The Process .... (2)

Friday, March 14, 2008


The American method of working differs from the Javanese in the fact that the native hangs her material vertically in front of her when she is waxing her design, whilst the American is decidedly more comfortable with his material flat on a table. Usually it is stretched on a frame or canvas-stretcher to prevent it from coming in actual contact with the surface of the table whilst the wax is being applied. If it is not kept clear, it will be found that when an attempt is made to lift the textile, on the completion of the waxing process, it will 'be sticking in places and the wax torn in consequence; the effect of this damage will be that in dyeing the colour will penetrate from the back, and the material exposed by the breaks will turn out to be some shade quite unplanned for in the original scheme. For very big pieces, however, it is rather impractical to use a frame and as an alternative to stretching, the fabric can be waxed on a table which is covered with thin smooth paper; with careful lifting, little or no harm need be done to the wax, but in any case it is well to make a thorough examination of the reverse side in order to be sure that there are no exposed surfaces that should be retouched.

Some artists work with a sheet of glass under their material, instead of paper, but this, whilst having the advantage of not sticking as much has the great objection of rapidly cooling the wax with which one is working and cool wax does not penetrate the material properly.


A clean edge to the design is obtained with more certainty if the flat masses are outlined with a fine brush or preferably with a tjanting, before being filled in with the larger brushes. Where the work is done with a tjanting, it is difficult to have the fabric stretched on a frame as this tool is used with the palm of the hand resting on a steady surface.


The illustration facing page 54 shows the way to hold the tjanting when the work is laid flat on the table. The wrist and the lower part of the hand rest on the table, the tjanting is held between the thumb and the two first fingers, while the remaining fingers act as an additional support. All small movements can be made with the wrist remaining stationary; for big curves the hand and arm are slowly moved in the required direction, keeping the tjanting at an even level. Though in the beginning this may seem difficult, it will be found that after a little practice, it will be quite easy to make even and regular lines.

Having covered up with wax all the parts of the design which are to remain white or the original colour of the fabric (if an already dyed piece is used for the foundation) it is now ready for the first dye bath.

Select the lightest shade in the colour sketch for the initial dyeing. To be sure of getting the desired shade it is well to test a sample of the fabric.. To do this, wet the piece and immerse it in the dye for a few moments; when it is dry it will be several shades lighter than when it is wet. One can get an approximate idea of the colour that a wet piece will be when it is dried, by looking at it against the light.

The simplest batiks, of course, are those in which only one colour is used and consequently only one dipping is required. Details of dyeing and the matter of colour schemes will be treated at length elsewhere in this book. After dip-ping, the material should be rinsed thoroughly in luke-warm water. Avoid the use of cold water, especially when another dyeing is to follow, as the cold will cause the wax to become brittle and crack, and unintentional crackling is a sign of poor craftsmanship. If the batik is to be in only one colour it is now ready for the removal of the wax, which is a simple business, consisting of rinsing the fabric very thoroughly in gasoline or Carbona.

More elaborate colour schemes are produced by a repetition of the process, simply covering up with fresh wax the parts one wishes to retain in the shade of the last-dyed colour. This re-waxing, dipping and rinsing is continued until all the colours that the scheme demands are obtained, and then the wax is removed as described.


A word here on the use and misuse of gasoline may be in order. Gasolining should be done very thoroughly; one of the faults common to all amateurs is insufficient rinsing and the fabric still stiff with wax is placed on the market as a finished product. Often the lovely softness of a drapery will be lost and a papery quality substituted just because there have not been a sufficient number of gasoline baths used.


When possible, gasoline should be used out of doors, although if proper precautions are taken, there is no reason why people should be nervous about using it in the house. In the first place do not use it in a room in which there is a fire burning and do not imagine the room is safe for a lighted match immediately the vessel containing the gasoline has been removed. Gasoline fumes are heavier than air and if undisturbed will hang low in the room for some time; it is therefore a good plan to have the window open slightly, at the bottom as well as at the top, in order to create a current of air. The hot air rising and the fresh air coming in at the bottom of the window, will soon disperse the fumes.

Have the gasoline in an earthenware vessel.

Enamelware easily gets chipped and the ex-posed iron when touched by the hand may give a slight electric shock, as electricity is some-times generated through rubbing the fabric. It is well, in any case, to avoid hard rubbing and to use as little friction as possible, taking particular care on bright clear days when the air itself seems charged with electricity.


Gasoline can be used over and over again. The last baths for one batik, containing only a small amount of dissolved wax, can be used for the first bath next time, and with an apparatus similar to that illustrated, it is quite easy to run off the dissolved wax (which sinks, being heavier than the gasoline), and save only the clear fluid.

The last stage of the process is the ironing, which needs no more description than the suggestion that the work is placed between papers; this hint may prevent the streaking which some-times ruins a batik that has successfully survived the various stages of a decorated textile's creation.

