Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A shirbori class in Kyoto

On my previous trip to Kyoto I missed out on visiting the Shibori Museum and taking one of their classes in shirbori dyeing (just ran out of time). This made me very sad. I nearly missed out this time too as they were closed for New Year, right up until the day before we flew out. Talk about cutting it fine!

Way back in 2014 I took part in a Spoolettes shirbori workshop that for some reason I've never written about. During that class we learnt about quite a few techniques for dyeing fabric and got stuck in to folding, clamping wrapping, tying and scrunching our fabric before submerging into vats of stinky indigo dye.  I was surprised to see that the class in Kyoto does not use indigo dyes (not quite sure why, that was a bit "lost in translation"), but rather chemical dyes that allow you to produce pretty much any colour combination you want.

I decided to try the wrapping and scrunching technique for the silk scarf I was going to dye as I loved the pattern it produced (that's them over on the right). It seems so delicate compared to the techniques shown on the left (which are folding and clamping mostly). Wrapping and scrunching  was something I avoided during the class in Sydney as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by information and options so I stuck with simply folding and clamping with pegs.

I have to say, the array of colour choices in Kyoto was a bit overwhelming but in the end I decided to go for a red base with a blue over-dye. I didn't dye the plain scarf first as I liked the effect of having some white showing through. I love that I got to dye a silk scarf as it feels lovely to wear. My teacher explained that in Kyoto they dye on to silk and in Nagoya (the other shibori area in Japan) they dye onto cotton. Glad I got the "silk town" is all I can say!

The process was pretty simple: wrap the material around a tube, tie it with string/elastic, scrunch it down, wet the fabric, soak in the red first dye, soak in the blue dye next, and voila, you're done!

The moment of truth...

The scarf ended up way more purple than I was hoping, but I still really love it. The scarf has great memories associated with it of a great holiday in one of my favourite countries and I'm bummed it's only been cool enough to wear it once since we got home in January.

Apart from the class there's quite a few exhibitions to explore on the second floor of the museum. My teacher took me around the museum and explained some of the displays to me which was great.
This shibori kimono is for sale at the museum for about US$50,000. It look about 18 months to make and all the knots were hand tied. It's only basted together as it will be tailored to fit its eventual owner and then hand stitched together. I feel I need to up my sewing game after seeing this.

The class I did cost 5000 yen, so about AUD$60. Not cheap, but it was a lot of fun, and I'm totally chuffed with my me-made souvenir from Japan! I would highly recommend this class and a visit to the museum of you have an hour or so up your sleeve.

Details on the Kyoto Shibori Museum can be found here. It's a good idea to email ahead (via their online form here) and let them know when you want to come in so they can be prepared for you. 

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