Episode #22: Woven Shibori, an Interview with Catharine Ellis

Back in March, I visited The Oriole Mill in North Carolina, where I recorded a couple episodes with Bethanne Knudson, co-founder of The Oriole Mill, and Libby O’Bryan, owner of the Western Carolina Sewing Company. While Libby and I were chatting, I spotted a blouse Libby had made from the most fantastic dyed fabric. I could tell the design was shibori—Japanese tie-dye—but I couldn’t figure out how the perfectly pleated design had been made. Here’s a picture:

See what I mean?

Catharine working at a Jacquard loom in The Oriole Mill

The fabric was designed my Catharine Ellis, who I hadn’t heard of before, but is very well known in weaving circles for her woven shibori technique. Back in the early ’90’s, Catharine—a trained weaver—had a Eureka moment when she realized she could actually weave resist stitches into cloth. The stitches are simply supplemental warp and weft threads used to gather the cloth before dyeing. The results are really beautiful, and totally unique. Now Catharine designs fabric on the massive Jacquard looms at The Oriole Mill, and sells scarf-sized pieces through Cloth Roads (a very cool business, btw, that works with indigenous textile artists from around the world).

Here are a few other examples of her work, all dyed with natural dyes. It makes me want to get a little loom to try this, even though I have absolutely zero space for another hobby! The green scarf was dyed with a combination of woad (blue) and weld (yellow) on cotton.

Catharine is a sought-after teacher and literally wrote the book on woven shibori, Woven Shibori. Happily, she made some room in her busy teaching schedule to chat. Beyond shibori, we discussed ikat weaving and the organic indigo batch Catharine tends at her home in North Carolina.

If you’re into natural dyes, make sure to catch episode #2 on growing your own dye garden and episode #8 with lovely color master Audrey Louise Reynolds.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Textile Arts Center

Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada

Memory on Cloth: Shibori Nowby Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada

Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing, by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellog Rice, and Jane Barton

Michel Garcia

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*Outro music: “Little Wooden Church,” by The Trumpeteers

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