Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye by Susan Harris


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. 

Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye originally appeared on Garden Rant on February 26, 2016.


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