Your complete guide to Shibori tie dye

Shibori tie dye is an ancient Japanese technique that creates incredibly vivid patterns. Learn all about the origins of Shibori as well as how to do Shibori tie dye in our guide.


Welcome to the beautiful world of shibori tie-dye. This incredible version of tie-dyeing has deep roots in the crafting world and is a joy to make.

In this guide, we’re going to explain what shibori is, where it came from and how you can start shibori tie-dyeing yourself.

Make sure you’ve got some protective gloves because things are about to get messy!

What is Shibori tie dye?

Shibori is a Japanese tie-dye technique dating right back to the eighth century. It originally came from China but gained popularity in Japan during the Edo period.

Shibori is a pinnacle of Japanese culture and has been used to decorate garments and homewares for thousands of years. The uneven lines created by the technique are a visual representation of the Japanese belief in the beauty of imperfection.

You can learn more about Chinese shibori tie-dyeing in the video below.

Where does the word Shibori come from?

The word shibori derives from the Japanese word shiboru which means to squeeze. In shibori tie dye, the fabric is squeezed in a number of different techniques to create the iconic pattern.

What is the best fabric for Shibori tie-dyeing?

Shibori tie-dyeing tends to work best on silk, cotton and hemp fabrics.

As sources of dye were limited in earlier times, an organic indigo colour was often used. We have used this traditional indigo colour in our tutorial but for a more modern approach, you could use a neon, pastel or brightly coloured dye.

Looking for more tie-dyeing fun?

Head over to our collection of the best tie dye kits and find a new craft project to work on! 

How to do shibori tie dye

Turn a plain length of fabric into a striking scarf with Amy Phipps’ take on Japanese shibori tie-dye! There are lots of versions of shibori, and this scarf’s grid design is created using the dye-resist itajime technique, where pieces of wood are used as well as elastic bands.

You will need: 

  • White viscose fabric, approx. 130cm x 50cm (51 x 20″)
  • Dylon hand dye in Velvet Black
  • Table salt
  • Plastic bowl
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Elastic bands, two thick and several thin
  • Two pieces of wood off-cut, 10 x 10cm (4 x 4″) each
  • Assorted skeins of brightly-coloured embroidery floss

How to make a scarf using folding shibori tie dye


You Will Need

  • Fabric
  • Dylon dye
  • Table salt
  • Plastic bowl
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Elastic bands
  • Wood off-cut
  • Thread

Total time:

Step 1

Folding your fabric

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Fold your fabric lengthways into a concertina, keeping each pleat approximately 12cm (4¾”) wide. You’ll end up with a long fabric zig zag.

Step 2

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Repeat this concertina folding technique from one end to the other along the length of your first zig zag.

Try working the fold away from you – this will help keep your pleats more even and the layers of fabric neater. You’ll now have a folded square shape.

Step 3

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Sandwich the square of folded fabric between your two pieces of wood, with each piece placed centrally on the fabric.

Step 4

Wrapping your fabric

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Stretch two big elastic bands in a cross over the centre of your bundle. This will keep the wood pieces and fabric together.

Now add thinner elastic bands in a grid design. You might want to wrap each band around your fabric twice for extra security. This will also make the definition of your finished shibori design stronger.

Step 5

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Using a plastic bowl and wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, make up the dye solution with half the packet of dye, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Gently place your bundle of fabric, wood and elastic bands into your dye bath and leave to soak for ten minutes.

Carefully turn your bundle over and leave for a further ten minutes.

Step 6

Making your scarf tassels

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

While your bundle is dyeing, it’s time to make the tassels.

Each skein of floss should make around six tassels.

Spilt the end of your skein into three groups so there are seven or eight loops in each group.  Tie a single strand of matching thread through the top and knot tightly.

Repeat again at the opposite end of your skein.

Step 7

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Now use a single strand of remaining floss to wrap around the top of your tassel and tuck inside to secure.

Step 8

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Cut each tassel to roughly 4cm (1½”) long and set them all aside, ready to attach to your finished scarf later on.

Step 9

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

After around 20 minutes remove your bundle from the dye.

Rinse off excess pigment into the bath or a sink, and remove the elastic bands and wood.

Be careful not to splash the surrounding areas or your clothes, otherwise, there could be more dyeing than you intended.

Hang your scarf out to dry and then iron on high to seal the dye.

Step 10

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Lay your scarf out on a flat surface and line up your tassels along the bottom edge in the order you want to sew them.

Step 11

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Now, using the thin strand of thread at the top of your tassel, sew through the edge of your scarf fabric and back into the top part of the tassel where your knot is.

Repeat this again, and then sew through the centre of the tassel and down so any remaining thread becomes part of the tassel.

Step 12

How to make a shibori tie dye scarf

Repeat this sewing method along the rest of the edge, adding as many or as few tassels as you like.

Repeat this at the other end of your scarf or around the whole hem. Snip off any long or loose threads to finish.


More shibori tie dye techniques and patterns

In our tutorial above we used the folding shibori tie dye technique. This technique is popular but it’s not the only one! There are lots of different shibori techniques which produce slightly different patterns and designs.

Here are four more shibori tie dye techniques so you can find your favourite method.

1. Arashi tie dye technique

Arashi means storm in Japanese and you can see why this technique is called storm! Otherwise known as pole wrapping, this shibori tie dye technique involves wrapping the fabric around a PVC pole.

Rita Dye shows you how to do Arashi tie dye on their blog. They also have a handy YouTube video for you to follow.

2. Itajime triangle tie dye technique

Itajime triangle tie dye technique

The folding method we showed you in our scarf tutorial is a square version of Itajime. This amazing technique uses the same method but to make a triangle design instead.

Onyx Art Studio has an easy-to-follow YouTube video and set of instructions teaching you how to make this lovely cushion.

3. Kumo tie dye technique

Kumo tie dye technique

Kumo is a stunning tie-dye technique that creates a cloud-like design. It’s more commonly known as the spider technique as your fabric looks like a little spider once it’s all bound!

The Neon Tea Party has a fantastic step-by-step tutorial on their blog. They show you how to make these napkins which are ideal for spring picnics and summer soirees.

4. Ne-Maki tie dye technique

Ne-Maki tie dye technique

Ne-Maki is a tie-dye technique that is created by wrapping fabric around small objects. This creates a cool circular pattern that you may recognise from traditional Japanese shibori.

Eleanna Kotsikou has a brilliant beginner’s tutorial that teaches you how to do Ne-Maki. Follow her tutorial and add this technique to your Shibori designs.

Incorporate shibori tie dyeing into your crafting

The ancient art of shibori tie-dyeing is a beautiful, mindful craft you’re bound to fall in love with.

Take your new knowledge of shibori tie-dyeing and transform all your fabrics with dye!

The gorgeous blues and swirling patterns are perfect for upcycling any old clothes, accessories or homewares you may have.

Once you’ve started tie-dyeing you’ll never turn back.

Try more tie-dyeing techniques with Gathered

If you’ve enjoyed learning how to do shibori dyeing, we guarantee you’ll love tie dyeing.

Head over to our collection of tie-dye patterns and techniques and pick up a new skill!