You probably heard the word batik, so you're wondering and asking, "What is batik?" Basically, it's a bold and beautiful type of fabric that has crept into the forefront of fashion fusion. If it has caught your interest and you want to learn more about it, allow me to give you in-depth knowledge about batik fabric, batik designs, how to sew batik, and more.
What is Batik Tutorial
What is Batik? Definition
Batik is the unique technique of using wax resin and fabric dye to create amazing patterns and designs. There is a lot of history behind batik designs and the different methods of creating this unique fabric.
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 the fabric was designed using a starch paste instead of wax.
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 Made From?
A special tool called a canting is used to create the fine lines of wax, 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.
The purpose of using the wax is to create areas that the dye cannot penetrate. After dyeing, the wax is removed, revealing the original color of the fabric, which is usually white.
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 batik can be a bit daunting.
So now you know what is batik, how should you begin to sew a successful fashion fusion item?
Two Types of Batik
When searching for answers to "What is batik?", you'll find different types of batik based on the specific batik techniques and where the batik originated from, Java, Malaysia, Egypt, and more. That said, let's divide it into two major categories to make it easier for most of you, especially beginners. They are:
- Contemporary or Modern
Traditional batik art is further divided into two styles: geometric motifs and geographical designs.
The first style refers to free-from designs like square, circular, and floral motifs, such as the batik fabric originating from central Java. Meanwhile, the latter uses region-specific patterns and colors.
That said, whichever traditional batik art or style is used, it has a valuable symbolism.
For instance, the batik fabric hailing from the central island of Java features a cloud pattern that forms a dragon and/or a bird. This traditional Javanese batik design has a yellow and red color to symbolize luck and prosperity.
On the other hand, those originating from Africa, which were introduced by the Dutch and Egypt, symbolize ethnicity and dignity and are mostly worn during weddings and cultural ceremonies.
Contemporary or Modern Batik
Like most arts and crafts, we have seen changes in batik art, not just in the earlier centuries, 19th century, and 20th centuries.
Batik art is also going through a revival in the 21st century. In fact, Indonesian batik was recognized as an international heritage of humanity craft by UNESCO, and the 2nd of October has been declared National Batik Day to commemorate this honor.
The blending of traditional handcrafted fabric with modern fashions gave new, vibrant creations. Today, crafters and artists use various techniques when applying wax and dyes.
For instance, one of the most advanced batik skills used in Nigeria is the resistance-dyeing technique. Some also use spraying, cracking, etching, and marbling techniques. They also use different tools, like a wooden
What is Batik Made From?
Batik is normally made from cotton, but not always. Batik is traditionally pure cotton, as natural fibers take the dyes more readily. I have also purchased some very nice rayon batiks in Bali. Thinner soft rayons make very nice women's clothing, especially anything with gathering or ruffles. Thicker rayons are great for homewares and men's shirts.
When it comes to the materials used in producing batik, there are three different items to consider, namely:
- Fabric or Textile
Most batiks are made from cotton because of the fabric's weight, absorbency, resistance to heat, and smooth surface. The cotton's weave is also not too close to each other, making dyeing easier and faster.
In batik-making, you can't just use any type of wax. The wax should resist the dye efficiently to produce intricate designs or patterns. It should also be able to melt at a low temperature instead of a boiling temperature.
That said, there are four types of traditional wax that manufacturers use, namely:
- Beeswax: Although this natural wax is expensive and quite challenging to work with and handle, it produces the most detailed, delicate lines. Manufacturers also love using it because it can easily be removed from the fabric.
- Paraffin Wax: This affordable, easily accessible wax is commonly used to cover large patterns or areas. However, one should have the right skills to be able to ensure the wax melts evenly. Removing the wax from the fabric can also be tedious if you don't have the right skill.
- Candle Wax: Those who want to try making batik will love that candle wax can work perfectly fine!
- Soy Wax: As a plant-based type of fabric, soy wax is commonly used by manufacturers who specialize in producing environmental-friendly, vegan textiles. Not only is it non-toxic and biodegradable, but it can also cover large designs or areas. Plus, it can be easily removed from the fabric.
When asking, "What is batik made from?", there are also a number of dyes used. However, they usually belong to the natural dye category, as they're made from fruits and vegetables.
That said, the most common colorants used in batik making are as follows:
- Naphthol Dye: Although naphthol is a type of dye that can be diluted in cold water, naphthol dyes work well with the wax's heat to penetrate the fabric more effectively. However, the dye has a tiny amount of toxic chemicals that require special handling skills.
- Vat Dye: This water-insoluble natural dye has an excellent color-fastness quality, allowing users to apply it directly to the fabric.
- Remasol Dye: While this type of dye requires the user to dissolve it in the right amount of water, the remasol dye effectively penetrates the natural and synthetic fabric's cellulose.
- Procyon MX Dye: A dye formulated to be used for linen, cotton, and viscose fabrics, Procyon MX creates the strongest bond between the fibers and the dye.
- Tie Dye: DIYers who want to practice making batik can purchase a tie-dye kit. While they don't work well for most fabrics, these dyes are non-toxic. Tie-dye batik techniques are also easy to master.
Is There a Right Side to Batik?
There is often no discernible difference between the right and wrong sides of most batiks. Check your individual batik to see if the design on one side is clearer than the other. For batiks with a motif that faces one direction, make sure you are consistent with your cutting so that your garment is all matched.
If you know what is batik and have your fabric, sewing pattern, and machine all set, you are ready to go!
What to do with Batik?
Batik fabrics, such as kain panjang, can be used uncut and sewn together as sarongs. The traditional batik fabric patterns are so varied that they lend themselves to many different clothing items, crafts, and home furnishings.
I have actually seen a resurgence in using batik in quilting, as many modern tone-on-tone batiks are great fillers with fancier fabrics.
Batik fabric can also be used in clothing, accessories like a cap, homewares, and many other sewing projects. Apart from wax design and pattern matching, treat batik as any other fabric you would sew.
How to Sew with Batik
Take these steps to start sewing batik as you mix culture and couture:
Step 1 - Fabric Preparation
It is vital to pre-shrink your batik fabric.
Prior to sewing the batik, wash it separately by hand in cold water. Natural fibers such as cotton and particularly rayon often shrink slightly when washed, so you want to do this before cutting your sewing.
Add a fixative if you feel the color may run. There are different commercial fixatives available, like Retayne or salt can help fix the dye.
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 would stick to your iron.
Step 2 - 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 the 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 sides 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 3 - What is Batik Sewn with
- Needles: Use an 80/12 universal needle and polyester or cotton thread.
- Stitch Length: A stitch length of 2.5 mm is a good setting. Check on a scrap before you start.
- Seam Ripping: Unpicking batik is not recommended as the fabric gets little holes left by the needle easily.
- Finishing: 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 the tension and stitch length and have cut your cloth, you are ready to start sewing batik. Basting is also a good idea to ensure patterns match and corners are turned just the way you want them.
Practice makes perfect!
What is Batik - In Conclusion
Once you have gained confidence with this versatile and creative fabric, the opportunities to try a new style of fashion or trim are endless. Sewing batik has found its way onto shoes, bags, shirts, ties, 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!