Itajime – Patterns on Japanese Paper
In May, shortly after my birthday, I had the opportunity to learn Itajime Zome (or Itajime Shibori). An art teacher from a Japanese middle school wanted to show me this dyeing technique and invited me into his classroom.
In this blog post, I want to show you how to imitate the technique quite simply. As you splash about a lot with water, a spot in the garden or park is good for it. Itajime is also great for children’s parties and hot summer days.
Find a place where it is okay if some water or ink got off the mark, so there are no unpleasant surprises at the end. You should also wear an apron and/or old clothes. Prepare some water in a bowl and then you can start.
Below you will find instructions on different folding techniques and patterns. You can follow these, or create your own patterns. Do not be disappointed if a pattern does not turn out the way you had imagined. They are always very different and each has its own character.
If you want to print a summary paper of all steps, you can download it here (it is written in Japanese, but based on the images you can tell the procedure even without language skills):
Step by Step
1. Fold the washi paper until the complete sheet is folded.
2. Dip the paper under water until it is completely soaked.
3. Press the surplus water out of the paper by placing it between the two boards and pressing hard.
4. Colour the paper with ink. Make sure that both sides and the edges are coloured to get a uniform pattern later. Sometimes it is better to use a little more ink than not enough.
5. Press the excess fluid out the paper again.
6. Unfold it carefully so that it does not tear. After the paper has dried, you can iron it smoothly.
Patterns and folding techniques
The snail is a very interesting pattern. First you roll in the paper like a snail shell. Then you put on the ink in stripes all around the “snail shell”.
Just like with fabric, you can do “Shibori Zome” with washi. How this works, I have described here.
Avoid these mistakes:
You can use your finished artwork for anything. For example, Japanese elementary school students made fans from it. Of course, you can also glue it on other objects. Make sure that if your ink is water-soluble, it will not dissolve in the adhesive.
Here I have cut off a few “unpleasant” spots. The edges are usually a little messy, though still very pretty as paper strips. I can use these, for example, to decorate letters.