The Colorful World of Shibori

Purple shibori silk cuff

I’ve been waiting for one of those aha moments to create an incredibly clever blog post that will amaze and entertain. I’ll lower those standards a bit and just pass along some great information on working with shibori silk.

When I teach, I like to bring along some of my pieces to help inspire and provide some great visuals of alternate techniques. One of the most popular pieces is the shibori cuff. You can’t beat the array of color on each piece silk and the slightly intimidating options it presents when it comes to picking bead colors. To help answer a few questions and hopefully get you fellow beaders started, I’ll pass along a few tips for working with shibori silk.

Start your shibori project with a piece of non-woven material. Lacy’s Stiff Stuff or Pellon 70 (stitchable interfacing) are the usual choices for this. Either option can be dyed or colored to tone down the bright white color of the material. Check out my blog on dying non-woven material (

Rounding up all my options

Silk is incredibly versatile. You can twist, tie, and bunch it up to add interest. When working with it, take care not to snag it. Once you decide how you want the silk to lay, tack it down with small stitches along the edges of the silk. Even though the stitches will eventually get covered with beads, it still helps to keep them small.

You can easily add a focal piece on top of the silk and create a beaded bezel. Instead of using glue to secure the focal piece, I use a strong double-sided tape to hold it in place as I stitch around it. You can also skip the focal and simply add rows of beads along the edges of shibori and in the creases.

Tacking down the edges of silk

Finish off your embroidered piece as you would another other, add ultra-suede to the back, stitch the beaded edge and add a clasp. Skip on over to my Quick Tips page for a little help with the edging stitch.The most intriguing thing about shibori is the color; it can vary from piece to piece and can present lots of options when it comes to picking complimentary beads. Let the fabric do the talking, maybe stick with one color and vary the bead finishes, sizes and tones. If you’re feeling adventurous, add that second surprise color and see what happens.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take a class to learn this technique. Check out your local bead shops and maybe a bead show to see what kind of class offerings there are.  In the meantime, start experimenting and see what happens.