May 17, 2015


Lately I have been experimenting with some unconventional dyeing tools (tape, plastic wrap, plastic, etc). Some things work and others definitely do not. Here is a rundown of what I have discovered (purely my opinion). Hopefully this will help to inspire other textile artists.



PROS: Spring and C-clamps can provide a good amount of tension and work fairly well for keeping dye from seeping under your resistance blocks.

CONS: Always make sure to clean your clamps extremely well after use. Even if you rinse them after the dye bath, they can still hold some Indigo on their surface weeks later. This is a bummer, especially when you learn the hard way (clamping them to fresh white fabric during your next dye session). Another con is that they can be very bulky, heavy, and hard to fit in a small dye vat. Due to their weight, they will sink to the bottom of the vat if left unattended (where all the sediment collects). I recommend holding (and dunking) them into the dye.




PROS: These are essential for Arashi shibori (pole-wrapping shibori). I have found success with all kinds of dowels (PVC pipe, wooden dowels, and metal pipe). If you properly clean them, you can reuse them forever. A big pro for this tool is that you can often use something you already have around your home (a broom handle, pluming remnants, an old curtain rod…you get the picture :) Another pro is that you get dramatically different results depending on the circumference of the dowel.

CONS: Do not use any wooden dowels that have been previously stained, as the stain color can transfer onto your fabric when it gets wet.



Thread has become my favorite tool (although it is more conventional, I still want to address it). You can do amazing things with thread. You can hand stitch patterns with it, hold pleats together, or use it for cinching the cloth. The gauge also makes a huge difference in the resulting pattern.


  • waxed cord: resists dye and never breaks, you can pull this with all your might. Stick to a natural color because the dyed wax cords can transfer color onto your fabric.
  • sewing thread: I prefer the “heavy duty” thread, which is strong and gives great results. As above, stick to a white or natural color to avoid color crocking onto your fabric.
  • waxed dental floss: This is great because it’s cheap, easy to control and knots well. Just remember to use a needle with a larger eye if you decide to sew with this option.


  • embroidery floss: The cotton based version soaks up a lot of dye and I wouldn’t use it again.
  • leather cord: I do not recommend this if it is a tanned or dyed leather due to possible color transfer.
  • clear thread, similar to fishing line: ok, but not great and a little hard to control (a bit slippery / my knots wouldn’t hold).



PROS: I haven’t had any success with this yet, but I am eager to experiment with “furniture wrap”, which was recommended to me.

CONS: With standard kitchen plastic wrap: the harder I pulled, the more it ripped, exposing the cloth underneath. If you do get a nice seal and hold it together (with rubber bands, thread, etc.) the dye still seems to seep in.



This medium is tricky because it must be waterproof & you never want to use a tape that would leave sticky residue on your cloth.


  • I have only had success so far with plumber’s tape (but there isn’t very much to a roll and it can be a bit fussy with folding onto itself).


  • clear packing tape: it will just float away in the dye vat.
  • duct tape: it leaves a sticky residue on your fabric.
  • iron-on hem tape: sounded like a good idea to me…it wasn’t.
  • electrical tape: floats away.


    • floral tape (not sure how it will work).



PROS: These work fairly well to apply pressure on woodblocks or sticks, keeping them from shifting (this would be for Itajime shibori: a shaped-resist technique).  The key is to use more than you think to ensure a tight seal. You can also use them to hold a folded fabric bundle into place without the use of woodblocks. Rubber bands are also great for making small pinches in fabric, creating the classic burst design you often see. Another pro is that they come in so many sizes and thicknesses. I love the different effects you can get just by using a thicker rubber band.

CONS: If you use the same rubber bands over and over again, the indigo can stick to the surface and rub off onto your new fabric. They can also break easily and when they pop, it hurts!



image credits: all from Home Depot, except the threads, which are from Tandy Leather 


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