Tis the season for INDIGO on the GO!

Hira-Nui // Straight Stitch Shibori How To

Nui Shibori (Stitching Dye Resist) can be very time consuming but the results are worth it.  The trick is to let the work be a form of meditation. Stitching along can be a welcome calm in a hectic day, or bide the time while traveling. When getting ready for trip, I usually prepare a handful of pieces by sketching the designs on the fabric beforehand and packing them in my "boredom bag" so I can work as I go.

Picking the right tools for the job is essential. You want to use  a heavy weight thread that will easy to pull through the fiber you are working with.  You do not want something so thick that it will rip the fabric, or too thin causing it to snap while sewing and tightening. I use this upholstery thread for most projects because it's strong, thin, and a little slippery. Button thread will work well with most projects that is easy to find in most notion shops. Same reasoning goes when picking your needle type.  You want a good sharp point, an eye that can hold the thickness of your thread, and not too big that it will rip the fabric as you stitch. I use embroidery needles, which you can choose various points, gauges, and lengths to suit your fabric.

Draw out your design first.  As you start to stitch the fabric will buckle and it will be impossible to free-hand stitch a design.  Make sure you choose a marking tool that will wash off when you are finished dyeing but not brush away while you're sewing. I have been really into these pencils, after watching my chalk lines disappear from some work as I stitch larger pieces.

Showing students this particular knot has thrown some of them off a bit. It's basically a french knot.  Pull out a length of thread the size of your marked line add 5 inches, and then double that length.  You will be stitching with a double strand. Insert the thread in the eye of the needle and meet the ends of the two tails.  Pull the needle to looped end and let the thread straighten. Put the needle on top of the two tails and hold in your dominate hand, pinched between your fingers. Let the tail stick out and with the other side of thread wrap counter clockwise around the needles point 5-7 times (depending on how big you need knot compared to fabric thickness). Pinch all the thread around the needle and hold. Push the eye of the needle up, and pull the point of the needle up and through the wrapped thread, remembering to pinch the whole time your fingers. With pinched fingers pull the full length of the doubled thread through until you reach the end, which will result in a large knot at the end of your doubled strand. If done correctly.

Stitch on a "stopper" or "bumper" and your ready to start stitching! I cut up small pieces of old clothing tags but a small piece of tightly woven fabric, jersey, or felt will do.  You just want to add a small piece of something to ensure that thread won't pull through the fabric when pulling your threads tight or while dyeing.  In some cases this is not a necessary step. Like when the design is a short distance or the knot is much much bigger then the weave of the fabric.  My opinion is, better safe than sorry.


Start to stitch just before the edge, making sure it's not too close and cause the end fibers to fray. Essentially you are going up and down, but you can speed that straight stitch along by holding fabric and pushing the needle up and down, down the line marked.  Take note is lines cross each other in your design, and strategically decide how to place your stitch. You generally want to cross them, not go through the same hole as this risks ripping the fiber.


When you get to the end of a line, add a small bit of fabric of your choice again, open the two strands.  With the two tails make an overhand knot, but loop the one tail twice. Looping two times around locks in the stitch without leaving a permanent knot.  This way your stitch doesn't pull through and saves your work, and you can easy undo when your ready to pull at the end.   Leave flat until you've stitched the whole piece. It's better to finish all your sewing before pulling because you won't be able to see or get to all of your design. 


When all stitching is complete, you can then start to pull.  Properly pulling your stitching is the most important part of all your work so far.  If it is not tight enough, your resists won't be crisp.  Taking the time to secure all your hard long work is essential. Start with the short distance lengths of your design, and work up to the longest lengths.  The trick is to pull as tight as possible without snapping the threads, while watching that the fabric doesn't get stuck in the stitches. So as you pull, smooth out the fabric to the left and right of the stitch by tugging slightly. The lose overhand knot will help to keep your fabric from loosening as you tighten, just keep cinching it tighter as you go.  When you have gotten as tight as you can, close the knot by adding a few overhand knots.  But you still have the make that knot bigger.  Usually I just make it bigger and bigger by pinching the knot I have with my nail, taking the tail of the thread around and between the "stopper" and my nail and creating another knot sneaking the tail through the opening, over and over.  You'll notice the fabric gets tighten and tighten this way, leaving you with a tighter resist.  you can also try making another french right at the base, but that demo is for another time. You can snip some of your tails away, but making sure you leave at least 6 inches.


Now onto dyeing! I am partial to indigo vat dyeing but this also works really well with fiber reactive dyeing.  When your dye pot has to be high heat or boiling for long period of time as in natural, basic or polyester dyeing , the resist doesn't hold as well but you will get patterning for sure. Just be Extra cautious and thorough with your thread tensions.

Quick How To Indigo: Soak fabric in water, Wring out as much as possible, Submerge in vat for proper length of time depending on style of vat, Remove and let oxidize, Repeat until desired blue is achieved.

 Quick How To Fiber Reactive Dye, Cellulose: PreSoak Fabric in Soda Ash Water, Wet dye, Pour over fabric or Squirt onto fabric, Batch for 1hour-24 hours.

When dyeing is complete, rinse your fabric well as it's still stitched.  It won't run clear, but your resist will be better if you rinse some dye out before you remove all your stitches. And now the satisfying part! Pull your 6 inch tails, and using snips, scissors, or a seam ripper snip just the knot at the end of each line your created.  The fabric will Pop open!  Continue to pull the fabric apart revealing your design!  Remove all the threads and wash your piece in hot soapy water, twice if necessary, cold  water rinse.



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