A method of resist dyeing in which wax is spread on the fabric, allowing the dye to color only the cloth surrounding or between the waxed areas.
Colorful stylized prints on equally colorful, often contrasting, backgrounds are characteristic of batiks. Irregularities in the pattern attest to the artisanal nature of its production.
True batik is created by a wax-resist method of dyeing and printing the fabric. Colorful patterns are created by the application of wax through wax-resist molds. The molds, called stamps, are generally made of metal; the hot liquid wax is applied to the fabrics with a brush or a tool called a tjanting and left to harden in the shape of the desired designs. Skilled artisans can apply the wax rapidly over the fabric surface, but the hand-stamping process always results in some irregularities in the design, the mark of hand work.
When the dye is applied, it colors only the exposed areas of fabric, leaving the waxed areas in the original color of the cloth. If the wax cracks during the dyeing process, the designs will have veins running through them in irregular patterns, adding to the visual interest of the finished fabric. When the process is complete, the wax is removed by boiling the fabric, by ironing, or by the application of a solvent. What is left is the colored fabric with the wax-resist patterns covering the surface.
The dyeing process is often repeated two or more times to achieve the desired colors and intricate designs.
Fabrics used in the making of batiks are silk, cotton, and rayon. The fabrics come in various weights, from light to heavy. Quilting batiks are made of a densely woven cotton with a crisp hand.
Faux batik is produced by machine-printing the designs on fabric.
Use batiks for clothing, quilting, table linens, and home décor items.
Batik dyeing originated in Indonesia, with a concentration of the production in Java. It is a craft that has been practiced for over 2000 years, with early batiks having been created in Asia, from the Far East to India. Silk batiks have been found in China, dating from the Sui dynasty (AD 581 - 618), and from Japan, from the Nara period (AD 710 - 794). The spread of batik fabrics and techniques is attributed to traders who followed routes from one country or region to another throughout Asia.
Over time, the export of silk batiks from China to Java, Persia, and other regions resulted in the establishment of batik production in various areas along the trade routes. Java became a center for beautiful batiks and is still known as a major producer.
The popularity of batik spread to Europe in the 19th century when the Dutch, who had colonized Indonesia, took Javanese artisans to Holland to teach batik-making techniques to factory workers there. In the 20th century, Swiss textile workers produced a version of batik; and the German textile industry found a way to mass-produce the fabric.
Today, hand-crafted batik from Indonesia is still prized; but machine-printed cottons and rayons are widely available for quilters, garment sewers, and home decorators.
Tips & Tricks
Pre-wash batiks to remove excess sizing or other surface finishes.
Usually, batik patterns are all-over; however, you may find a one-way pattern or a border that will require with-nap layouts or cross-grain layouts.
Batik fabrics are usually colorfast, but it is a good idea to test a swatch to be sure.