Shibori Shibori – Japanese Tie Dye

Shibori is a common way of adding details or patterns to kimonos. The meaning of the word is tie-dye, but the actual process is much more complex than tie-dye processes found outside of Japan.

Intricate shibori details of a bamboo fence, which is part of a design on a houmongi.

If you buy a lot of shibori items, you will surely find little strings that were used to join each piece. Outside of Japan, tie-dye is usually done on larger pieces, such as tying rope around two or three parts of a t-shirt, but many shibori items will have hundreds if not thousands of individual stitches that are tied.

This is a very, very time-consuming process, and can take dozens of hours to complete, if a kimono is fully tied.

Sometimes shibori is used as a simple accent piece, like this black haori, which uses white spots to form a river.

Shibori used to create white spots on a black background, with the white spots forming the shape of a river.

On the other hand, the shibori process can be used for much larger details, like this white kimono with orange plaid.

White kimono with orange squares made using the shibori process.

An interesting thing to note about this kimono is that there are shibori patterns within shibori patterns.

As it is often difficult to see what is genuine shibori or not when looking at pictures online, you may accidentally purchase fake shibori instead of genuine shibori items. One method of determining whether or not an item is genuine is to look at the different patterns within the dyed sections. While this semi-randomness can be copied by modern computers and printers, kimono designers generally don’t go to the trouble of making the fake look genuine.

Close-up of black haori with white kanoko spots around red squares, all created with the shibori technique.

Take a look at the different red squares and you will see that each one is unique.

Pink kimono fabric with blue shibori squares.

This piece combined modern inkjet printing with genuine shibori squares. You can see the texture around each square.

Lost to time but replicated in the mid-20th century (the original technique is still unknown), the Tsuji ga Hana technique is a beautiful design, but often simulated. Due to the intricate and intense process, Tsuji ga Hana patterns have been known to age quite quickly. So avoiding age spots adds to the number of fake tsujigahana patterns, like this one:

Fake tsujigahana pattern in black.

If you look closely, you will see that the fabric is smooth. Real tsujigahana flowers will usually be surrounded and filled with lots of holes and lots of texture.

Here is an example of holes and texture that are left over from the dyeing process.

Holes and texture of the shibori process.

This is from a polyester kimono with faux shibori kanoko patterns. You can tell it’s fake because the texture doesn’t line up with the stains. This has become commonplace since the 1990s as people want the texture but don’t want to spend the extra thousand bucks to get the actual item.

Fake shibori stains in red.

We take meticulous care to make sure each item is listed as genuine shibori or not. Be sure to do your due diligence when purchasing shibori items online.

Find all of our posts on kimono patterns by clicking here.

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