Beginner's Guide to Batik
What is Batik?
Batik is a technique used to design fabrics using wax and dyes.
Batik originated in Java and spread to different parts in the Asian continent to countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, China and India.
It was introduced to Europe around the 17th century by the Dutch colonists who occupied Java.
Types of Batik Fabrics Used
Silk and cotton are the two most preferred textiles for batik making since these fabrics can absorb the wax and dye better than others.
The cloth used in making batiks should be plain white or beige and not printed.
Traditionally the cloth was flattened by hammering it down using a mallet made of wood. This was done to smooth out and soften the fabric to make it easier to absorb the wax and dye.
The method is no longer used since modern technology has made it possible to produce better quality fabrics needed for batik making.
How to Batik Fabric
The first step in batik making is to prepare the fabric.
Except for silk, cotton fabrics must first be dunked in hot water to strip the cloth of any starch and chemicals.
Once this is done let the fabric dry completely before using it.
Type of Batik Methods
Batik making can be grouped into two types:
- hand made batiks
- stamped/block printed batiks
It’s important to choose the type of batik you prefer to do since hand made batiks are more time consuming to make than stamp/block printed batiks.
How to make handmade batiks (Batik Tulis)
The selected fabric is cut into the desired length and firmly fitted onto a frame with pins.
The design is then drawn onto the fabric with a pencil.
A pen shaped tool called a tjanting (canting or tjunting) is filled with hot wax and used to outline the design drawn on the fabric.
How to Melt Batik Wax
Beeswax and paraffin wax are used for batiks in a ratio of 1:6.
The wax is melted in a wax melting pot at a temperature of no more than 220°F (this is the ideal temperature and anything above is likely to catch fire).
Wax melting pots are ideal and safest to melt wax when compared to other vessels.
Never inhale the fumes of the wax and always work in a room which has ample ventilation.
Wait till the wax is completely cooled before dyeing the fabric.
How to Apply Batik Dye
If more than one color of dye is chosen, the lightest color is first used in the dye bath working up to the darkest.
Always wear gloves when working with dyes.
Square shaped and rectangular shaped trays with a depth of 12 – 18 inches are ideal to be used for dye baths. I have 2 separate trays: a rectangular shaped tray for rectangular shaped wall hangings and tablecloths plus a square shaped one for square shaped wall hangings and napkins.
Once the colors are chosen, the lightest colored dye is the first to be poured into the dye bath.
The fabric is then removed from the frame and laid out flat in the dye.
For a vein like effect to appear on the fabric the cloth is crumpled and then placed in the dye bath.
The fabric is removed from the dye bath once it’s completely soaked with the dye and immediately hung and air dried.
*Do not use any kind of artificial drying to dry the batik as this can result in the melting of the wax.
How to Remove Batik Wax
Once the fabric is fully dry remove the wax. This is a delicate process and should be done with extreme care.
The dried wax is scraped off using a sharp knife.
The cloth is then fully submerged in a large pot of boiling water for about five minutes. This helps to remove excess wax on the fabric.
Fill a large container with cold water. Remove the cloth from the pot and place it in the container of cold water. Let it fully soak in the cold water until all remaining wax is hardened.
Boil hot water again in a pot and mix a little washing powder into it.
Immerse the cloth into the hot water and completely wash it making sure to remove any wax residue which may be still remaining.
Hang to dry and then iron.
Whenever a new color is applied to the fabric the areas where you want to keep the previous color/colors should be completely covered with wax.
Once the wax is dry the fabric is soaked with the new dye in a dye bath.
The fabric is then removed from the dye bath and hung to air dry.
The dried wax from the cloth is then scraped away with a knife.
The cloth is soaked in hot water, then in cold water and finally again in hot water (which has been mixed with detergent) to remove any left over wax.
This process should be continued every time a new color of dye is added to the cloth.
Batik Cap (Stamp/Block Printed Batiks)
A batik cap is made of copper or zinc and is used to stamp the design onto the fabric.
The batik caps come in different shapes and sizes having beautiful themes and patterns.
Batik caps speed up the designing of the fabric since the motifs are already on the cap and all one has to do is stamp it onto the cloth.
The patterns are also accurate in shape and size.
How to Use a Batik Cap
Hot wax is poured into the selected batik cap and stamped onto the fabric.
Once the wax is dried it is first fully submerged in a dye bath.
The cloth is then removed from the bath and hung to air dry.
The fully dried fabric is then laid out on a table and the dried wax is carefully removed using a scraper or knife.
The cloth is then soaked in a pot of boiling hot water for five minutes.
It is then removed from the pot and steeped into a large container of cold water for another five minutes to harden any remaining wax which may be still on the fabric.
Hot water is poured into a large pot and detergent is mixed into the water.
The fabric is removed from the cold water and washed completely in the pot of hot water mixed with detergent until there is no more wax left in the cloth.
The batik cloth is then hung to dry and ironed.
© 2011 Suranee Perera