Although many variations of the basic batik technique are possible, a simplified version of the traditional Javanese process will be demonstrated first. This method involves applying wax to the fabric with brushes and dyeing by
immersion. Once this technique is mastered, one may go on to its variations: brushing dyes directly onto the fabric, and using
No unusual materials or equipment are required for first experiments in batik. Most of the items listed below are ordinarily available in the kitchen or classroom.
Closely woven, thin fabrics are best for batik. Sheer cottons and silks are excellent. Used fabrics such as worn sheets work well, especially for pre- liminary experiments. Avoid fabrics treated with water repellents—such as drip-dry fabrics ; they contain resins which may cause difficulties in dyeing. Some synthetic fabrics, such as orlon and nylon, can be used for making batiks, but only with dyes specially formulated for them. Heavier fabrics, such as the heavier cottons and silks or linens, can be used successfully in batik; however, since wax penetrates them less readily, they will require waxing on both sides to prevent the dye from penetrating the waxed areas from the underside. Heavier fabrics may also require greater quan- tities of water and more dye stuff, since the weight of the fabric exhausts more of the dye from the bath and absorbs more of the liquid. Insufficient dye can cause irregular coloring
Many of the household dyes commonly available in drug and variety stores are satisfactory. Do not use dyes that require boiling the fabric, as this will melt the wax. Dyes should be of a type that can be used in lukewarm water. Be sure that the dye used is compatible with the fabric to be batiked—and follow directions carefully. Colored waterproof inks are recom- mended for accents. Both dyes and waterproof inks can be used when color is applied to the fabric by brushing rather than by immersion. Felt-tip pens containing strong alcohol dyes provide a means of making accents conveniently.
Ordinary paraffin is adequate and inexpensive. A slight addition of beeswax to the paraffin will provide a more flexible medium. The ideal resist medium contains mostly beeswax ; it is very flexible and will hold up under immersion in warmer dye baths. Beeswax is, however, very expensive—unless a local beekeeper can provide it in its unrefined state
Brushes are the only tools needed for the basic wax and dye technique. An assortment of expendable, inexpensive brushes should be on hand. Bristle brushes are good for painting large areas or making wide strokes. Soft brushes, such as the inexpensive Japanese ink brushes, are useful for small areas and thin lines. Do not use fine watercolor brushes. They work very well, but they are expensive and difficult to clean thoroughly once they have been dipped in hot wax. Wax stiffened brushes become flexible again when they are dipped in hot wax. Wax may be removed from brushes with mineral solvents.
Improvised implements for applying wax can provide a variety of unusual textural effects. Objects used in stamp printing— such as pieces of wood, corks, sponge fragments, etc.—can be dipped in hot wax and applied to the fabric. A syringe or plastic dispenser can be used for squirting wax onto the fabric for spontaneous lines and patterns.