Itajime Shibori - A japanese art of resist dyeing Itajime Shibori - A japanese art of resist dyeing – RESHA

Itajime Shibori - A japanese art of resist dyeing

Author - Divyashree Thacker

Itajime Shibori - A japanese art of resist dyeing

Textiles have always played an important role in Japanese culture and traditions for many centuries. Apart from being used for making traditional outfits and garments it is also and furnishings and other art and craft related items. Textiles in Japan have been granted higher value through religion and mythology, endowed with medicinal properties through dyes, used as a canvas for visually representing stories and symbols, and seen as a focal point of sumptuary laws governing distinctions between social classes

The study of Japanese textiles and the techniques used to decorate them gives keen insight into a past rich with history and culture.

Numerous techniques have been employed to adorn Japanese textiles, including embroidery, weaving, and resist-dyeing. The oldest extant Japanese textiles show various weave structures and resist dyeing as methods of decoration.


women in Shibori saree


Resist dyeing, the application of a resist material to cloth in areas where dye should not reach the textile, encompasses a number of different processes, each using a different material as the resist. Shibori uses tied cord or stitched thread to bind areas prior to dyeing. In rokechi, cloth is patterned with wax before dyeing, the wax being removed after the dye is applied.

model wearing shibori saree from Resha Model wearing shibori pink saree


Katazome uses paste much like wax is used in rokechi, but in katazome, the paste is applied using stencils. Katazome textiles are most often dip-dyed to add color. Yuzen also uses paste as the 2 resist medium, applied either through stencils or with a cone-shaped tube, but rather than being dip-dyed, yuzen fabrics are given color by the application of dye with small brushes. The kasuri process involves binding and dyeing yarn in certain areas prior to weaving the textile. This research focuses on the resist dyeing technique of itajime, a process that employs wooden boards as the resist material.


Itajime is a little-known Japanese technique of resist-dyeing textiles that utilizes sets of wooden boards carved in mirror image of one another to clamp together a piece of folded fabric.

It is also known as the technique of creating negative spaces in the dye. The boards and fabric may either be immersed in a dye liquor, or dye may be poured over stacks of boards and fabric. Either way, the dye reaches the fabric through holes and intricate channels carved in the board. The resulting fabric is usually dichromatic: a white design on a solid, most often red, ground. The motifs retain the color of the undyed cloth while the background takes on the color of the dye.

Creating different folds and sandwiching them between different shapes can create hundreds of different patterns.

Itajime was often used to decorate Japanese women’s underkimono (juban). Itajime-dyed garments, use motifs to decorate the garments. The motifs appearing on the itajime-dyed garments were and still are most often botanical, animal/bird/insect motifs, water-related motifs, everyday object motifs, and geometric designs and abstract shapes.