Recently I visited Michigan State’s Museum and since it is an intimate space I was able to visit every exhibit there. Nearly all of it was fascinating but of course my eye caught a display about batik fabrics. I use batiks in my quilts but don’t really know that much about them. After reading just that one display I knew I needed to learn more facts about Batiks.
1.Definition – I always check dictionary.com first. You can read it yourself or I will rewrite it for you. “A technique of hand dyeing fabric by using wax as a dye repellent, dying the uncovered fabric with a color or colors, and dissolving the wax with boiling water.”
2. When first – There are lots of great sites about batiks, including this on the History of Batik. It states that Batik dyeing was practiced in China as early as 600 years BC. That’s a long time ago, I was surprised.
3. Where common – The earliest roots of Batik are far flung but if you read this website, you will learn that by the 1800’s it was quite an important art form in Java and Bali, in Indonesia.
4. Word origin – I read a few theories but it seems that most agree the word has to do with dots. In this article they feel it is a word derived from Malay which means to write or dot.
5. Royalty – There was quite a bit of agreement that this was originally an art for and by Royalty. You can read here how although it was designed by royalty, the actual wax and dying were probably done by artisans. (Interesting points even if the page misuses it’s as a possessive!)
6. Uniformity – Absolutely not! The designs, history, colors and even fabric can vary according to where the Batik is produced. There were many possibilities cited here.
7. Politics – I was fascinated by this article on the cultural and political ramifications of this fabric. Whereas it originally was more of a cultural common denominator before colonization it became more political after. European women were banned from wearing batik and had to wear white instead lest they be at the natives’ level. I learned even more about the politics of Batiks and was eager to do more research.
8. Generic – The term batik is fairly generic now and applies to many fabrics which in reality feature only a Batik like designs. Many of those are made by machine. However, you can still acquire authentic Batiks using the dye resistant method and can read about this and more by clicking here.
9. Make your own – You can definitely make your own. I found DIY guides all over, here is one. I found all of this fascinating and may give it a hand but I plan on ordering a beginner’s kit, everything included. I found it here.
10. Video – Maybe we should all watch a video on how to do Batik dyeing before we rush in. I did and I am thinking maybe I will buy mine?
11. Purchasing – If you are interested in purchasing Batiks from Indonesia, this online shop seemed like a good place to start. I loved looking at it all but I have not personally bought from here. There are also batiks from major manufacturers, read about those possibilities here. Or take a trip to Bali and read tips for buying it there on this Q/A from Trip Advisor.
12. Prewashing– YES! A real batik many times will have excess dye still in the fabric. Those that had the wax boiled out will have less. Read more about it here.
I don’t know about you but I will never look at Batik fabrics in quite the same way again. I like that!
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