Indigo Dye Series – Shibori Dish Towels

indigo dye dish towel tutorial on aliceandlois.compost by Melissa

Our Indigo Dye Series continues this week with some of my faves, Indigo Dish Towels. This project was so fun! We used 100 percent cotton flour sack dish towels to showcase some amazing shibori techniques. We kicked off this series last month with our indigo dye scarf that came out beautifully. Next we showed you how to use your indigo dyed textiles to create one-of-a-kind pillows.

Indigo is such a beautiful color. It’s fair to say I am still obsessed with blue and white. Indigo is a natural dye and an easy way to create resist patterns on fabric.

Read more for the full tutorial.

indigo shibori techniques

Supplies: Indigo Dye Kit // Flour Sack Dish Towels  // 2- 5 gallon buckets // rubber bands // wood blocks or tiles // rubber gloves // drop cloth or trash bags // scissors // paint stick // PVC pipe // twine

Steps –

Step 1: Following the kit instructions, fill the bucket with warm water and mix in the dye, stir in a circular motion.

Step 2: Next add the soda ash and reduction agent. Stir slowly in one direction and continue slowly in the other direction. You will start to notice a foamy top. You can remove this “flower” to save and reuse later with the dye. Your dye will look neon green. Next cover the bucket (to prevent oxidation) and wait 30 minutes. The longer you wait, the darker the dye will be. We waited 45 minutes.

For the dish towel on the left, we used the Arashi shibori method. Wrap your dish towel at an angle around a PVC pipe or pole. Tie twine around the entire length. Next, push the fabric down towards the bottom of the pipe. See the full tutorial here.

For the next dish towel, we used a simple rubber band tie dye technique to attain a striped look. Simply gather the fabric and tie together with a rubber band. We did four stripes about two inches apart.

For the bottom left dish towel from the left, we used the Arashi shibori technique again.

The final dish towel on the bottom right was made using the classic shibori technique doing the accordion fold. Fold the fabric like an accordion (long way). Fold it again the other direction using the same technique. Now you will have a square or rectangle shape. Take two wood pieces or tiles and place on the top and bottom of fabric. Bind the fabric between the wood with rubber bands. The bigger your wood/tiles and the more rubber bands you use, the more white you will end up with. See the full tutorial here.

Once your shibori techniques are done, all rubber banded and clipped, dunk the fabric in water and ring out, it should be completely wet prior to dyeing. Wearing rubber gloves, submerge the fabric into the dye bucket. Hold and massage the fabric under the dye (without touching the bottom of the bucket) for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the fabric from the dye. The fabric will look green, not indigo. Let rest and oxidize. You will see the magic happen – from green to indigo! Once oxidized, you can repeat the dyeing process for a deeper, darker indigo color. We repeated a second time. Remove the rubber bands and wood/tiles and lay flat for the full oxidization.

Step 7. Wash in cold and tumble dry.DIY indigo shibori dish towels

indigo shibori tutorialAll photos by Melissa Fenlon for alice & lois design studios. All rights reserved.

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  1. I want to do this with larger pieces of fabric and then use the fabric to sew a garment – maybe do a yard at a time. How large do you think is reasonable to try??

    1. It depends on how big of a container you can use for the dye. We used a five gallon bucket and was able to dye several 84″ curtain panels (one at a time). Have fun with your project!

  2. These are lovely, thanks for sharing your techniques!

  3. These are beautiful. I’m wondering about fading, and what you recommend to reduce that.

    1. Hi Jan –
      The instructions state that the darker the indigo color, you can dye twice. Take out and do not unwrap and dye again. Mine do not fade after initial wash.
      Hope this helps.

  4. HELLO!!! I tried the indigo dye this weekend. I (thought) it turned out great….until…………..I washed them. My washer does not have a “warm” cycle, so I washed everything in cold. when I pulled all my pieces out of the dryer (all cotton fabrics) they definitely faded, as well as weird blotches all over. it doesn’t make sense. have you ever experienced this before? I don’t mind it so much on my dishtowels or even the sheet set that I did, but I also did a few tshirts and they just do not look great with this blotchy affect on them. any ideas?

    1. Hi Brenda –
      Sorry you didn’t get the outcome you were hoping for. A few things I can think of that might have caused the blotches: 1.) the cold water 2.) if the fabric touches the bottom or sides of bucket when submerged while dying it can result in blotches (per instructions manual). This has happened to me before!
      Good luck!

  5. NameNameEden Passante says:

    Love these! so beautiful!

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