What is Batik? It is the bold and the beautiful fabric that sings of distant holidays, exotic beaches and something totally original. Traditionally Eastern, sewing batik 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.
What is Batik Made From?
A special tool called a canting 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.
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.
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 batik can be a bit daunting.
So now you know what is batik, how should you begin to sew a successful fashion fusion item?
Common Questions about What is Batik
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.
Is There a Right Side to Batik?
There is often no discernible difference between the right and wrong side 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!
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 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 that 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 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 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 tension, 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 - What to do with Batik
Well, anything you like! Batik fabric is used in quilting, clothing, homewares and many other sewing projects. I have seen a resurgence in using batik in quilting as many of the modern tone on tone batiks are great fillers with fancier fabrics.
Apart from design and pattern matching, treat it the same as any other cotton or rayon that you would sew.
What is Batik - In Conclusion
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.
Sewing 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!
Sewing Different Fabrics
- BATIK – Sewing Batik | What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – How to Sew Felt
- KNIT FABRIC – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather – How to sew leather
- RAYON – What is Rayon?
- SHEER- Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET – Sewing Velvet
- WOOL- Sewing Wool Fabric