Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eclectic Fabric: Batik Techniques & Methods

The bright and beautiful patterns and watercolor backgrounds of batik fabric are instantly recognizable as a unique sort of wearable art that cannot be imitated. The frequently freewheeling placement of the patterns and exotic colors reflect the often bohemian spirit of fans of this awesome type of fabric & clothing. At Mexicali Blues, we love batik clothing for its color and charm, and the variety of eclectic patterns and shapes that suit the personal style of so many different kinds of people. Let's explore how these gorgeous fabrics come to be!

Batik is a method of decorating cloth using wax and dye. Hot wax is brushed, drawn, or printed onto cloth, usually silk, cotton or rayon, to block out specific parts and then the cloth is dyed. After dyeing, the wax is removed and the cloth is ready to be worn or made into something different.

Dipping cloth in dye, image via flickr

The hot wax can be applied to fabric in two ways. The traditional way of making batiks is known as batik tulis, where the wax is hand-drawn onto the fabric using a canting. This is a slow and tedious process but the results are phenomenal as the details can be much finer, and small imperfections make each cloth unique.

Applying wax by hand to fabric, image via Java

The second way a batik can be made is by using a batik cap or stamp to stamp the fabric with wax. A batik cap can be made of wood or copper, and the process is similar to block printing. This process allows "perfect" fabric to be mass produced in a time-efficient manner.

Batik cap or stamp, image via Murni's

Sometimes batik makers use both methods on a single piece of cloth, these textiles are called combinasi.

Traditional batiks are found primarily in southeast Asia, but also in China, Japan, and Egypt. Batik remnants have been found that are estimated to be over 2,000 years old!
In the early 19th century the Dutch brought Indonesian craftsmen to Holland to teach their craft to factory workers. By the early 20th century the Germans had developed the mass production (batik cap) of batiks that we in the United States are most familiar with today.

Production of batik cloth in Java, Dutch East Indies, 1912. Image via Wikipedia Commons

Using a batik cap, image via flickr

Batik has also expanded from making traditional patterned fabric, to making batik paintings or artwork on fabric.

Batik artwork, image via ruxlay

Whether geometric, multi-colored, hand-drawn, vibrant, traditional or abstract, batik is a beautiful art form that has been alive for many years. Now you can wear these wonderful pieces of art knowing that they have been responsibly imported from around the world by your favorite Maine store, Mexicali Blues!

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