The art of shibori with MiH Jeans

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I can’t say I’d ever get bored of the plain white shirt, but if I did, I know how I’d switch it up. Thanks to the team at MiH Jeans, I got the chance to try my hand at shibori, the ancient Japanese art of folding, pleating and twisting fabric to achieve mind boggling effects with indigo dye. Our teacher was the patient and all-round wonderful Niki Livingston, an artist who experiments with shibori from her studio in Los Angeles. MiH’s Chloe Lonsdale discovered Niki’s work by chance and on making contact found that Niki was already a fan and customer of the MiH denim brand. Duh, of course she was!

Our workshop took place in the beautifully-lit MiH daylight studio where everything had been perfectly styled and we (completely unintentionally) coordinated with our various blue denims, Bretons and chambray outfits. We donned special aprons, scoffed cake off blue-painted china and got down and dirty with the dye.

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Shibori works by strategically folding, stitching, twisting etc to create orderly or not-so-orderly patterns on your cotton shirt (or napkin or curtain…). We were shown how to fold in neat accordion pleats and use clips and pegs to hold the fabric in place. I went for an arrangement that left the top half of my shirt blue, with all the interest below the waist. The excitement comes from not knowing quite how your experiment will turn out until the big reveal.

The fun (and messy) bit involves carefully rinsing, then lowering the virgin white shirt into a vat of indigo dye without disturbing the concoction too much. Where the fabric is folded, the shirt should remain white with the dye taking – hopefully consistently – in the exposed areas. After a few minutes, your still-clipped shirt is squeezed out while quickly emerging from the dye and into a rinsing tub, the idea is not to let the air get into the dye tub as that will oxidise and weaken the solution. With more time you can repeat the process a few times to get the most intense shade of blue. Once rinsed, the shirts are dried on a washing line, with clips still intact. Oh the suspense! More chat, more cake and then it’s time for the moment of truth…

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And there she is above! My half-blue-half-patterned shirt is third from the right and I’m pretty thrilled with the result. There’s definitely something to be said for doing it yourself, although having an expert to hand does ease the process. My shirt is absolutely perfect for summer – loose, breezy and a beautifully sunny cobalt blue. And if you don’t fancy the DIY option, MiH has an exclusive, hand-dyed selection that Niki prepared earlier (top pic). Head this way to find them online.