Learn how to make your own gorgeous pillow cases by using a shibori technique and indigo blue dye. Just upcycle an old set of white bed linen and add a touch of indigo goodness in your home!
Kanoko shibori is what is commonly thought of in the West as tie-dye, and it involves binding certain sections of the the fabric with thread. The pattern achieved with the method shown here is a spiral.
It is an ideal method for a set of bed linen as it is not difficult to apply to fabric of different size, so you can produce the same design on your pillow cases as on your sheets or duvet! If you are a fan of shibori or would like to learn more, check out our shibori series.
- 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
- A set of white cotton bed linen
- Large rubber bands
- Twine or thread
1. Prepare the Indigo Vat
First, you need to set up the indigo vat. Just follow the step-by-step instructions we prepared for you in this Shibori Fundamentals tutorial. If you plan to use fabric dye and not natural indigo, you can follow the instructions in the second part of this ne‑maki tutorial.
Once your indigo vat is set, cover the bucket with a lid and let the dye settle from 15 minutes to one hour. During this time you can fold and bind your fabric.
2. Twist the Pillow Case
First, soak it in cold water and squeeze it.
Lay the pillow case flat on your working surface.
Now pinch a bit of fabric from the center of the pillow case.
Start twisting your hand clockwise. The fabric will start following the movement of your hand since you're holding it tight in the center.
Your pillow case will start forming a whirl in the center. It will look something like this, but you won't get to see it as you should not remove your hand.
Keep twisting the pillow case clockwise.
When almost all the cloth is gathered in the center, the four corners will probably remain out of the whirl. Use your other hand to gently help the remaining part of the pillow case join the whirl.
Use both hands to gather the fabric and help it form a perfect circle.
3. Bind the Pillow Case
Now take a large rubber band and open it up using both hands. Place it around your pillow case, being careful not to ruin the shape of the whirl.
Keep on adding rubber bands around the pillow case on different diagonals of your circle, so that the fabric is firmly held in place from all sides. Nice job!
Cool! Now that you got the hang of it, repeat the same process to twist and bind the second pillow case.
4. Twist and Bind the Sheet
The same method can be applied to the sheet as well. It is a bit harder as the cloth is bigger, but it is feasible. First soak your sheet in water and squeeze out the excess water. Then place the sheet on your working surface. If your desk is not huge, you might need to use the floor; just make sure it is clean before you place the sheet down.
Now reach the center of your sheet, and with your strong hand pinch the fabric and start twisting it.
The whirl begins to form in the center of the sheet.
Keep on twisting, always in the same direction.
Now, as the cloth is big, you will see that the wet fabric touching the floor might be a bit resistant to the movement. Therefore, it is helpful to use both hands to twist the sheet.
Keep on twisting till you gather the sheet in a circle with a clearly formed whirl.
Now as the volume of the sheet is bigger, the rubber bands will not be big enough to bind it (unless you have gigantic ones). Therefore you can bind the sheet with thread, cord, or twine. First, cut off a long piece of twine.
Then, use the twine to bind the fabric using the same logic as in the pillow case, meaning binding the thread tightly and on all diagonals. Just make sure that the bound sheet will be a firm and well-formed whirl.
So all three pieces of your bed linen are set to get dyed. Of course, you can follow the same procedure if you want to dye a duvet or more pillow cases and so on.
5. Paint It Blue!
Once the vat has settled, remove the lid and scoop the foam/"flower" from the top of the vat. Set it aside and keep it for later.
Put your gloves on and submerge each piece of bed linen into the vat. Then, gently remove your bound fabric from the dye bath.
You will notice that it is green in the beginning and as it oxidizes it gradually turns blue. Let it oxidize for about 20 minutes.
I left mine just a few seconds in the indigo dye bath, so that is why the end result is more of a baby blue. If you wish to achieve a darker hue, you can repeat the dyeing process.
Once you are happy with the color, rinse the pillow cases and the sheet, remove the rubber bands and the twine, and enjoy the pattern created. Wash them with mild detergent in warm water, and then let them dry in the shade and iron them.
In this tutorial you learned a tie dye method which forms a spiral pattern on the fabric. This is an easy technique with striking end results. The advantage of this shibori technique is that it can easily be applied in any size of fabric, so it the perfect pick for creating a set of bed linen with the same pattern on the sheets and the pillow cases.