye. More recently, we’ve seen a plethora of shibori-ed indigo items, from bedding and blankets to dresses, scarves and accessories. 

 “Tesuji shibori” Bedding @ Urban outfitters. Absolutely gorgeous & totally sold out...

Here are some other examples;

Kanoko Shibori: The parent of tie-dye. Can you see the family resemblance?   


 Miura Shibori: Used primarily on silk, but nowadays more often seen on cotton, creates a pattern of tiny rings that replicate the surface of water. Here plum blossoms appear as if floating.

 Arashi Shibori: Also known as "Pole Wrapping". Here lengths of fabric are literally wrapped around a pole, and secured with more thread or string, to create almost tiger like stripes, and criss cross linear patterns.

Mokume Shibori: A running stitch is used in many lines. The threads are pulled tight and fastened in a knots to create the resist pattern. Also known as Nui Shibori.

Itajime Shibori: Shape resist dying, is created by using wood blocks of various shapes on carefully folded and pressed fabric. The block used is then bound and or clamped on top of folded fabric before dyeing.

Tie-Dye: Created by twisting and pinching, fastening of fabric is completed with string or elastic bands before various colors of dye are applied.  Tie-dye made its first appearance in the United States in the early 1900's, though on its arrival, was a far cry from the symbolic tie-dye of the Love & Peace counter culture movement, circa 1960. Tie-dye is commonly associated with vivid colors.  

So in conclusion and to set the record straight, tie-dye is a member of the shibori family albeit the great ( many times over) grandchild and not visa versa. It is one of about 20 shibori styles. There is no difference in the initial foundation of the technique, only that tie-dye is often much simpler and therefore much faster to produce, compared to the intricate nature of it's shirobi forefathers. 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

As they say in Japan,
Yuroshiku onegaitashimasu 
Urban Outfitters "Testuji" image;
Marcuson & Hall "Muira" image;
Amy Taylor "Arashi" Image;
Joes USA Tie-dye shirt image;


  • Enjoyed the article very much, it fed my interest into traditional fabrics and fibres. It’s a delight to learn about those old techniques, ways of creating. Thank you

  • Thank you for the instructions . Im doing Shibori samples these days .I love it . It is very difficult to get dark colours on silk. What can I do? Please help me .

    Jayantha Senevirathne

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