What is Batik? It is the bold and the beautiful fabric that sings of distant holidays, exotic beaches and something totally original. Traditionally Eastern, this fabric has crept into the forefront of the ‘fashion fusion’ of where east meets west.’
What do people say about this unique fabric?
Diane Ackerman poet and naturalist says:
Love is like batik created from many emotional colours, it is fabric whose pattern and brightness may vary.
What is Batik
Batik is the unique technique of using wax resin and fabric dye to create amazing patterns and designs. It is a traditional craft handed down from generations of Eastern crafters from Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. It was even practiced in Nigeria but instead of wax, the fabric was designed using a starch paste. There is a lot of history behind the designs and the different methods of creating this unique fabric. A special tool called a canting pronounce tjunting is used to create the fine lines and sometimes the wax is applied with a brush. The crackle effect achieved each time the fabric is dyed is a unique pattern trait of batik.
Batik is going through a revival in the 21st century. Indonesian batik was recognized as an international heritage of humanity craft by UNESCO. The 2nd of October has been declared National batik day to commemorate this honor. Blending a traditional handcrafted fabric with modern fashions gives new creations an interesting new vibrancy. The traditional patterns are so varied they lend themselves to many different clothing items, crafts, and even home furnishings.
There are batik patterns designed for all sorts of occasions from weddings to royalty, good luck symbols, health, and happiness. When you have purchased a piece of this beautiful fabric the first few steps of cutting and sewing can be a bit daunting. How should you begin to sew a successful fashion fusion item?
You have your fabric, sewing pattern and machine all set and ready to go!
Take these steps to start sewing batik as you mix culture and couture:
Step one: Fabric preparation
It is vital to pre-shrink your batik fabric. Wash it separately by hand in cold water. Add a fixative if you feel the color may run. There are different fixatives available like Retayne. Hang the fabric to dry out of the sun because it can fade. Iron with a cool iron and use a presser cloth in case of wax residue that would stick to your iron.
Step two: Cutting your beautiful batik
This is the tricky part of the process and taking a bit of time to visualize the outcome of your creation is worthwhile. Lay out the fabric on a large flat surface and look at the overall pattern. Depending on the item you are making, you may want to plan how to use borders, overall or individual patterns, geometrics or repeat blocks of pattern.
When you have made a plan for your article cut out the pattern pieces individually to make the most of the color, shape and pattern. Sometimes it is difficult to see the right and wrong side as the wax and dyes used can go through the fabric so marking the right side and the direction of your pattern is helpful. Use tailor’s chalk to mark your fabric.
Step three: Sewing your batik fabric.
Use an 80/12 universal needle and polyester or cotton thread. A stitch length of 2.5 mm is a good setting. Check on a scrap before you start. Unpicking batik is not recommended as the fabric gets little holes left by the needle easily. A serger makes a good neatening choice or a flat felled seam. There are different weights of batik so it is best to practice before you start. Once you are happy with tension, stitch length and have cut your cloth, you are ready to go. Basting is also a good idea to ensure patterns match and corners are turned just the way you want them.
Practice makes perfect!
Once you have gained confidence with this versatile and creative fabric then the opportunities to try a new style of fashion or trim are endless. Batik has found its way onto shoes, bags, shirts, ties and cushions, quilts and so much more. Join the fusion revolution of the 21st century and see how much fun and flavor a bit of batik can make to your life…..and don’t forget to celebrate National Batik Day on 2nd October this year!