The word batik is believed to be derived from the Javanese word ambatik which translated means “a cloth with little dots”. The suffix tik means “little dot”, or “to make dots” and refers to the tiny dots in Indonesian patterns that give them a lively quality. Batik fabrics are made from a process of coloring the fabric with one or more colors, and producing a design that uses wax to resist the color dyes on the fabric.
The origin of the batik practice can be traced as far back as 1,500 years to Egypt and the Middle East. Ancient batik samples have also been found in other parts of the world including India, China and Japan. However, it is on the island of Java in Indonesia that batik has developed to its highest and fullest art form.
Batik fabrics are typically made of natural materials, such as cotton or silk, as they tend to best absorb the wax in the dye resisting process. Additionally, they have a high thread count (that is, they are densely woven) so that the detailed and intricate designs can be produced and maintained.
The batik process starts with the designer or artist drawing the desired pattern on the cloth. Wax is then applied to the areas of the cloth that the designer wishes to preserve the existing color of the fabric. The fabric is then dipped into a dye bath containing the desired color; the longer the fabric remains in the dye bath, the deeper the color. The fabric is then removed and placed into a cold water bath to harden the wax. The wax is then scraped off and hot water applied, as necessary, to remove any traces of the wax. If another color is to be added, wax is then re-applied and the process repeats.
When using batiks for your quilts, follow these tips for best results:
- Use batik fabrics in conjunction with other complementary, sometimes contrasting non- batik fabrics. This helps to accent the batiks.
- Because a single piece of batik fabric can have many color variations, they are wonderful for landscapes and florals.
- Use thin batting for easier hand quilting.
- Batik fabrics are great for appliqué because they crease well due to their high thread count.
- Batik fabrics are not soft to the touch and so should not be used as quilt backing fabric.
- Avoid harsh chemical detergents, dryers and drying in the sun as they may cause color fading.