A Shibori Quilt


Since the beginning of this year I've been experimenting with shibori, a style of resist dyeing with indigo which originates in Japan. It is a really rewarding way of working with fabric, with some really fascinating results. 

My mom was participating in a quilting retreat while I was visiting and it was hard to resist all the quilting activity going on around me, so I decided to join in and attempt a shibori based quilt. My quilting skills are sketchy to say the least - I've made two very basic patchwork quilts in the last few years, both of which I guessed my way through - so I really needed a lot of guidance with this one. 

First, the Dyeing

I thought I would go with one type of dye technique for the whole quilt. I didn't want it to look too 'bitty'. I tried two techniques as a test first - arashi, and honeycomb. The honeycomb technique involves rolling lengths of fabric around rope and stitching it closed, and then pulling the rope into tight knotted circles. The fabric scrunches up around the rope and allows for a scalloped type of pattern to emerge once dyed.

Arashi (meaning storm) is formed by wrapping fabric around a cylindrical object (like a pipe, broom handle, or in my case, a long plastic water bottle). You wrap string around the length of the cylinder and then push the fabric as close together as possible, after which you submerge it in the dye bath.

Arashi dyed fabric

Arashi dyed fabric


Although the arashi looked pretty good (I thought), I decided to use the honeycomb for my quilt. I also dyed a batch of off-white percale cotton in solid blue to use for the contrasting quilt pieces as well as the edging. 

Then Pinterest

I still hadn't decided at this point what kind of quilt I wanted to make. I knew that as a total newbie quilter I didn't want to try anything too detailed or advanced. Of course, I needed to start a Pinterest board before I could go any further, to try to get some sort of idea of what pattern to follow. (This was so inspiring, I'll have to write a whole other blog post about it.)  

I decided to go with something strongly geometric, based around triangles of shibori-dyed fabric, plain blue and a contrasting colour. I sketched out a pattern on paper, with measurements for a 3/4 sized quilt and did all the sums. Quilters tend to work in inches rather than centimetres, and I must confess I found it so confusing that I just decided to stick with what I knew. Shhh, don't tell the quilters' guild.

Cut, Prep & Iron

Once the fabric was dyed, rinsed and dried there was a lot of exact measuring, cutting, stitching and ironing to be done. Quilting is unrelentingly precise. Everything needs to be measured, measured, measured again, and then cut exactly otherwise you'll end up with a non-symmetrical finished product. 

Once all the pieces (92 triangles in total, sewn into 46 squares) were done, it was time to lay out the pattern and check that I was happy with how it was going to look. This is a good time to rearrange things, look at your quilt from different angles, and make any final adjustments. I then pinned rows of squares together and marked them in order for sewing. 

The Sewing Stage

There is so much sewing to be done at this stage - each piece need to be sewn to the next, in rows or columns, and then all those pieces added together. More ironing and then it was time to 'baste' the quilt. This is when you lay out your backing, batting (the middle puffy layer), and front, pin it all together in preparation for the quilting. I decided to dye a white paisley cotton print in a matching blue for the backing.

The Home Stretch

Many many many hours, pins, stitches, threads, and cups of tea later a semblance of a quilt started coming together. Nobody warned me how absolutely demanding this would be - and how absorbing! I found myself unable to put it down even though working with it at times felt like less like a creative endeavor and more of a battle - me vs the quilt.

Working on this opened my eyes to: the incredible work of so many dedicated and experienced quilters around the world; the modern quilting movement; the Australian quilting scene; the rich history of quilting; and the hard work and hours that go into this beautiful art form.

Go quilters!

Thanks to my mom for her patience in helping this rather perfectionist beginner quilter, and Vereker for her helpful instruction.

Are you a quilter? Have you ever tried it? Who inspires you?