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November 19, 2005

DIY: How to Batik Like a Pro

Today's "How to" article courtesy of English-blog contributor Samantha V.:

The Fascinating Process of the Batik

The batik is a method of textiles by adding wax to parts to be left uncolored. Batiks are an ancient tradition that are evident to have developed in parts of Middle and Eastern Asia and India. The process of creating the batik can take several hours, and often leads to taking a couple days to complete. There are many uses of the batik; such as, clothes, bedding, curtains, table cloths, and any other decorative fabric. Although the batik has many forms, the method that will be discussed is a batik tapestry. From sketching the design, outlining the design in wax, and dying the fabric, the finished product will exhibit all the hard work it takes to be produced . . .

. . . When beginning the batik process, the materials must first be gathered. It is easier to have everything readily available so there will be no confusion and delays later in the process. Most importantly, a piece of fabric of the desired size will need to be obtained in order to start. A piece of paper that is the same size of the fabric is also needed for the intended process. Other material such as a hot plate and batik wax must be collected. Batik wax is available in art stores; if there is none available, old candles will also do the job. Hot plates are generally a kitchen utensil, so this might be easy to find in a kitchen supply store. If it is not possible to find one, any creative way of melting the wax will work. There are hot trays specifically made for melting wax available through art magazines, but the other options may be easier to obtain. Another item that must be collected is the dye used in one of the final steps. This dye should specifically be fabric dye available at any craft store. Be sure to purchase the right amount of colors intended for the design. The final item needed to complete the process is an iron, which is needed for ironing out the wax. This should not be an ordinary iron used for laundry, but an iron to be used solely for this project. Once all the materials are collected, the first step in creating the batik can begin.

The process will begin by developing a sketch of the design. The sketch may include anything, keeping in mind that all the lines will be outlined in wax; creating a simple design with bold lines will make the waxing process easier. The sketch must be transferred and scaled (if it is a different size) onto the paper cut to be the same size as the fabric. Outlining the design in marker will make it easier to see. Once the design is outlined and in place, it is time to drape the fabric over it. Be sure that the paper is secured to the fabric to prevent the design from sliding off centered. It is most easily done with masking tape, taping the corners and the middle of all four sides (this may vary with size and shape).

With the template in place, the next step is to begin the waxing process. With the hot plate, or whatever means created, begin melting the wax. It is crucial to get the right temperature; the wax should not be boiling or burning. If it is boiling or burning it is far too hot. The wax should not be hardening on the paint brush before it hit the fabric, in this case it's too cold. Usually having the right temperature is a back and forth process of turning the heat up and turning it down. Once it is done a couple of times it a lot easier to keep the right temperature. Be sure that the area is well ventilated because if the wax begins to smoke, which it shouldn't or it's too hot, the fumes are toxic. When applying the wax, the marker line from the paper should show through easily. It is best to make the wax adhere to the paper because it will allow the dying process to be easier. Once all the lines are covered in wax it is time to start the next step.

When developing a design, the right dyes that correlate with the design should be chosen. Creating dye is also a bit of a process. The first thing to do is to dissolve the package of powder dye mix in warm water. Depending on how dark the intended color is contributes to how much water is used. The smaller amount of water produces darker shades and the larger amount of water used results in lighter color. In order for the dye to stain the fabric thoroughly, salt should be dissolved in the dye bath as well. Depending on the size of the dye bath, the right increment of salt should be implemented. For instance, for every pint of dye bath created, one cup of salt should be mixed in. When the dye bath is developed, it is time to begin dying the design. Paint brushes are the most common tool used to apply the dye. If the project is intended to be monochromatic (all one color) then dunking would make most sense. Although, the reason it is important for the wax to stick to the paper is to prevent the dyes from running together. Therefore, this step can be negated if the design is intended to be monochromatic. Upon finishing the dying step, the project must dry before proceeding.

When the project is finished drying, there are two things that can happen. The design can be considered finished, or more texture can be added. In order to develop texture more wax must be added to the fabric. What must happen is for the project to be covered in an entire layer of wax. When the wax is dry the next step is to crumple, fold, or strategically crack the wax. Then dunk the entire project into another dye bath, usually an opposite color then the design to create contrast. Through this process the project will develop a textured look when it is finished.

Finally, the last step will involve a process of removing the wax from the fabric. The paper that was collected in the first step should be laid out and the project should lie on top. Then cover the project with more paper. With a hot iron begin to iron the paper so that the wax melts and absorbs into the paper. It is easy to tell when the wax melts through the paper because it will become translucent. This step will have to be repeated until all the wax is ironed all the way out of the fabric. When all the wax is gone the fabric will feel flexible again. When the fabric has converted back to its original texture, the process is complete.

Creating the batik is not an easy process; it requires a lot of time and work. From generating a sketch, waxing the outlines, dying the fabric, and ironing out the finished product the process can take many hours. Although, when the batik is finished the result is a beautiful hand-made tapestry. This ancient tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and it is known by the hard work it takes to be produced. The process involves a lot of artistic freedom and proudly exhibits the hard work it took to create. The batik is an impressive achievement that has the durability to last forever.

~Samantha V.

*NOTE: For more English-Blog DIY or "How to . . ." articles, please click HERE!

Comments for Samantha's article "The Fascinating Process of the Batik?" Please leave them below:

Posted by lhobbs at November 19, 2005 12:08 AM

Readers' Comments:

Dear Samantha V

“The Fascinating Process of the Batik” written by, Samantha V was intended to discuss the steps necessary to complete a Batik. She started off by giving a brief background about the origination of the Batik which I though was helpful in understanding the significance of it. She made clear what parts of the process she wanted to discuss in the first paragraph such as sketching, outlining and dying. Then in the second paragraph she gave suggestions of where to find the needed supplies. This was a very good inclusion of information because with a project like Batik, specific products may be hard to find simply because this is a project most common in other parts of the world.
She then went on to describe the specific steps. At some points it was hard for me to get a clear picture of what she was trying to say. For example, in the third paragraph, she talked about the sketching step but doesn’t explain what the sketch should be originally on. Then she goes onto the outlining step, and then jumps to the step where you “drape the fabric over it”. To me, these directions are rather vague and could use a little more clarification.
After this she finishes the rest of the process. I would say that Samantha did a good job in explaining how to create Batik fabrics. She included important information other than the basic 1, 2, 3 steps. For each step she added a different paragraph and each of those paragraphs included specifics needed to complete the primary step. She then summed up her process with more background information and left me with an appreciation for a new form of art that I have never heard of.
Adrianne E

Posted by: Adrianne E at April 10, 2006 01:54 PM

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