Batik fabrics are truly timeless. Batik fabrics today are made by the traditional art form of resist dyeing fabric that has been practiced in Asian countries, particularly the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java, for centuries. Yet batik fabrics have wide contemporary appeal for garments, home décor, crafts and quilting. Though the art itself is intricate and highly developed, the methods of producing batik fabric have changed little over the years. Traditional colors were determined by the natural dyes available, but modern chemical dyes have given the artisans endless possibilities of colors and hues.
Creation of beautiful batiks begins with the finest fabrics available. Densely woven high quality fabrics are necessary to maintain the intricate design quality of batiks. The cloth is washed and boiled repeatedly to completely remove any starch, sizing, chalk or lime.
Batik designs are accomplished by resist dyeing, in which wax or resin is applied to specific areas of the fabric. Dye does not penetrate the fabric where the wax is applied and the design results. The basic steps of applying hot liquid wax, hand dyeing, sun-drying, removing the wax and washing the fabric may be repeated numerous times, depending on the complexity of the design and number of colors involved. The entire process is completely done by hand.
Traditionally the hot liquid wax was applied with a canting, a small copper tool with a container for the hot wax, a spout and a short bamboo handle. The artisan painstakingly drew the design onto the fabric with the hot wax. In the mid 19th century the cap (pronounced chop) was developed to speed up the process. The cap is a stamp made of copper wire, precisely shaped into one element of the design. Complex designs may require as many as ten caps. In addition to the designs created by the canting or cap, fabric may be crumpled before dyeing to create a textured look, or wax may be cracked before dyeing to create a marbled look.
Between each dyeing to add more colors, wax is hand scraped off of the fabric using a small knife to allow the dye to penetrate additional areas according to the design. The fabric is then sponged with hot water and resized with rice starch to prepare it for the next color dye process. When all of the dyeing steps are completed, the fabric is immersed in a vat of hot water to remove all wax. Sun drying each step of the dyeing process produces vibrant colors as the dye reacts with the hot tropical sun.
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