Shibori for Beginners: Ne-maki Technique

Shibori is one of the biggest trends in fashion, decor and design right now. Transform plain white fabric into a stunning original pattern using this ancient...

What You'll Be Creating

Shibori is one of the biggest trends in fashion, decor and design right now. But while the patterns look fresh and modern, it's actually an ancient Japanese craft of dyeing fabric using various shaped resist techniques. Some of these techniques are commonly known in the West as tie-dyeing.

The various techniques in traditional shibori involve binding, folding, stitching, twisting, compressing or capping cloth in order to create various patterns. The idea is that you shape cloth in a way to block color from certain sections of the fabric, which creates unique patterns in the white un-dyed areas. Depending on which technique you use, the patterns can be organic or geometric.

As you will learn, I'm passionate about shibori. I love that the idea behind it is to treat cloth not as a two-dimensional surface, but as a three-dimensional object, which in that sense is similar to origami techniques. I'm also fascinated by the fact that you can manipulate fabric in so many different ways that the possibilities of the patterns you create are infinite (especially if you combine the different techniques).

In this tutorial I used a shibori method called ne-maki, which involves binding cloth around round found objects, like beads. It's better to use white fabric in natural fibres like cotton or silk.

This tutorial is the first part of a tote bag project, so I'm using a heavy cotton fabric that can sustain weight. I used an indigo blue color (but not a natural dye) not only because it's gorgeous, but it was the original dye that was used for shibori.


  • Heavy white cotton fabric
  • Round beads or pebbles
  • Rubber bands
  • Latex gloves
  • Apron
  • Indigo blue dye and fixative
  • 400g of salt
  • Scissors
  • Bucket
  • Stick for stirring

1. Tie the Fabric

Step 1

Cut the fabric in a strip of 150cm (59in) by 60cm (23.6in).

Step 2

Start placing your beads on the lower right corner of your fabric. When considering your design, keep in mind that an area of 46cm (18in) by 40cm (15.7in) will become the front side of your bag. The right edge of your fabric will become the top of your bag.

Place one bead on the back side of the fabric and hold it there.

Turn the fabric around and tie the bead tightly in the fabric using a rubber band. Where you place the rubber band is the area that the dye will be blocked. The more you turn the rubber band around the fabric, the thicker the white line of your circle will be. Because the cotton fabric is thick, some pleats will be created around the bead. These pleats will also contribute to the final shape of the circle, as they also block the dye.

Step 3

Turn the fabric back over and place the next bead right next to the first one.

Keep on adding beads. I created a dense nucleus of beads and then spread them further around. I also used beads in three different sizes to create a more organic look.

This is how the fabric will look like after you tie all the beads. I love the bubbly result. I was tempted to leave it like that to be honest, but couldn't figure out how to use it.

2. Prepare the Dye

Step 1

It's best to work outdoors for the dyeing process, if possible, and put down some plastic to cover the surface you're working on. Make sure to wear protective gloves and apron as well, so that you don't end up looking like a smurf

Of course, you can use natural indigo dye, if you like. I used normal fabric dye for this tutorial, so I will guide you through this process of preparing the dye. First, add 5 to 7 litres of warm water (40c) in a large container or bucket (which is not used for food).

Step 2

Add 400g of salt. This is optional depending on the type of dye you use.

Carefully add the color dye as well as the fixative.

Stir well using a stick until the dye, fixative and salt are all dissolved.

3. Dye the Fabric

Step 1

Soak the fabric in a different tub of hot water.

Step 2

Now place the fabric carefully in the bucket or container of prepared dye.

Step 3

Make sure the fabric is completely immersed in the warm dye. Cover the container, stirring the fabric every 2 or 3 minutes for 20 to 30 minutes. The more you leave it, the more intense the color will be.

4. Rinse, Untie and Dry

Step 1

Remove your fabric from the container of dye.

Rinse with cold water until the water runs clear.

At this point I was pretty worried, as the cloth looked black and I thought I had left the fabric in the dye for too long. Fortunately, the cloth is only really dark because it is still wet.

Step 2

Now remove all rubber bands. This will reveal the white circles and your unique pattern.

Step 3

Wash the dyed fabric with warm tap water and your usual detergent and rinse well.
Hang your fabric to dry away from the sun. Clean your container or bucket with scouring powder or diluted bleach, if necessary.

That's it! You will notice that the design created is slightly neater on one side of the fabric than the other.

Step 4

Iron your fabric because it will be pretty wrinkled after the whole process.

Fabric to Dye For!

Your masterpiece is ready. Well done!

Now you know how to create beautiful circular designs on fabric with indigo dye, using the shibori ne-maki technique. In my next tutorial, you will learn how to transform this piece of fabric into a tote bag.

Special thanks to my friend Pari who joined in with the Shibori fun and helped me photograph the process!

Are you looking forward to learning more shibori techniques and tutorials? I love reading your comments, so let me know what you think.