Monday, February 13, 2017

How to Create Bingata - Okinawa Fabric Art

Have you ever heard of bingata? I was first introduced to it when I visited Okinawa, Japan in 2014.  It's different from painting on fabric because you use a stencil to create your design.  A stencil means anyone can learn to create bingata.

Bingata is Okinawa's traditional way of dying fabric using stencils and bright dyes.  This art form has been around for over 500 years and was used by the samurai-class and the royal family in the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

I'm certainly not an expert on the history of this fabric art form, but I do know that I love the bright colors associated with it. It is beautiful! And since I love learning about fabric art, bingata intrigued me from the moment I saw it.

For more information about it's history, go to Shuri Ryusen site. 

During my latest trip to Japan (where my daughter and her family lives), my daughter and I took a class from Bingata Kijimuna which is in Nago on the island of Okinawa.

These are the brushes we used to create our bingata.  Every color of dye needs it's own set of brushes.  The smaller brush is used to add the shadow dye to the fabric and the bamboo brush is used to scrub the shadow color into the fabric. The bamboo brushes were made by the shop owners. Their bristles are short and stubby. They are made from bamboo that grows on this tropical island with bristles that are actually human hair. In the background, you'll notice a darling flower shaped paint pallet. I just love how cute this paint pallet is!

To give bingata a whirl, follow these steps below. You may just love it as much as I did.

  1. Start with your choice of a stencil.  This is the stencil I used. (I'm the older lady in the white shirt.)
  2. Lay the stencil onto pretreated fabric (pretreated fabric just means you've washed the fabric and dried it in a hot drier). Squeegee on rice paste through the stencil onto fabric.
  3. Carefully remove the stencil.
  4. Use a blow drier to completely dry the rice paste.
  5. The dried fabric will look like this.
  6. Get out the fabric dyes and put into small containers or a paint dish. 
  7. Using a small brush for each color, paint the dyes onto the fabric with the brushes by rubbing them into the fabric.
  8. This is my daughter and I working on our projects in the shop. Once your basic colors are brushed onto the fabric, use a blow drier and completely dry them.
  9. The second layer of paint is added next.  These are the shadow colors. Add the shadow colors into selected areas of the design with a smaller brush.  See the chart below to know which shadow colors are used with which basis dyes.  With the bamboo brush, scrub the dyes, feathering the dyes into the main color.
  10. Once finished painting the shadow dyes into the fabric, blow the dyes dry.  Below is a close-up of what the fabric will look like before the rice paste is washed off.

This color chart for creating bingata was made by the shop, Bingata Kijimuna, where we took our lessons. There are only 12 dyes used in bingata. The 12 colors are yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, burgundy, kelly green, sky blue, brown, grey, navy blue and a dark brown. The second column on the chart shows which four shadow colors are used with which main dyes. The only shadow dyes used are red, brown, navy blue and kelly green. (Any thicker fabric dye should work.)

Once your dyes are dry, you must wait at least 48 hours to wash the rice glue off your fabric.  This step is done by putting your fabric in very hot water and letting it sit there for about 4-6 hours.  At the end of that time, some rice glue may need to be scrubbed off.  I simply turned on the hot water and with my fingers scrubbed those areas.

This is my finished bingata design. This design is called "cherry blossoms and running water." To see the variety of traditional designs, go here. There are some beautiful designs to chose from! 

My daughter painted her design onto a tote bag. This design is called "cherry blossoms."

The owners and artists, of Bingata Kijimuna are shown on the left.  They were friendly, warm and very helpful in teaching us how to create Bingata.  My daughter and I both loved our class! If you live near, or visit Okinawa, go take a class. If you love fabric art, be brave and gather the supplies to experience this fun, traditional art form.  xoxo Grandma

For Supplies go here:

For more information on bingata see these books:


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