We arrived at the Kyoto Shibori Museum on a rainy afternoon. The first thing the master did when we opened up the door was to hand us all towels to dry off. It was a sign of good things to come!
We had booked ahead for our shibori experience. There were two choices. A scarf would require folding and clamping techniques while a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) would require winding and knotting. We all chose the furoshiki class. We were led into the classroom and to our pleasant surprise, the teacher offered to do the whole class in English!
We had twelve designs to choose from. Each one already had the stitching in place.
Six would be completely our work, and six had hari-hitta shibori knots pre-tied in them. We all chose designs that included hari-hitta shibori.
We also had to choose the colour of dye we wanted, red, blue, or purple. Our guide mentioned that all the shibori dyeing done in Kyoto was done with silk fabric. Cotton dyed with shibori (including yukata) was always produced in Arimatsu. Finally, we started. Everything was already stitched into the fabric. We had to pull, wrap, and tie off the threads. We were taught how to do two different techniques.
Hira Nuishime Shibori
This technique involves stitching along a line and then pulling the thread tight.
This technique involves stitching around the shape you want to create, pulling the thread tight, and then wrapping the threads around the cone of fabric several times.
We got to use a shibori stand when we did our work. It’s basically a base with an arm holding a piece of metal that has been bent in on itself. The space is large enough to let untied thread through but it will stop a knot from passing through. We used it for all of our shibori tying. I had heard that a lot of shibori is done by machine now, and when I asked about it, our guide explained that yes, it is done by machine, and the shibori stand is the machine. Without it, a person can tie 300 dots per day. With the “machine” a person can tie 3000 dots per day. Mind blown.
Once the tying was done, it was on to dyeing. We had each chosen a different colour, so when we got downstairs, there were there vats of dye bubbling away merrily on the stoves. We were given GIANT chopsticks and told the keep the cloth moving until the timer went off.
After rinsing, we passed off our furioshiki to be dried and went on a tour of the museum.
We got to experiment with taking out the shibori stitching after the dyeing is complete and we got to see several different examples of different techniques.
We also got to try on full shibori furisode. All three of us have experience putting on kimono and were able to do it ourselves. Our guide commented that it was the first time that he had never had to help a visitor get dressed. I think he was quite amused.
The final step was to take out the knots and reveal the patterns. Our guide told us to cut off the knots, but not to pull on any of the threads yet. Once all the knots were cut off, magic happened!
I think the Kyoto Shibori Mueseum was one of my favourite activities from my weekend in Kyoto. It gave me a whole new appreciation for shibori products and I’m very temped to go back and do it again. I’d love to learn more and try to do shibori on my own. The English language support was an unexpected and priceless bonus. I also have to thank our guide for taking so many great pictures of our experience.
Their website is here and they recommend that you call ahead to make a reservation, especially if you would like the class taught in English. Their website also has an incredible amount of information on different types of shibori. The scholar in me was drooling over it. Rest assured, this will not be my last post on shibori! I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of it yet!