Textile junkies love color and texture, and shibori has both in spades. When it comes to using these fabrics and not just collecting them (as my mother so often did), we take a step back and ask, “What is going to happen if I wash this? What if I don’t wash it? Will washing make it bleed, stretch, fade, or lose the loveliness I’ve fallen in love with?”
I was having just such a conversation with my dogs this afternoon while unrolling a vintage shibori bolt. Daisy inspected the fabric, sniffing it, stepping on it, sitting on it, and generally finding it quite nice. Cindy ignored it, as she does everything else that doesn’t smell like food.
The end of the bolt was stained and stretched already, making it a good candidate for experimentation. It was odd-shaped and unable to lie flat, but I liked the design! Butterflies are a harbinger for spring, and I saw a Monarch butterfly in our garden this morning–quite rare in our urban area–so I’m in a butterfly mood these days.
Unstretched the fabric measures 11″ x 30″ (28cm x 76.5cm). Stretched it measures 14″ x 35″ (36cm x 89cm).
I used cold water and mild laundry soap in a small plastic tub. While I did not see any dye bleed, I did see a lot of dirt. Assuming this bolt had been in storage for a while before it came to me, there was probably a significant amount of dust in there. No funky smells (mold, dye, etc.) or other weirdness noted.
Typically I hang vintage Japanese textiles to dry and then press them with an iron while the fabric is still damp. However, in the interest of research and finding out exactly how cotton shibori will fare under different circumstances, I tossed the fabric in the dryer with a clean, dry towel and walked away. Much more liberating than my usual multi-step technique!
Daisy modeling the warm fabric fresh from the dryer.
After 20 minutes in the dryer on a regular setting the fabric emerged looking just like it did before washing. No shrinkage to note, and plenty of pointy shibori texture still evident.
I set my iron on high heat/high steam, turned the fabric face down on the ironing board, gave it a spritz of water, and went to it. The result? Much of the texture flattened out, but the fabric retained much of the shibori character I had hoped to keep. The points are no longer as pronounced as they had been, but the design is easier to see and the geometry is beautifully apparent.
Measurements: 14″ x 34″ (36cm x 86cm) unstretched, up to 35″ (89cm) length when stretched.
It could certainly be pressed even more to eliminate the texture, but I’d rather not. At this point I feel confident in using this piece as part of a quilt, knowing that it will change a bit with each future washing, but that’s part of shibori’s beauty; its ability to evolve.
Kumo, bai, and ori nui shibori
If you would like a piece of this shibori for your own projects, you can find it here along with others in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop.
Before and After