All over the world, where people dye with indigo, they tend to take a small round object, put it in the fabric, gather it up, and tie it. The object could be a bean, a cowrie shell, a seed. Here I’ve used dried black beans and tiny rubber bands.

I took the supplies with me on our recent camping trip, as a kind of handwork project. I don’t do hand sewing and I don’t knit, so small, portable projects are always a challenge for me.

I got my kids to help! They each took an end, and inserted beans and rubber banded them, but lost interest after about three rows. It is tedious, I don’t blame them.

Shibori in progress with black beans and rubber bands

Shibori in progress on bandana, with black beans and rubber bands.

I didn’t want to finish the task of covering the entire surface with little beans, so I folded it in half and then in the center area, placed beans and rubber bands through both layers. That’s why the center portion of the bandana has a mirrored look to it.

The completed tie-up and post-dyeing are in the photo at the top of this post. Will I do this technique again? I doubt it! I tied or folded and clamped 25 other pieces of fabric, dyed them, let them sit, then rinsed and opened them up and I swear it took as long to de-bean this one as it did to open up all the rest of them!

I set up a bucket and, holding the fabric taut, pushed out the soggy beans. The skins came off the beans, and little naked beans, their skins, and the rubber bands shot everywhere in the bucket! It took a really long time! I think there are clever Japanese ways to do these things, where you use a thread and then tie it in a way that you can untie it and then unloop all the loops. I can imagine there’s an easier way to do this than flinging beans into a bucket.