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In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the itajime shibori technique to create a contemporary checkered tablecloth in three gorgeous variations.
- Latex gloves
- 20g of pre-reduced indigo, 250g of reducing agent (thiox or hydrosulfate) and 250g of soda ash, which you can find in this indigo dye kit
- 19L (5 gallon) plastic bucket with a lid
- Stick for stirring (make sure it's long enough to reach the bottom of your bucket)
- Small container for the foam/"flower"
- Sheet of plastic to cover the floor
- Shallow pan to hold your fabric
- White cotton fabric (or other natural cloth)
- Two rectangular wood blocks
- Large rubbers bands
- F clamp
- 4 large paper clips
- Sewing machine and thread
1. Prepare the Indigo Vat
First, you need to set up the indigo vat. Just follow the step-by-step instructions I prepared for you here. If you plan to use fabric dye and not natural indigo, you can follow the instructions in the second part of this tutorial.
Once your indigo vat is set, cover the bucket with a lid and let the dye settle from 15 minutes to one hour, which is the optimum length of time. During this time you can fold and bind your fabric.
2. Fold the Tablecloth
If you don't have a ready-made plain white tablecloth, you need to cut your fabric into a square. The measurements of your tablecloth will depend on the size of your table, but just keep in mind that it's more difficult to create a crisp geometric design with large pieces of fabric.
Place your cotton fabric on the floor. First, accordion fold it vertically. Just fold upwards from the right edge. To work out the width of your fold, you need to divide the length of your fabric exactly, so that there is no leftover length. Also, you need to ensure that the fold isn't larger than the width of your wood blocks.
Keep folding you fabric back and forth.
Until you end up with one strip.
The side view of your folded strip should look like a zig-zag.
Now, accordian-fold the strip back and forth, as pictured below. Start by folding the lower edge upwards. The size of your pleat should be equal to the size of your strip so that you end up with a square.
Keep on folding back and forth, until you reach the top edge.
This is how your fabric should look like, if folded properly.
3. Bind the Tablecloth: Option 1
I will show you three variations of binding the tablecloth to create three different designs. They are all based on the same way of folding the fabric and they all result in patterns based on a grid.
For the first option for binding, you will need two wood blocks and large rubber bands. Place one wood block in front of your folded fabric and one wood block on the back side of your fabric. Try to keep the wood blocks centered and aligned.
In the picture below, you will see that my tablecloth was too big to be folded any further. That's why there is a lot of remaining fabric around the block, but it doesn't need to be this way.
Now bind the fabric between the two blocks by placing two rubber bands vertically.
Now add a few rubber bands in the other direction to create a grid pattern across your wooden block.
In the photo below, you will see how the bound fabric looks from behind. The excess fabric around the wood block results in a more organic pattern and not a crisp geometric one. However, if you use less fabric and your final folded piece is just slightly larger than your wood block, the indigo grid in the final dyed product will look more crisp and clean.
4. Bind the Tablecloth: Option 2
Alternatively, you can rotate your wood blocks 45 degrees on your piece of folded fabric.
To avoid the marks of the rubber bands, you can use an F clamp to secure your folded fabric within the wood blocks. Just place the fabric and the blocks between the teeth of the clamp and when positioned correctly, turn the clamp to close it and secure the fabric in place.
5. Bind the Tablecloth: Option 3
Another option is to bind your fabric using large binder clips.
Place one clip in the center of every edge of the square. Just keep in mind that the fabric needs to be thick enough so that the clip is firmly attached and it creates a surface that will remain white after dyeing.
6. Dye with Indigo
Now you're ready to dye. First, rinse your bound fabric under cold running water.
Squeeze the bound fabric well to remove excess water and air.
Open the indigo vat and remove the "flower"/foam. Wear gloves and dip the fabric into the vat.
Remove the fabric from the vat.
At first, the fabric will look green, but it will oxidize through contact with air, and it will turn indigo blue. It's important to open up any areas you want to get properly dyed, like the triangle edges in the second binding option.
You can repeat the process if you think you need a deeper hue. Once you have finished dyeing, place the foam/"flower" back on the surface of the dye and close the bucket with a lid.
Let the bound fabric oxidize for about 20 minutes. Open up any areas you want to turn blue.
7. Unfold, Wash and Stitch
Once the bound fabric has oxidized, you can rinse it with warm water and remove the rubber bands, clips or the clamp.
Remove the wood blocks as well.
Now unfold to see the pattern you created!
Gently hand-wash your tablecloth with mild detergent in warm water and let it dry in the shade.
Once dry, hem the tablecloth and stitch along the edges. To create the hem, first fold the edges of the fabric upwards twice, pin and then stitch using a sewing machine.
Once sewn, iron the fabric carefully on the correct setting.
Final Result for Option 1
This is the largest tablecloth I created. The general pattern is that of a grid but with organic shapes along the strips.
Final Result for Option 2
I created this design using rotated wood blocks. It results in a diverse pattern with extra "diamonds" in the grid.
Final Result for Option 3
This results an organic look with the most indigo dye.
Set the Table
In this tutorial, you learned how to fold and dye a piece of fabric to get a checkered pattern by using the itajime technique with three alternative binding methods.
Can't get enough of indigo? Follow my Shibori for Beginners series of tutorials and learn how to tie-dye with me.