While considering how to learn about dyeing fabric for my art (Sorry Jo-Ann, but I’m beginning to get tired of the same old stuff!) I came across some *amazing* historical information about Japanese Kimono. Now, I know that human beings back in the good ol’ days used to be a lot more patient when creating great handmade works of art… but the level of persistence required for some of these fabric decorating techniques is near insane!

Even just *thinking* about the processes involved in Batik (removable wax-resist) makes me impatient. Consider one of the techniques the Japanese used, called shibori…the method of shaping fabric and binding it, clamping it, etc. to produce an area that will resist dye. This includes, but is not limited to, one example I found–a sort of tye-dying, which produces tiny, pixel-like patterns.

Shibori technique (thumb)

I’m talking itty-bitty, miniscule even. Not anything like your average, psychedelic high school science project patterns.

In this particular example, the artist wraps little sections of the white silk fabric with thread to prevent the dye from affecting those areas, much like the way modern hippies enjoy using rubber bands. As you can see in this photo of the procedure, there are about 10 little nubs of fabric spanning the width of this person’s thumb! The artist strategically plans out a design using the wrapped areas like staccato marks on the colored background. If you can imagine, each of those little nubs will turn out to be a tiny white circle. You can’t imagine such a thing? Well, here’s another photo,

tree design, shibori fabric

showing the result of this technique (which I interpret as branches of a tree). An entire piece of cloth surfaced in this way is called kanoko shibori.

I am officially amazed and inspired. Just look at how straight all those rows of circles are…!

Speaking of Batik, I learned today that instead of wax, the Japanese also used a mixture of rice paste and soybeans to resist the dye. In Yuzen dyeing (named after its developer, Miyazaki Yuzen), the artists paint fine lines of the resist paste directly onto the fabric, even applying it by squeezing it out of a cone much like that of our modern pastry bag–you know, the kind that bakeries use to draw your name in frosting on your birthday cake?

For more information, view a few of the websites that I learned from:

Handbook for the appreciation of Japanese Traditional Crafts

Marla Mallett Textiles: Japanese Kimono Design Techniques

Traditional Crafts of Japan