Previously, I told you about one of my Experimentation projects this year, to make batik fabrics. The process is to layer wax and cold dye to create designs. Below, I’ve walked you through the steps on three pieces I created.
First, get fabric to your first color. I used PFD (Prepared For Dying) fabric, but you could use any fabric, including already colored fabric, if you’re willing to do a little chemistry and waiting. The aversion to waiting is the reason I own a bolt of PFD – so I can merely cut a piece off and get to printing, dying, painting, whatever-ing. When the muse calls me, I jump, if I can. Take that fabric and stretch it out over a frame. Put a pile of trash papers underneath as the wax will go through the fabric and drip onto the surface beneath. I used stretcher bars and a light-duty staple gun.
Here, I have a piece of a lavender color fabric. I didn’t take pictures of the plain dyed fabric – that would be boring. This picture is of the first application of hot wax. I melted a chunk in a small electric frying pan. For these big dots, I used a 1″ chip brush. You want tools dedicated to this process as you’ll never really get the wax back out. That dark, noticeable color is what you want. If the wax is too cool, it sits atop the fabric, looking white and being useless against dye. If the wax is too hot, it will catch fire.
When the wax has cooled on your piece, take it off the frame and put it into your second dye color.
This is a different piece (obviously) but it also started as a lavender color. After the first wax application, this one was put into an Amethyst dye overnight. Here it is drying on top of my trash can. Once it is dry, stretch it back into that frame. It will be marginally more difficult because of the wax in the fabric making it less flexible than the first time. Next you put on the second application of wax. You now wax everywhere you want the second dye color (Amethyst, in this case) to stay. You must also wax any pieces that are broken from the first waxing – IF you want them to stay that color. I had a hell of a time rewaxing some of those circles and dots that broke a lot on this design. Again, once the wax is cool, deframe and put into your third color dye.
Then it will look like this. This piece started off a baby blue, with a first wax of big dots and a second dye of Amethyst [Hey, I already had it out! Besides, they’ll coordinate well now.] Then it got a second wax of dot outlines before its third dye of Blue Violet. In this shot, it is still quite wet, so the colors look darker than they will end up.
Once you are done with the dye, wax, dye, wax, dye process you have to get the wax out of the fabric. The best way is to boil it out.
This is the pot I use to process jars during canning, so I don’t mind that it will forever have a waxy residue. I didn’t want to ruin any spoons, so I cut a solid stirring stick from the yard waste pile. I felt like I needed a cauldron and dark night after that. This part is simple – boil the wax out of your fabric, stir well and a lot, then let the whole thing cool off. The wax will float to the top, allowing you to simply pick it off the surface in a fat slab. The fabric might want to float up, too, which would ruin the whole process, so make sure it stays at the bottom. I used a couple rocks to keep it down.
After the boiling, stirring and hours of cooling, I used my excellent stirring stick to break the wax seal along the edges, then simply lifted it out with my hand. The blue color is bleed from the dye. I will be able to reuse this wax in the future.
Once you get all the wax out of the fabric (one of my pieces took two boiling sessions) you are done. Here are the three pieces shown above drying on the line. Pretty cool, right?
My thoughts on the process
1. MESSY!! Personally, I find dying fabrics messy enough. Adding hot wax to the equation? 300% more messy.
2. Too much dye. Two layers of dye is fine, I can tell you what I’m going to get at the end – you saw my grid of colors. Three layers of dye? Roll the dice, as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure professionals and experienced folks have learned all the combination nuances, but I am not willing to invest that much effort, time, and material. Example, The first and second fabrics above had Blue Violet as their last color. It nearly washed completely out of one, but dominated the other. If I do this again, I’ll stick to two dye colors for allover dying. Or – I will only paint dye onto the fabric directly to avoid conflicts.
3. Wax! Wax removal sucks! I know it sounds easy, but hot wax gets everywhere and doesn’t want to come off of anything.
4. Time. The whole process takes a lot of time.
This was a fun experiment. Will I do it again? Probably, but not for fun. The four items I listed above make it not fun and I am not a masochist. If I find a design I want to create that is ideal for batik, I will do it. I will still dye, print, and paint fabric, but I’m leaving off the batik from my list.