Rachel Switzer’s enticing color and patterns
After several years of taking classes, studying books and experimenting with Shibori techniques, I opened my Etsy shop, ‘Cape Cod Shibori’ in 2013. My attraction to this method of putting pattern and color on cloth, was immediate. Color and pattern have always enticed me, and I’ve been using cloth and fiber to express this since I was a teenager. I dabbled in embroidery, sewing, weaving and macram.
I made my first patchwork quilt while working in a fabric store during high school. I like selecting and combining patterns. I can spend hours arranging and rearranging cut pieces, juxtaposing scale, print, and color before assembling them into a whole.
The design process with all its possibility, is my favorite part.
I also like using needle and thread. I admire how the stitches appear lined up on cloth. In Japan there is a day to honor needles and I can understand this. The needle is the simplest of tools, but can accomplish so much. I stitched my first quilt entirely by hand. I wasn’t in a rush to have a completed blanket, rather it was the doing that I enjoyed most. Now I piece on a machine, (another awe-inspiring gadget) but finish with hand quilting. I’m continually looking for new textile skills to explore and right now, I have my eye on learning Sashiko.
My journey with Shibori began when I saw some silk scarves in a craft shop. Immediately, I knew I had to try this technique. It wasn’t the luxury of silk, or the desire to wear nice accessories. I’m no fashionista. I wanted to put pattern onto cloth.
My favorite Shibori pattern is the traditional design called ‘White Shadow’. It is made by first hand stitching a grid on fabric. Then all the stitching is pulled tight. It is this compression of fabric upon fabric, which creates the resist, or areas the dye cannot penetrate. After adding color by way of the dye bath, all the stitches are removed. It is always exciting to unveil the finished, one of a kind piece and reveal the nuanced markings. To me, the beauty of this pattern is unrivaled. It remains my favorite.
From ‘White Shadow’ I moved onto other hand-stitched patterns, then to pole wrapped (Arashi) and folded (Itajime) designs. With Arashi, fabric is wrapped, bound or compressed around a pole in a myriad of ways. Traditionally, the pole was a length of bamboo, but I use PVC. For Itajime, fabric is folded, most often in geometric shapes, and clamped before dyeing. Sometimes I emulate traditional patterns, but I also experiment with more playful and inventive designs. The possibilities for variation and originality are limitless. I don’t see tiring of this technique and sloshing around in dye buckets anytime soon.
Primarily, I dye unfinished cotton for quilters, sewists and crafters, but I also put Shibori patterns on salvaged denim for customers’ Boro projects. And since there’s nothing more beautiful than indigo on linen, I return tothat fiber periodically. It’s hugely satisfying to provide other creative people with quality supplies.