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Potential for creating designs in textiles can be seen even in the physical properties of cloth. The simple fact that cloth tightly compressed into wrinkles or folds resists the penetration of dye is an opportunity—an opportunity to let the pliancy of textiles speak in making designs and patterns.
People around the world have recognized this opportunity, producing resist designs in textiles by shaping and then securing cloth in various ways before dyeing. Yet in no other country has the creative potential of this basic principle been understood and applied as it has in Japan. Here, in fact, it has been expanded into a whole family of traditional resist techniques, involving first shaping the cloth by plucking, pinching, twisting, stitching, folding, pleating, and wrapping it, and then securing the shapes thus made by binding, looping, knotting, clamping, and the like. This entire family of techniques is called shibori.
Designs created with shibori processes all share a softness of outline and spontaneity of effect. Spontaneity is shibori’s special magic, made possible by exploiting the beauty of the fortuitous things that happen when dye enters shaped cloth.