The Process .... (1)


THE first step in the batik process is to prepare the material. This is nothing more elaborate than a thorough washing, which will result in freeing the goods from any artificial loading and will shrink the piece and the size will not be an unpleasant surprise when the work is finished and one will not find that the triangle especially cut for a lamp-shade will not fit by an inch or so. If one is using "dyed in the piece goods" (that is, material already dyed one col-our when bought), it is a good plan to boil it for ten minutes, in order to remove any loose colour, and to make sure that no un-expected colour will run and mix itself with the dye in which the fabric is being dipped. The drying and ironing of the material makes it ready for the application of the design.


Some people when making a simple design draw directly on the material with wax, but it is usually the best plan to make the design on paper first, together with a coloured sketch to be used as a guide when the dyeing part of the process is reached. In using transparent material, the design can of course be placed underneath it and the pattern traced directly through, but this is not practical with heavier fabrics.


When waxing very thin material such as chiffon, it can be doubled or in some cases even folded in quarters, laid perfectly flat and the wax applied. This short cut was used in the batik illustrated facing page 50. It was designed and executed by Hazel Burnham Slaughter, and it is a representative piece of the beautiful work done by her on sheer materials. It is made with only two colours—the original colour of the chiffon, a very light tan, and a soft mellow red; the design is an arrangement of free ornament, floral and animal life. It is a free-hand all-over design, and repeats itself four times, having been folded as described above.

This folding process only has satisfactory results when very thin material is used as the wax will not penetrate through two or more thicknesses if the fabric has any weight at all.

The most satisfactory means of transferring the design, is to prick the outline with a pin, or wheel perforator, place the perforated paper on the fabric and rub charcoal through the holes. If one cannot obtain any charcoal—though one must be far indeed from the mad-ding crowd to be out of reach of even charcoal tablets, lead-pencil dust can be used, though it is not at all to be recommended owing to the dirty smears that it makes when rubbed.

Be very careful to have the material quite straight and place the design on it squarely, or the final effect may be very twisted and distorted. If the pricking has left a jagged edge to the holes in the paper, rub the perforations lightly with sandpaper in order that the charcoal may go through cleanly and easily.


When the finished work is to be in more than one colour, it is advisable to strengthen the charcoal outline with pencil or Conte Crayon No. 2, otherwise it is washed off in the first dipping. This redrawing is not necessary if one wishes to have an undyed outline edging the different colours, as in that case the outline of the whole design will be drawn in, in wax, and this will permanently indicate the pattern.


The equipment you need to begin batik is fairly simple, and most of it can be found around the house.

Some old white sheets. Old, torn white cotton sheets have the advantage of being already free from chemical finishes (which would otherwise prevent the dye from penetrating).

Note: all new fabrics must be boiled to remove the finishing.

Candles, at least one containing beeswax.

Double boiler for melting wax.

Good quality artist's paintbrush.

Cold water dye and fixative.

Charcoal, or pencil, for making preliminary sketch.

Old picture frame. (Batik is normally worked on a special frame on which the cloth is tacked to keep it taut, but for beginners an old picture frame will serve just as well.)

You will also need a double boiler or a boiling ring or chafing dish (such as a fondue dish with candles beneath) to melt the wax, and you will need access to a sink or bowl for dyeing.

More About Batik...

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Natural or vegetable fiber fabrics, such as cotton, linen and silk, are the ones to use for batik.

Viscose rayon can also be used, but avoid all synthetic fibers, no matter how closely they simulate natural fibers. Their true nature is revealed in the dyebath, by which time it is too late. They will not dye properly with cold dyes, which must necessarily be used for batik; otherwise the wax would melt in the dyebath.

To Test Fibers of which you are uncertain, try this quick test. Watch carefully as you hold a single fiber over a lighted match. The synthetic thread melts quickly into a hard residue. Organic fibers burn more slowly, and a soft ash is formed.

Silk is one of the best fabrics for batik - the finer the woven the better - and a finer waxed line can be drawn on silk than on any other fabric. To start with, however, silk is far from necessary, and the expense may inhibit your inventiveness since you will be less willing to "chance" a design.

Cotton is excellent, and some prefer it to silk on the grounds that the sheen of silk obscures the pattern.

In general, with coarser spun fabrics, more wax is absorbed and a fine sweeping line is harder to obtain, as the wax sinks rapidly into the cloth as it is applied. So, although you can batik canvas, calico and flannelette, these are only suitable for large, clear designs.

For intricate work and, in particular, pictures or wall hangings, fine linen or fine cotton is recommended. Especially delicate designs can be produced on batiste or cotton lawn - any thin cotton in fact which is not so transparent that your picture will look like an apparition.

