Make Your Own Shibori Kitchen Towels 

I’m usually drawn to neutrals and blush tones when it comes to textiles, but I’m also an avid cook and generally sort of messy person. When I make messes, it’s my poor light colored towels that bear the brunt of my spilled spaghetti sauce and red wine. So in the interest of ruining fewer pretty towels, I decided it was time for some darker ones. Enter shibori! These kitchen towels were so much easier to dye than I thought they’d be, and, come on, those deep indigo tones are too dreamy! I just might have a new favorite color.

a shibori dye kit
-a dye vat or 5-gallon bucket
cotton towels, washed to remove any chemicals
-a spoon or stick for stirring (It won’t be food safe once it’s been in the dye!)
-a variety of rubber bands, wood squares, clothespins, plastic tubing for binding
synthapol detergent
-a tarp or plastic sheeting (optional, if you don’t have a lawn to work on)

Start by filling the vat with warm water and wetting the towels—this helps them absorb the dye. Wring them out and set aside. Prepare the dye according to the directions that come with your shibori kit (I recommend using the dye kit linked above—everything was clearly labeled and very easy to mix). Take care not to stir the vat too much, and always keep it covered when you’re not mixing or dyeing!The dye needs to sit for 20-30 minutes before it’s ready to use, giving you time to bind your towels. Binding is how patterns are created—any space left exposed will be dyed, while anything you cover up stays white. I created the pattern above by randomly attaching clothespins to a towel, which created cute little pairs of squares. Learn from my mistake and only use new or completely dry clothespins! When I tried to recreate this pattern with still-wet pins, I ended up with squares that were less defined.Here I used thick rubber bands to create irregular circles. Making the rubber bands as tight as possible prevents bleeding into the white areas.

I folded this one like an accordion and added grouped clothespins. If I were to do this one again, I’d fold a skinnier accordion for more pattern on the towel! The inside of the towel didn’t get as much dye as the outside, so I’m recommending that if you make a lot of folds, leave the towel in the vat a few extra minutes.Here, I wrapped a towel diagonally around a plastic tube, then wrapped string tightly around the whole thing. It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, but still created a cool pattern!I love how this one turned out! I used some plastic packaging that was laying around to create a big circle design. I tightly rubber banded over the plastic and the inside stayed completely white. And now onto the actual dyeing part…When the dye is ready to use, begin dipping the towels—this vat was large enough to fit a couple towels at once. If the towels float, use a gloved hand to keep them submerged for 2-4 minutes. When you remove the towels from the vat, squeeze out excess dye and lay on the tarp or grass. They look green at first, but will start to turn a deep indigo shade within a couple minutes. That’s oxidization at work! Let the towels oxidize for at least 20 minutes before unbinding or dyeing again.

When wet, the towels are a very deep indigo color that lightens significantly when dry. You can dye the towels a second or third time if you want a darker blue. I just dipped my towels once and was happy with their medium-dark shade. Once you’re done dyeing and oxidizing, remove your binding materials and hang the towels on a line or lay them out flat to dry completely. Rinse the towels in cold water, and then launder with synthapol following the directions on the bottle to keep the indigo from bleeding when the towels get wet.I absolutely love how my towels turned out! They add a lovely pop of color to my kitchen, and, most importantly, stains don’t show on the indigo! So they’ll look brand new for a long time no matter how much stuff I spill while cooking. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to try shibori dyeing. Using a kit made the whole process super easy! If you give this tutorial a try, show me your shibori with #AMBcrafty. xo, Kayleigh

Credits // Author and Photography: Kayleigh Kosmas. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess presets for Lightroom.

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