Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye

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The last time I posted about making garden flags you saw them dyed with Rit and then stenciled with acrylic paints. All 66 flags of them will hang in my front yard and screen my view of a parking lot.

There’s another screening problem in my back yard, and this time I used tie-dye and other Shibori techniques of binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing cloth that have been used since the 8th Century in Japan. Those techniques gave me the 42 flags above.

Honestly, tie-dye never appealed to me, and I didn’t think the multi-color, psychedelic look would appeal much to my neighbors, either. But it turns out more subtle effects are possible.

That’s what I learned by watching at least a dozen videos that taught me to create the rectangles, starburst, fan and stripes that created the flags above.  I learned by watching these fold-technique videos, and these, too. Basic stripes are shown here.  Here‘s one about why use fiber-reactive like Procion, rather than Rit. I used squeeze bottles.and loved them. Using the cold-water Procion dyes makes it easier than Rit, too.

No wonder tie-dying is such a hit with two groups not known for their precision crafting – kids and stoners.

And these days we have Youtube, which is made for teaching this stuff! Howcast has 30 videos on how to tie-dye alone and they do the job.

Here’s a batch of flags all folded, tied up and ready for dyeing. On the right is an even easier technique – just scrunching a flag up in a cup, squirting some color onto it and using another cup to weight it down so it’ll stay like that for the requisite 12-24 hours. You can use a second color if you like.

To choose the colors, I made this collage of the colors in the garden and included samples of the colors I had already bought. I decided to try adding some burnt orange to complement the dragon, and chartreuse for some of the plants.

Ultimately I had 6 Procion dyes from Dharma Trading in these colors: Kingfisher and Saffire Blue, Orchid, Teal, Watermelon, and Chartreuse. Then I mixed each with each of the others, roughly half and half, and got these results. I like almost all of them, and mixing colors is soooo much fun.

With the sewing all done and the temperatures rising, it’s time to have have the flags hung in the garden, so those promised photos are coming soon. You’ll also see the 2 x 4′ wall hanging I made for next to my front door. The fabric cost just 3 bucks, so why not? Though who knows how long this thin fabric lasts out in the elements.

Now that I’m hooked on fabric-dyeing, I’m dreaming up projects for indoors, too, like something to cover up the easy chair in my bedroom. The upholstery is hideous, and I’ve bought two Batik bedspreads to cover it, both of which looked horrible in the room. (The choosing-colors-over-the-Internet problem we all know too well.)

So I bought a couple of yards of wide muslin for about $15 and tied it up in a big swirl, then dyed it on a rack over the sink. More projects are already on the horizon. Maybe a scarf-dyeing party this summer. Blank scarves, like blank T-shirts, are cheap.

You may be thinking by now that I’ve veered hopelessly off-topic but I disagree! This all started in the garden. And when an an avid gardener like me is kept indoors for weeks on end, dyeing fabrics turns out to be a great substitute.  It’s creative, tactile (muslin feels fabulous), and as colorful as you want, using only your favorite colors. 

Posted by

Susan Harris
on February 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.

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Shut Up And Dig


  • Hmm…now you have me thinking. I have a neighbor with a flood light in their backyard that blinds me every time I go to the back door or want to sit on my patio at night I’ve put up a bat house on a tall pole to help block the light, but haven’t been satisfied with the way it looks. And if you move over a foot or so, the light is in your eyes again. Flags might be just the answer to blocking (filtering?) the light over a bigger area and then I could move the bat house to a more bat friendly location. Thank you for the idea!

    Margo 1st January 1970 4:00 am
  • Join us, join us… join us who are addicted to dyeing.

    Chris 30th January 1981 10:16 pm
  • Nice to meet another addict! I’ll check out Jacquard fabrics, and have a question – what’s the advantage of Polyester? And does it work with Procion dyes?

    admin 14th September 2012 1:59 pm
  • The polyester was chosen solely on cost. I bought at least a couple of yards in about six to seven colors. The advantage was that I could get it in several jewel tones without breaking the bank.

    Chris 20th May 2016 5:31 am
  • Wow, this is an amazing amalgamation of two of my addictions…gardening and fabric. What are you doing to me Susan? I have a box of fabric dye I bought over a year ago but I have yet to try it cuz I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Pretty sure I know now.

    Mary 7th May 2017 6:56 pm
  • It’s going to be interesting to watch the difference between the procion and rit dyes outside.

    skr 15th May 2017 11:46 am
  • PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post pictures soon! i have been dabbling in fabric dying from flowers and random leaves, etc from the garden and forest. i love this project idea and currently all i can do is a little weeding here because it’s still too cold to do much else…

    a s 22nd June 2017 5:20 pm

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