Garden Flags with Shibori and Permanent Dye



The last time I posted about making garden flags you saw them dyed with Rit and then stenciled with acrylic paints. All 66 flags of them will hang in my front yard and screen my view of a parking lot.

There’s another screening problem in my back yard, and this time I used tie-dye and other Shibori techniques of binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing cloth that have been used since the 8th Century in Japan. Those techniques gave me the 42 flags above.


Honestly, tie-dye never appealed to me, and I didn’t think the multi-color, psychedelic look would appeal much to my neighbors, either. But it turns out more subtle effects are possible.

That’s what I learned by watching at least a dozen videos that taught me to create the rectangles, starburst, fan and stripes that created the flags above.  I learned by watching these fold-technique videos, and these, too. Basic stripes are shown here.  Here‘s one about why use fiber-reactive like Procion, rather than Rit. I used squeeze bottles.and loved them. Using the cold-water Procion dyes makes it easier than Rit, too.

No wonder tie-dying is such a hit with two groups not known for their precision crafting – kids and stoners.

And these days we have Youtube, which is made for teaching this stuff! Howcast has 30 videos on how to tie-dye alone and they do the job.


Here’s a batch of flags all folded, tied up and ready for dyeing. On the right is an even easier technique – just scrunching a flag up in a cup, squirting some color onto it and using another cup to weight it down so it’ll stay like that for the requisite 12-24 hours. You can use a second color if you like.


To choose the colors, I made this collage of the colors in the garden and included samples of the colors I had already bought. I decided to try adding some burnt orange to complement the dragon, and chartreuse for some of the plants.


Ultimately I had 6 Procion dyes from Dharma Trading in these colors: Kingfisher and Saffire Blue, Orchid, Teal, Watermelon, and Chartreuse. Then I mixed each with each of the others, roughly half and half, and got these results. I like almost all of them, and mixing colors is soooo much fun.

With the sewing all done and the temperatures rising, it’s time to have have the flags hung in the garden, so those promised photos are coming soon. You’ll also see the 2 x 4′ wall hanging I made for next to my front door. The fabric cost just 3 bucks, so why not? Though who knows how long this thin fabric lasts out in the elements.


Now that I’m hooked on fabric-dyeing, I’m dreaming up projects for indoors, too, like something to cover up the easy chair in my bedroom. The upholstery is hideous, and I’ve bought two Batik bedspreads to cover it, both of which looked horrible in the room. (The choosing-colors-over-the-Internet problem we all know too well.)

So I bought a couple of yards of wide muslin for about $15 and tied it up in a big swirl, then dyed it on a rack over the sink. More projects are already on the horizon. Maybe a scarf-dyeing party this summer. Blank scarves, like blank T-shirts, are cheap.

You may be thinking by now that I’ve veered hopelessly off-topic but I disagree! This all started in the garden. And when an an avid gardener like me is kept indoors for weeks on end, dyeing fabrics turns out to be a great substitute.  It’s creative, tactile (muslin feels fabulous), and as colorful as you want, using only your favorite colors. 


  1. Hmm…now you have me thinking. I have a neighbor with a flood light in their backyard that blinds me every time I go to the back door or want to sit on my patio at night I’ve put up a bat house on a tall pole to help block the light, but haven’t been satisfied with the way it looks. And if you move over a foot or so, the light is in your eyes again. Flags might be just the answer to blocking (filtering?) the light over a bigger area and then I could move the bat house to a more bat friendly location. Thank you for the idea!

  2. Join us, join us… join us who are addicted to dyeing.

    By the way, I compared the blank fabric offered by Dharma Trading, Pro Chemical Dye and Jacquard. I found the last one had the most variety (I bought a sampler and spent a morning stroking the 3″ by 3″ silk and cottons squares).

    Otherwise I shop for sales and sometimes check out yard sales. I have picked up plain white cotton sheets at a school’s rummage sale. Also I had a neighbor who was an interior decorator who had the best yard sales. I scored 25 yards of white Indian silk for $20 at the yard sale she had before moving away. I just finished a big project of creating five shirts and three jackets. The shirts were dyed solid colors, and the three jackets were ombre dyed with two colors. The dye cost me more than the fabric.

    Something I did make to cover a bedroom doorway are sheer polyester panels of various colors. I want to overlap them to layer the colors to see color changes as they catch the breeze. I have not hung them yet since I am still shoveling out the stuff left by two kids who have moved out. I hope to use some of the panels to block the view of a neighbor’s garage.

      • The polyester was chosen solely on cost. I bought at least a couple of yards in about six to seven colors. The advantage was that I could get it in several jewel tones without breaking the bank.

        And trust me, you do not want to dye it. My daughter used the iDye for polyester which requires boiling water and stinks to high heaven. Also the color came out wrong (it was for a costume). It was because of her we tried onion dyeing, which also left an odor in the house for several days.

        Cotton will fade and deteriorate in direct sun (silk is worse). There are cottons that are treated/coated for sun fastness (one is called “Sunforger”, but you can’t dye it), plus several other somewhat pricey non-cotton fabrics for awnings, shade sails and outdoor upholstery.

        So polyester may have an advantage in lasting longer. But it is difficult and stinky to dye, and where is the fun in that? Though the fading and shredding in cotton flags can be part of a changing garden, which varies by season and time. Then you have an excuse to make more.

        Yikes! I just checked an online fabric store and the least expensive Sunbrella costs twice as much as Sunforger. (I am actually looking for a solution to the south facing deck and how it is unusable for most hours of the day during summer, and am aiming for longevity for the shade, since a previous cotton canvas shade fell apart)

  3. Wow, this is an amazing amalgamation of two of my addictions…gardening and fabric. What are you doing to me Susan? I have a box of fabric dye I bought over a year ago but I have yet to try it cuz I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Pretty sure I know now.

  4. I never thought I’d want to tie dye anything but you’ve changed my mind. I love the idea of the prayer flags, whether to block a view or simply for the pleasure of seeing them blow in the wind. Really look forward to seeing the photos of the finished project.

  5. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE post pictures soon! i have been dabbling in fabric dying from flowers and random leaves, etc from the garden and forest. i love this project idea and currently all i can do is a little weeding here because it’s still too cold to do much else…

    thank you for sharing!

  6. Wow, these are so creative and colourful! Never really seen something even close to these before. Would love to see the way they look in a garden. I can think of many ways these flags would improve the appearance of a somewhat large and dull garden landscape.

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