I have been working on stitching these running lines for the past three winters – not all the time of course, but picking it up on long winter evenings and putting in a few rows at a time. Shibori is a Japanese technique of manipulating fabric by stitching, tying, clamping or folding to create a resist to the dye. When the bindings are released the pattern emerges. This particular pattern is called Mokume, meaning wood-grain because it resembles the organic linear patterns of wood grain.
I have now completed stitching lines about 1/2″ apart on this 80″ by 54″ length of hand dyed purple cotton sateen cloth. I have begun to pull up the upholstery thread and gather them tightly with knots at each end. This stage in itself is beautiful. After being in the dye bath, the threads have to be released and I always feel a little sadness at cutting them and losing the amazing sculptured cloth that has been created by stitching and gathering.
This fabric will go into a vat dye bath, most likely gold or light rust brown, where I will replace the purple visible on the outside with the new colour and when the pattern is revealed the purple hidden inside will form a beautiful and interesting contrast of colours in a wood grain pattern.
I am planning a collection of skirts for this summer and will be using this new cloth in some of them. The skirt in the image below is one I did a few years using the Mokume shibori technique as well as a shibori technique called Itajime to create the bright orange patterns on the yoke. Itajime uses clamped blocks to resist the dye and leaves behind a motif.
Stitched shibori piece called ‘ori-nui’, or undulating lines pattern
Ever since I started working with the Japanese textile patterning technique called shibori my relationship to the world of cloth has slowed right down. Instead of becoming bored with the tedious nature of binding and stitching cloth, I have embraced the meditative quality of this new ‘slow’ process. It has enabled me to realize my connection to textile traditions and women all over the planet. I’ve also realized the importance of preserving these traditions from cultural extinction so that we may continue to expand on them with new innovations and personal expression. Bound resist belt sash over shibori stitched resist skirt. The fabric shown above is now part of this skirt.
This concept of ‘slow clothes’ came to me last summer as I sat at markets and art fairs, working on a shibori bound resist belt sash which I was preparing for a fashion show. The technique required tedious but meditative binding of cherry pits into a beautiful piece of hemp silk fabric. I must have spent countless hours on this piece, but the result produced something which I am very proud of. There is no other way which I could have created this beautiful textured piece. Preserved in it’s pattern are moments of my life that summer, not too mention pits from delicious local cherries . My husband had made wine out of them years before and insisted that they be kept for a ‘project’ sometime in the future. Now they are a staple of my craft. In this particular piece many of the cherry pits remain in the fabric to maintain the integrity and texture of the belt. Where they have been removed after the dye process, a beautiful pattern emerges.
Although I have done many stitched and bound shibori pieces, this particular belt sash has become a symbol to me of what I see as the ‘slow clothes’ movement. It was during my work on this belt that I came to contemplate this idea . However, it is also symbolic to me of the connection between food and clothing and reminds me of how indigenous people all over the world have always made use of every part of plants and animals which they ‘borrow’ from nature.
Shibori technique using bound cherry pits to create the resist pattern.
In this fast paced world I havebegun to understand that the gift to the wearer of these ‘slow clothes’ is not only the fact that they are more carefully made and beautiful, but that they are infused with ‘peace of mind’ by the maker. They allow the wearer to participate in a cultural experience of connecting with tradition as well as the joy of the maker’s creative process.
(I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the ‘slow food’ movement which began in Italy in the 1980’s and has since spread all over the globe.)