A fabric that is bounded, folded, twisted or compressed in order to create different patterns with the dye, is a famous style of Shibori. Very particular to Japan, Shibori is a manual resist dyeing technique which has now became a synonym for fabric manipulation and dying found worldwide. 

This technique is distinctive in its style and can not be simply thought as “tie-and-dye“. The terminologies are Japanese and thus in most of the languages there is no equivalent term for Shibori and its different techniques.

Arimatsu Shibori

The technique used in shibori depends not only on the desired pattern, but the characteristics of the cloth being dyed. Infinite shibori patterns can be created through binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing the cloth. Each method depending on the fabric is used to achieve a certain result. Sometimes, multiple techniques are used together to achieve even more elaborate results.

A section of kumo shibori (spider shibori) dyed with indigo, next to kumo shibori that has not been dyed yet


In Japanese, Shibori comes from the verb root “shiboru” means “to wring, squeeze or press“.  The Japanese shibori dyers works in concert with the material to create unexpected results on the fabric. It differs from other dying techniques like ikat, batik, ajrakh, bogolanfini and tsutsugaki. However, in general, the word shibori comes together for the entire group of shaped resist textiles.

The shibori traditions have travel a long way and spread widely over the planet with variety of materials and methods used but the basic concept promotes resist dyeing showcasing range of aesthetics, heritage and cultural diversity.


The origin of shibori is much concluded to Japan where it was practiced 1300 year ago. But few evidences suggests its origin in China which later evolved much popularly in Japan. Many early collections reveal their Chinese origin rather than Japanese.

The Chinese document Chronicles of the Clans of Wei (Wei chih) is one of the earliest written record of shibori dates to 238 C.E. The earliest surviving examples of shibori-dyed cloth date back to the mid-8th century, donated to the Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple in Nara in 756 C.E. upon the death of Emperor Shōmu.


Earliest examples of Shibori traditions exists all around the Earth. From Peru to China to India and many more… Everywhere different styles for resist dyeing had been practised like-

  • Tie-dye (pre-Columbian shibori alpaca) found in Peru dating from around 500 AD
  • Jiao-xie in China, the earliest surviving examples dating to 418 C.E.
  • Silk found in 4th c. tombs along the Silk Road in China
  • Clamp-and-dye practiced in Japan
  • Zha-ran of the Bai ethnic group in China
  • Bandhani (tie-dye) from the Indus River Civilization and leheriya in Rajasthan
  • Plangi (tie-dye) and Tritik (stitched resists) in Indonesia
  • Nambu tigma (tie-dye) in Tibet
  • Tie-dye in West Africa and Berber communities
  • Psychedelic tie-dye of Western hippies.


Shibori as practiced in Japan is a 1300 year old technique which was evolved from a pre existing technique of China. Though introduced in China, shibori was adapted in a unique way by the Japanese and is one of the oldest indigo dying techniques in Japan. The ancient methods are still followed in Japan to create shibori patterns maintaining the authenticity of the art.

The reason for shibori to become such popular in Japan at those times, was the wide use of silk, hemp and cotton fabrics and THE BLUE DYE – INDIGO which together creates a perfect combination for shibori. Especially in feudal Japan, where lower class was forbidden to buy expensive fabrics like silks, Shibori on cheap hemp cloth dyed in indigo was in high demand. It emerged as a technique to renew old, faded, stained and damaged clothes of the poor’s. 

The peaceful Tokugawa Era from the 17th to 19th century served as a flourishing period for shibori. Along with art and culture, shibori evolved and blossomed among the aristocrats who would promote decorating silk and commission artisans to create stunning kimonos (traditional Japanese garment). Arimatsu and Narumi villages in Nagoya developed as the main production centers for shibori

A full-shibori furisode dyed entirely in kanoko shibori.

There are different techniques of shibori and different ways in which it is practiced all over the world. Even in India, the Japanese style of shibori was supposedly introduced by Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, in the early 20th century and is now practiced in textile hubs in Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan though at very small scale.

There is much to talk about this ancient art- its techniques, process, dyes and more…. we will continue to know more about shibori in our later posts…

The front edge of a shibori haori, showing the loop for the haori himo (haori ties) and crane-print lining fabric

Do you have anything about shibori… share with us your thoughts…Drop us a comment here..


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