DIY shibori-inspired throw pillows, with a Sharpie!

Today’s DIY brought to you by the Easy-Way-Out Association of America.

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Because seriously, folks, this is something you can do with zero artistic talent and with stuff that you probably have laying around the house. 

Here’s a little ditty about my brush with this project a while ago. It all started with my obsession for shibori. Dating back to the 8th century in Japan, Shibori is a tie dye process that involves twisting, stitching, folding, compressing, and clipping cloth before dipping it into dye. It is gorgeous and since I love all things Japanese-design related, I attempted to do gorgeous myself but to no avail. It wasn’t BAD, but it wasn’t good either. You can see for yourselves.

photo 1  photo 2

It’s pretty tricky as you don’t have full control over how the pattern turns out. Because they didn’t live up to my high expectations, I abandoned the project.

Determined to compensate for my project fail, I attempted to take on something similar but in a much less complicated and messy manner.

Let’s do this!

You will need:

photo 1 (5)

  • A black Sharpie (when diluted, it becomes indigo/deep purple which is perfect)
  • White throw pillow case cover (I bought mine from Ikea for $4 – they’re Gurli; I made them Gurlier)
  • Rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover
  • Q-tips
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • A tolerance for Sharpie odor

My first was a geometric design created by drawing straight lines over and over again. I started with a pencil before using the sharpie. Once I was happy with the design, I drew over the pencil tracing with my Sharpie. Make sure you insert a plastic sheet into the pillow case to prevent bleed to the other side. Don’t forget to open your windows or you’ll be experiencing a Sharpie high for a good day or so.

photo 4 (5)  photo 5 (4)  photo 1 (6)  photo 3 (7)

Here comes the fun! I dipped my Q-tip into the rubbing alcohol and dabbed the Sharpie lines I just created.

photo 4 (6)  photo 5 (5)  photo 2 (7)ccphoto 1 (7)


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I created a couple more using my imagination with pattern.

photo 1 (9)  photo 4 (7)

The chevron design is nothing new, but it turned out to be my favorite.

photo 2 (9)

Seriously? No mess, and easier than Brittany after a night of partying.

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No dyeing, no crying.

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And best of all, no long wait time.

The possibilities are endless and you can’t really F it up. What I found was that I needed to go over the pattern twice with my Sharpie to create a darker effect. Using more rubbing alcohol will result in more bleed, which fades the color considerably. But I love how these turned out.

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Please keep this from shibori purists. It will be our dirty little DIY secret.

(Pssssst…Mother’s Day is coming up…you know…maybe…whadaya say?)


May 13, 2015

A little note to my readers: Apartment Therapy was kind enough to feature this project on their reader tutorials for which I am grateful. A few of the comments that the article received seemingly came from artists and crafters who don’t appreciate my spreading the word on taking a short cut and accuse me of copying and being uncreative. I appreciate their commitment to their art and never intended any disrespect for the ancient method of Shibori. I’ve studied oil painting and have been knitting, sewing, and weaving since I was 10 (and I’ve approached the 4th decade, so I’m probably much older than many of you). I believe creativity exists in many forms and I respect those that choose to set their own direction. I also believe that part of the intent of art is to inspire, no matter how “badly” or “poorly” others perceive it to be. As Kurt Vonnegut said:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Peace and love,






11 thoughts on “DIY shibori-inspired throw pillows, with a Sharpie!

  1. Of course it didn’t turn out like you had hoped. Mastering Shibori is a lifetime process. The pillows are cute… I encourage you to continue to try to work with Shibori dying technique. It’s an ancient art form, and deserves the time it takes to do it well.

    • Thanks Reb! I know it takes practice-it also takes space that can be sacrificed for the dyeing that I don’t really have. But I am a big fan of shibori and appreciate when one form of art inspires others to create, no matter how much of a shortcut it may seem (which u fully admit in my post). Stay tuned for my progress!!

  2. Pingback: How to Make Shibori-Style Pillows (with a Sharpie Shortcut!) — Apartment Therapy Reader Tutorials | Trend Inside

  3. That is SO sad that others criticized your technique ~ I love shibori but live in an apartment (with wall-to-wall carpeting) and have no place to do the process unless I were to put a tub of dye in the bathtub. This technique will allow me to get a similar effect in a manner that I CAN do.

    I, too, believe that creativity exists in many forms and none should be disrespected just because it’s not “traditional.” I’m thinking of using this technique for recovering the seats of my dining room chairs with each being a unique design. I had thought of writing dining-related words in French, but that might get old rather quickly. I’m also going to recover the vinyl seat and back of a vintage step-stool and already knew I wanted to do some type of original design on fabric and I think this technique is it!

    I wonder how it would work doing some parts with the extra-wide Sharpie? I assume it won’t be washable or it could be used for table runners, placemats and napkins, too.

    Thank you very much for the tutorial and the inspiration, Lin!

    • Thank you SO much for the comment and support Dani! I really appreciate it! I think you could probably use the extra wide and it will wash with no issues. Just leave it for a few days before you wash. I washed my cases about a week after doing them and they were just fine. The extra wide ink might fade a bit but I like that look too. Good luck and let me know how your projects turn out!!! Much warmth, Lin xxoo

      • Great to know they’re washable! I am so excited by the possibilities ~ I have some muslin that I think I’ll practice on to come up with six different designs for the dining room chairs plus another for the kitchen stool. It may be awhile before I do the actual projects as I’m working on my kitchen right now, but when I’ve completed them I’ll post pics to Instagram and let you know.

        Thanks again for the technique! dani xo

  4. Pingback: 10 DIY Sharpies Projects: It’s So Easy to Be Crafty, Stylish, and Thrifty with Sharpies! | SMP Craft

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