D Y E I N G T E C H N I Q U E
I T A J I M E
This fascinating physical resist dye technique records a memory of the folds upon the cloth. As layers of dye interact, the edges bleed out in a subtle haze or leave a crisp line, showing the varied characteristics of the fiber and dyes.
The process involves folding the fabric carefully, then placing wood blocks on either side of the folded fabric. Pressure is then put on the blocks by using various methods of binding and clamping. By then immersing the bound fabric into the dye bath, the contrasting background creates a field out of which the luminous resist dyed shapes glow. The mirroring back and forth of the pattern creates a rhythm of pattern.
Itajime is a laborious and physical dye process involving the elements fire and water, and requiring several days to complete the entire process.
In shibori, cloth is bound mechanically through being tied, stitched, compressed, knotted or formed in a myriad of ways. In traditional Japanese itajime, a form of shibori, the fabric is folded and compressed between pairs of rectangular boards secured with cording, usually folded on a triangular grid or square grid. Some other techniques, such as "kyokechi", use carved boards with holes or perforations in them to allow the dye the enter the intricate pattern. These mimic wood block carved prints, but in reverse; light on dark.
There are endless variations on folding and binding cloth to create patterns that are dyed into the structure of the cloth. Ocelot's itajime has innovated within the basic itajime concepts.
extraction of raw dye materials is a connection to the history of dyeing, the smells transport me through time, carrying on a tradition that is thousands of years old. It is one of the most timeless moments in my outdoor studio, where things slow down. I stop by work to notice the busy squirrel, planting trees and munching the nearly ripe fruits. extracting madder root for red to orange shades, above, left, takes about 6 hours of cooking time, with multiple extractions gradually releasing much of the color from the ground roots. and extracting cochineal insects, above right, yields rich passion fruit pinks on silk to deep red on wool.
madder root and redwood raw material dyed this silk organza which takes the colors very deeply, especially because it has the natural sericin, the stiffening waxes which contain proteins. Protein fibers like wool and silk dye more richly with natural dyes, and madder root and cochineal are very light stable and wash fast dyes.
a variation on itajime, using a fern leaf to block the dye on the wood circle, below, dyed with madder root, forming a "print resist".