Appalachian Shibori

Posted by on Mar 20, 2020 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

On January 6th, at 6:30 AM, in the freezing, pitch dark, I found my senior-citizen self on Route 22, driving up Cresson Mountain. My destination was Nanty Glo, a small town, whose name comes from a Welsh phrase meaning “The Ravine of Coal.” The reason for this trip was a SAMA art residency with art teacher, Grace Farabaugh, and her 7th-12th grade students at the Blacklick Valley High School. Upon arriving I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes from Mrs. Farabaugh, her class and this wonderful chalkboard greeting!

As a Teaching Artist, my role is part fiber-art coach and part creativity cheerleader. Mrs. Farabaugh had selected me from the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art’s Artist-in-Residence roster because she was interested in having her students learn shibori techniques and create a number of large fabric artworks to install around the school.

Several times a week for the next two months, I would have the pleasure of guiding art students through the techniques of shibori dyeing (and its American version, tie-dye.) Also I became the in-house quilter, sewing the group projects as students completed them.

The following takes you through the students’ experience.

The term, shibori, is Japanese and literally means to wring, squeeze or press.

Fabric is bound, clamped, stitched or wrapped in specific ways to create unique patterns.

Then it is dyed while bound.

Why blue? While modern shibori is done with lots of colors and different fabrics, traditional Japanese shibori on cotton was mainly done with indigo.

Student samples below.

Wood block clamping.

Folding and assorted metal clamps.

Pole wrapped.

Wrapped and bound around marbles.

Fresh out of the rinse bath. Spider web tying; bound and wrapping around plastic balls.

Some multicolored samples below.

Students also painted on fabric to create various imagery to combine with the dyed fabrics.

Mrs. Farabaugh had a wish list and lots of ideas for 6 large projects to hang around the school building. You can see some of the progress for each one in the photos below.

In this one, dozens of students worked diligently to create 107 flowers and leaf clusters.

These were destined to be combined with the various shibori fabrics also created by the students.

We let several students loose on all the painted flowers/leaves and they came up with a composition very similar to this.

Another class created the sunflowers that would ultimately be arranged on their shibori fabric.

In the closeup below you can see that each flower began as a small tie-dyed circle of fabric that was embellished with fabric paint and fabric collage petals.

Since the Vikings are the school symbol, students also created a shibori and fabric paint banner of a Viking ship.

Not only did the students dye and paint fabric, they also helped with some creative hand sewing/lacing.

This huge banner is attached to canvas and took some maneuvering to sew.

Here it is below, in an earlier stage.

These three shibori banners will be hung together at staggered levels in a stairwell.

Also destined for a stairwell, these huge lantern like cylinders will create a chandelier when hung inside each other.

Thanks again to Mrs. Farabaugh and her wonderful art students. Looking forward to seeing you again some day. I hope all of you enjoyed the creative journey as much as I did.

One day when schools are up and running again, I will follow up this post with photos of these “Appalachian Shibori” artworks as they are installed at Blacklick Valley High School.

In the meantime, stay well my old and new friends!





  1. Rosemary Malone
    March 21, 2020

    So awesome!

    • Sharon Wall
      March 21, 2020

      Thanks Rosemary!

  2. Diane
    March 21, 2020

    Such beautiful pieces. Allowed this old “hippie” to reminisce about the “good old days”!!! Awesome talent.

    • Sharon Wall
      March 21, 2020

      Thanks Diane!

  3. Andrew Wall
    March 21, 2020

    Wow, those are really cool.

    • Sharon Wall
      March 22, 2020

      Thanks Andrew!


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