Making Shibori Napkins

This is a project that I have had my eye on for some time. I absolutely love the results we got from simple techniques using very basic shibori (I didn’t do any sewing at all) to create these unique napkins that would make wonderful gifts or stunning place settings in your own home.

My unique homemade shibori napkins dyed in indigo blue and white

To cut a long story short, this is a project that has literally taken almost 2 years to complete. The reality is that it is not hard at all. Quite the opposite in fact, it is a lot of fun and as you can see from the pictures below, even the children got involved. They LOVED it!

Getting involved with the exciting pattern reveals

So why did it take me so long to complete? Well, before we moved to Antigua, I was working in the town of Sion in Switzerland and I spotted these stunning tie-dye napkins for sale in a shop. I quickly jotted the idea down in my trusty Ideas Notebook that I always carry with me. I didn’t want to buy them – I wanted to go into production!

Then we started the laborious move to Antigua but shortly after arriving here I was reminded of the idea when I found a tie-dye kit in the stationary store and I didn’t hesitate to add it to my shopping basket. I knew that I didn’t want to just tie-dye, but to learn more about Shibori, so I ordered this book by Mandy Southan from Amazon too.

On my next visit home to Ireland I bought 8 beautiful cloth napkins and then set about deciding what patterns to do when we returned to Antigua. Painstakingly I tied chickpeas with loom bands in concentric circles on 3 of the napkins, then the rest of them lay dormant in my crafting drawer until the other day when I decided that I had to FINISH some lingering tasks! For the remaining napkins I did simpler folds, blocks and ties.

Napkins bound with elastic in various patterns – circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, accordion fan.

I mixed the dye according to the packet instructions. I bought indigo blue, but there are so many colours on the market to choose from now that you can go all creative here.

Really you need 2 buckets – one for fresh water to wet the napkins first, then the bucket of dye in which to dip them. Also an area covered with plastic to protect the floor from being covered in whatever colour you chose.

Jacquard Tie Dye kit and Mandy Southan’s wonderful guide to Shibori

Before dipping in the dye, we wet the napkins in clean water. Then just dip in the dye and remove. They came out a greenish colour but within minutes had oxidised to deep blue. I left them for 20 minutes and then dipped again in the dye to get a deeper colour. You can do this up to 3 times, depending on the shade that you want.

The most fun was removing the bands after 20 minutes to reveal the different patterns to lots of oohs and aahs and “that’s my favourite one so far!”.

Triple and double tied chickpeas led to bigger circles

The result was 8 napkins, each with very different patterns, that will make stunning table decorations. I love that some are more blue and some more white, some circular and some are more symmetrical, but each one a piece of art on it’s own.

After washing and ironing, these are the resulting patterns on the napkins.

Wouldn’t they make a wonderful homemade gift too? I saw on another wonderful blog ‘The Design Sponge’ the idea of using vintage napkins too – collect different napkins from your local thrift store and make a fabulous mismatched matching set!

Gift idea – homemade shibori napkins



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