Shibori Gradation Dyeing Tutorial

Gradation Dyeing with Shibori

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and finally, I got the chance to. I spent an entire day gradation dyeing fabric. I used the Japnese resist dyeing method called Shibori pole-dyeing.

My design principle is: “More values, Less Colors”. So when I dye fabrics, I’ll sometimes dye in gradations so I have different variations of the same color to work with. Usually, I do simple low water immersion gradation dyeing. This has generally worked well. But when I’ve tried gradation dyeing using the shibori pole technique, I’ve not always got the smooth gradation I’ve wanted.

So when I got the chance to dye, this week, I thought I’d go back to gradation dyeing with shibori to figure out the best way to create a smooth gradation.

I think I know what the problem was. I was using different size containers and so I didn’t have the same concentration of dye in the baths. So this time, I’m going to stick to the same size containers for this gradation dyeing. I’ll also measure the same amount of water in each bath.

For how to wrap and scrunch your fabric and add more color options to your dyed shibori fabrics, download the FREE Shibori Tutorial.

Shibori Dyeing Tutorial
Download the free instructions eBook

Ok. So here goes…

My dye recipe is a version of one I originally learned in an Elizabeth Barton class.

Dye Concentrate Ingredients

  • MX Procion Dyes
  • Urea
  • Water

I like to write formulas. So here’s my formula for the dye concentrate.

Dye Concentrate = 12 oz (375 ml) water + 4 TBS (50 grams) Dye Powder + 3 TBS (40 grams) Urea

This makes about 16 oz of dye concentrate which I save in my dye refrigerator to be used for other dye projects.

gradation dyeing
Supplies and Materials for Shibori Gradation Dyeing

How to Mix the Dye Concentrate

  • In a 16 oz mason jar put 3TBS of Urea.
  • Then add 3 oz very hot water. Stir to dissolve urea.
  • Add 2oz cold water to cool down urea solution. (It can’t be used hot)
  • Add 4 TBS Dye powder (wear safety mask).
  • Screw top of mason jar on and shake carefully until well-mixed
  • Add 10oz water (room temperature or cold NOT hot)
  • Screw top on and shake until well mixed.
  • Pour into your dye bottles. Save excess in a special refrigerator for later use.

I’ve saved dye concentrates in my refrigerator for 2 PLUS years. It’s a convenient way to dye without having to mix each time you want to dye fabrics. The efficacy of dye concentrates in a refrigerator may decrease over time. But so far, I haven’t noticed any significant decrease in the quality of my refrigerated dyes.

Gradation Dyeing
Mixed Yellow and Turquoise Dye Concentrates

I was low on the two colors I needed for this gradation dyeing — yellow and turquoise. So I mixed fresh batches of them to save for later.

Then in the same size bottles (soda bottles with the tops cut off), I poured the same amount of water (16 oz) in each bottle.

gradation dyeing
16 oz of water in bottles

I scribbled down some formulas to use to achieve the gradation I was looking for. My reasoning was if I reduced the amount of each color by a constant amount across the dye baths, I’ll get a smooth value change for this gradation dyeing.

Gradation Dyeing
Handwritten Notes on Gradation Measurements

I wanted the color green, so I mixed yellow and turquoise dye concentrates. First, I poured the required amounts of yellow dye concentrates into the dye bottles.

gradation dyeing
Yellow Dye Concentrates Measured into Dye Bottles

Next, I did similarly for the turquoise dye concentrates on getting green colors.

Gradation Dyeing
Blue Dye Concentrates added to Yellow Dye Concentrates to get Green

Then, I inserted the pole-wrapped cotton fabrics into the dye baths.

gradation dyeing
Pole-Wrapped Fabrics in Dye Baths

The Results

As you’ll notice, I’m short on the dye baths by a little bit. I knew I could bring the dye bath up to the top somewhat when I added the soda ash solution later. (To find out how to wrap the poles, how much soda ash to add when — download the FREE shibori tutorial below.)However, I was still a little short. Next time, I’ll increase the dye bath to 18 oz or 20oz and make the dye baths a little more concentrated. That’s the nature of creativity. It’s all about experimentation.

However, I was still a little short. Next time, I’ll increase the dye bath to 18 oz or 20oz and make the dye baths a little more concentrated. That’s the nature of creativity. It’s all about experimentation.

It’s a reminder of why I love creativity. Creativity is all about experimentation. Just when you think you’ve got it, you learn something new.

I’m certainly glad I’m taking value gradation to another level — by using shibori techniques. I thought I got gradation dyeing down in the low water immersion technique. But here I am learning that I’ve got to do some more testing when it comes to shibori dyeing.

Gradation Dyeing
Shibori Gradated Fabrics
Gradation Dyeing
Shibori Gradated Fabrics

And now here’s a closer look at the details of the shibori patterns on the fabrics I created by gradation dyeing.

gradation dyeing
Shibori pattern details

So here you have it my creative friend — step-by-step instructions for shibori gradation dyeing. To get the details on how to wrap the cotton fabric around the pole and other shibori related information, download the free Shibori tutorial. You’ll learn to create this type of shibori fabric as well as multi-colored shibori fabric.

Shibori Dyeing Tutorial
Download the free instructions eBook

I can’t wait to use my fabrics. So exciting!!!

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