Here’s an amazing garment from the Met Museum.

“Tie-dyed satin damask with silk embroidery and gold couching” — the sheer number of things going on intrigued me! First an interesting weave (damask fabric has a pattern woven directly in), then a dye bath, followed by surface embellishment (couching is a specific type of embroidery, in case you were wondering). I couldn’t immediately see the tie-dying, so I zoomed in closely and voilà, there it was — shibori, a distinctly Japanese art form.

Shibori and tie-dying both use the concept of the “resist” — pressure applied to the fabric resists the dye. In this case, the fabric was folded up into tiny points and then wrapped tightly with thread, resulting in miniscule, regular white squares. You can see it in this close up (it’s a bit fuzzy since the squares are so tiny!) The main difference between shibori and tie-dye is that shibori is much more developed as an art form, and with serious practice, you can get very sophisticated results. As one of my art teachers said, “Shibori is easy to learn, but it takes a lifetime to master!” Well, the Japanese have definitely mastered it.

Besides using thread resists, shibori artists also wrap cloth around poles, fold it and clamp it into position, or stitch it together tightly. The options are almost endless (all you need is pressure on the cloth in some way), and many of them have been well-developed into very specific, beautiful, forms. If you’re interested, it makes for fascinating reading…


PS– we’re on vacation through the end of the week. We’ll be back at it soon!


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