Dye Batik dye must be a cold dye since hot water would cause the hardened wax to melt in the dyebath. Ordinary cold water dyes are best for beginners and all contain instructions for their use; but after some experience you may prefer to use special, fast-acting cold dyes or vat dyes, which involve the use of additional chemicals but which "take" a lot more quickly and, in the case of vat dyes, give exceptionally colorfast results.

Once you are used to working with wax you can begin to experiment more with mixing dyes, buying large amounts (less expensive) of the basic colors and making any others you need.

Wax The ideal mixture for batik work is 30% beeswax to 70% paraffin wax, and to try it for the first time you can easily melt down candles. If, however, you decide to do more batik, it makes sense to get the wax from a craft supply store in bulk.

Beeswax adheres well to fabric, whereas paraffin wax is brittle, cracking easily. So how you mix the two determines how much crackling you will get.

Crackling produces the fine lines that characterize most batik work. With pure paraffin wax there is the danger of it peeling off in the dyebath. A mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax therefore assures adherence, plus decorative crackling effects.

Get To Know BATIK

Batik is a fascinating craft but one many people hesitate to try because the old process is tedious and time consuming. Batik may be used for pillow tops, wall hangings, place mats or scarves. Big, bold designs in bright colors are most striking.

The word batik (pronounced Bateek) means "wax written" and this is basically what batik is. It is a way of decorating cloth by covering part of it with a coat of wax and then dyeing the cloth. The waxed area keeps its original color and when the wax is removed the contrast between the dyed and undyed area makes the pattern.

Here we will deal with the basic methods of the batik process, so that the beginner will be able to experiment later.

The exact origins of batik are unknown, but they are almost certainly in the Orient where the technique was used, long before printing, to enhance the appearance of fine garments. Batik became most deeply rooted in Indonesia, particularly the island of Java, where it was a highly developed art by the 13th century.

Batik was considered a fitting occupation for aristocratic ladies whose delicately painted designs, based on bird and flower motifs, were a sign of cultivation and refinement, just as fine needlework was for European ladies of a similar position.

Java is still famous for batik and the traditional patterns, developed over centuries, are still part of Javanese dress, although very few are made by the traditional method of wax painting. This, instead, has been rediscovered and put to use by craftsman all over the world who find the freedom of working with liquid was, and the control of color possible through dyeing, makes batik an exciting and uniquely expressive medium to work in. Increasingly, the all-over patterns of Oriental batiks are being replaced by imaginative pictures and designs of all sorts, which are sued to make wall hangings and soft sculpture as well as decorations for clothing and household items.

Part of the attraction of batik is its simplicity and the fact that you don't have to be artistic in the conventional sense to produce beautiful results. Some of the best effects in batik are in fact the work of chance. This is particularly true of the way in which the wax cracks to let small quantities of dye through, adding an unexpected and interesting effect to any design. This hairline detail, or "crackling", is a special characteristic of most batik work.

Because batik wax is applied hot it is necessary to work fairly rapidly and this can produce a freedom (or loss of self-consciousness) that makes many people who think they cannot draw find, to their amazement, that they can. Of course, designs can be worked out beforehand and for many things, such as borders and trimmings, this is necessary; but designs drawn spontaneously in wax, or according to the briefest sketch, can bring surprising rewards.

Combined with the pleasure of drawing freehand is the fascination of working creatively with dyes-blending and mixing different colors-to get as vivid or as subtle as you want.

WORLD OF BATIK...the history...

The term “Batik” is an Indonesian-Malay word (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malay are the official languages of Indonesia and Malaysia and are linguistically similar). Batik has come to be used as a generic term which refers to the process of dyeing fabric by making use of a resist technique; covering areas of cloth with a dye-resistant substance to prevent them absorbing colors. The technique is thought to be over a thousand years old and historical evidence demonstrates that cloth decorated with this resist technique was in use in the early centuries AD in Africa, the Middle East and in several places in Asia. Although there is no sure explanation as to where batik first was “invented”, many observers believe that it was brought to Asia by travelers from the Indian subcontinent.

Despite the fact that batik may have originated elsewhere, most observers believe that batik has reached its highest artistic expression in Indonesia, particularly in Java. The art of Batik was later spread to the rest of the Indonesian archipelago and to the Malay Peninsula where the popularity of the cloth led to the establishment of many other production centers. Batik has become a very central means of artistic expression for many of the areas of Asia and a deeply integrated facet of Asian culture.

Much of the popularity of Batik can be tied to the fact that the batik technique offers immense possibilities for artistic freedom as patterns are applied by actual drawing rather than by weaving with thread. Another factor in its popularity is the fact that it is so durable. The colors in Batik are much more resistant to wear than those of painted or printed fabrics because the cloth is completely immersed in dye and the areas not protected by resist are allowed to absorb hues to the extent that the colors will not easily fade.

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