In 2005, Catharine Ellis published the book Woven Shibori, in which she explained the process she adapted from traditional Japanese shibori into “the language of weaving.” The Japanese shibori pattern called mokume is made by stitching parallel lines into a piece of cloth, then gathering the stitches tightly. When the cloth is dyed, the folds resist the dye to form a pattern. On the loom, pattern threads are woven into a ground cloth in regular intervals. When taken off the loom, the pattern threads are gathered, as in traditional shibori, and knotted. The cloth is dyed, and the compressed areas in the folds resist the dye to form the woven pattern. After dyeing, the pattern threads are pulled out, and the ground cloth remains.
I bought Woven Shibori shortly after it was published, and learned the process through experimentation and careful study of the text. Last November I attended a 3 day Woven Shibori workshop taught by Catharine Ellis. It was an awesome opportunity to study with her, and I learned so much. Since that time I have continued to work and experiment in my home studio.
For me, the process starts with a weave draft, which is a blueprint for setting up the loom. The darker lines represent the pattern threads.
The next step was to thread the loom with 16/2 bamboo threads according to the draft.
The ground cloth was woven in a balanced plain weave.
When the cloth was woven and off the loom the fringes were twisted.
Pattern threads were gathered next, and the pattern began to emerge.
The cloth was first immersed in fiber reactive dye when all the pattern threads were gathered and knotted.
Then the cloth was dyed again with a darker vat dye. The fiber reactive dyes tend to seep into the compressed folds just a little bit, whereas the vat dye only reacts with what it sees on the surface, which leaves a crisper image. After the final dye bath, the cloth was hung up to oxidize, which affixes the vat dye to the fiber.
When the cloth was completely dry, the knots were cut and all pattern threads removed. Opening up the cloth is kind of like opening a present...