Tie dye finds its artsy, sophisticated side in the ancient Japanese dyeing technique known as shibori. The process involves binding cloth to achieve specific patterns, and it’s distinguished by its rich indigo hue that adorns everything from clothing to tea towels. Equipped with a ready-to-mix dye kit and a few helpful tips on technique, creating a set of hand-dyed bar towels is as easy as six simple steps.
Rubber kitchen gloves
5-gallon bucket with lid
Wooden spoon or paint
Jacquard Indigo Tie Dye Kit
Cotton flour sack dish towels (we used Aunt Martha’s 28-inch by 28-inch)
Chopsticks or wood blocks for creating patterns
Fill the bucket with 4 gallons of warm water. Empty the indigo dye packet into the water and stir. While stirring, empty the soda ash and reduction agent packets (these are included in the kit) into the water. Gently stir in one direction to create a small whirlpool. Once mixed well, slow down and stir the opposite direction. Cover the bucket and let rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid. The top of the dye bath will have developed a thin layer called the bloom. Gently push this aside and check the color of the liquid—it should be a clear yellow or yellow-green. If it’s not, wait another 30 minutes.
Using rubber bands, kitchen twine, wood blocks or chopsticks, fold and bind the towels (see above for design ideas).
Wet the towels in water and squeeze out excess water. Wearing gloves and using a wooden spoon or stir stick, push the bloom to the side. Squeeze your towel and slowly submerge it into the dye bucket. While submerged, move the towel around in your hand for 1 to 2 minutes to be sure the dye also penetrates the folded parts.
Squeeze the towel just below the surface and slowly remove it from the bucket. Let the towel rest for 5 minutes.
Remove the rubber bands, twine, etc., unfurl and let dry. Machine wash and dry before using.
Try these different folding and tying techniques for various dye designs. For triangles, fold the towel in half, then in half again (you should end up with a long strip). Starting on one end, fold one corner diagonally across to make a triangle (as you fold a flag). Then fold that triangle over and repeat, until you reach the other end. Secure the three triangle points tightly with rubber bands or twine and dye.
For squares or rectangles, fold the towel like an accordion in one direction. Repeat the accordion fold to make a rectangle or square. Place a woodblock on both the front and back of the folded towel, secure with rubber bands or twine and dye.
For diamonds, fold towel as you would for squares or rectangles and rotate the woodblocks 45 degrees before securing and dyeing.
Finally, for circles, create a circle between your thumb and index finger, push a portion of the cloth through and secure with a rubber band or twine. Repeat process, pushing the cloth through to varying depths. Dye. For concentric circles, secure multiple rubber bands around one pulled-up portion.
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