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Batik Making And Other Methods Of Resist Printing

( Originally Published 1914 )

Batik Of Malaysia

The somewhat recent introduction of the Javanese and the Dutch method of wax-resist printing or batik-making is already proving a valuable addition to our established branches of handicraft and promises to become more important as it becomes more widely known.

The word "batik" which is unusual and al-ways attracts some curiosity, comes from the Javanese and means "printing in wax."

In fact, batik-making is a method of printing fabrics by a process of wax resists and the process of wax-resist printing or as it is some-times called, reserve printing, is the method of protecting certain portions of a piece of cloth from the coloring matter in the dye vat when the cloth is dipped.

The wax is melted, and deposited on the surface of the cloth. The hot resist thus thoroughly penetrates the fiber, protecting from the dye the portions it covers.

The wax resist is of course, always laid on in a design or pattern. When it has been finally removed, the pattern appears on the surface of the cloth and is properly called a "reserve."

Batik-making is a craft almost free from technical difficulties, and for this reason is especially adapted to the use of the amateur craftsman. There is indeed scarcely another method by which so many useful and beautiful objects of home decoration can be as easily made.

Batik can be applied to all kinds of material but on some with better results than on others. For instance, silk and cotton are the most easily handled. Next would come leather and last of all, linen, because in the dyeing of linen there are certain technical difficulties. Wool is never used in batik-making.

The modern Dutch batiks are technically very perfect but are not always pleasing from the designer's standpoint. They often fail from inharmonious color arrangements. The Dutch handicrafters apply batik to silk and velvet. They handle velvets with great skill, for this fabric presents more difficulty than almost any - other on account of the nap. Dutch silks and velvets are used for making all articles of wearing apparel and are used also for interior deco-ration.

Through their possession of the Island of Java, the Dutch got their intimate knowledge of the craft of batik-making. The native Javanese are masters of this craft. "Sarongs" or native loin cloths are made of light weight cotton, a material specially well adapted for the process of wax-resist printing, as the hot wax penetrates the fiber freely and easily. Cot-ton can be dyed beautiful and permanent colors, and moreover it gets an unusually beautiful texture from the handling necessary in the dye process. The texture it finally acquires through the application of dye and the wax resist, has somewhat the effect of velvet in color quality and tone. Where the original color of the unbleached cotton appears in any pattern, it has the look of old parchment. This is be-cause the wax of the resist is never completely removed from the fiber of the material and adds depth of tone to its color and texture.

The sarong in the illustration is a wonderful example of the art of design and the dyer's craft. In most all Javanese batiks, the design is purely abstract and dependent on its beauty for the relation and arrangement of the line and mass.

However, the type of design applied to batik may be either representative or naturalistic as it pleases the designer. Like the stencil the pliable technique of batik offers few obstacles in the carrying out of any kind of detail. Indeed, in some instances, textures can be reproduced ; on general . principles, however, it is well for the beginner to restrain a desire for naturalistic ornament, and to try at first for the simpler effects obtained by the wise use of mass and line arrangements.

There are certain features of batik which, so to speak, have grown out of the manner in which it is made. The sarong shows one of these—a network of fine lines throughout the background. This network is caused by the crackling of the was resist, as it dries and shrinks, or when the cloth is wrinkled or bent. One can see that the network of lines is thickest where the cloth has been most bent, that is, where it has been hung in the center over a pole to dry the wax. The color in the dye vat gets into these cracks and penetrates the fiber of the cloth when it is dyed. This leaves a print of cracks or wrinkles when the wax is removed. This is the most decorative and characteristic feature of the batik, and under the guidance of the wise designer can be used with effect, instead of just being a more or less unhappy accident.

The tools and materials for batik-making are simple: Beeswax, paraffin, and rosin, are used for making the resist. Denatured alcohol is needed for the spirit lamp to heat the wax, and benzine for cleaning the wax resist from the batik. The little instrument used as a container for the hot wax is not unlike a small copper teapot with a long handle. It is called a "tjanting" by the Javanese. These tjantings have spouts or tubes for conveying the hot was resist. And these tubes are of various sizes regulated for making fine or coarse lines. This little instrument can be made by any metal worker or skilled tool maker. It is wisest to make it of thin sheet copper, because it is then lighter to hold and heats more easily. The Javanese make their tjantings also of copper using bamboo for the handle.

All the line work of design can be done with this tube. Large masses or spaces, however, are more easily filled in with very hot was and an ordinary paint brush.

A small spirit lamp, a tripod to hold the wax receptacles and several small enamel bowls, complete the equipment for wax-resist printing. A spool of copper wire might be added because it is convenient to use a piece of it in clearing the spout of the tjanting. Even after the wax is carefully strained, particles of dust are apt to get into the tubes and interfere with the free flow of the war.

The different kinds of fabrics, cotton, silk and linen, each call for individual treatment, which in each is determined by the character of the fiber of which the fabric is woven. These treatments are carried out by mixing the resist of different proportions of war, paraffin and rosin and by using different degrees of heat in application. The paraffin assists the crackle in the resist. And the rosin helps it to adhere to the fiber.

For drawing on silk where a clean, unbroken line is needed, pure beeswax moderately heated should be used. Silk is more easily penetrated by the hot wax resist than other materials and requires careful handling.

In order to keep the wax resist at a moderate temperature, pure beeswax should be cut up, melted, and strained through a piece of fine cambric into one of the small enamel bowls. The bowl itself should be kept hot in another and larger bowl of boiling water. The hot wax can be dipped out of the bowl with a spoon or if the vessel has a spout, poured into the tjanting.

Do not on any account when drawing on silk, fill the pot itself with unmelted beeswax, and then hold it over the spirit lamp to heat. The Javanese purposely make their tjantings with the bamboo handle extending out under the base of the metal container, so that it cannot be held directly over the flame without injuring the handle.

If a crackled or broken line is needed, add one-half paraffin to the beeswax. The kind of line used in batik should correspond to the character of the applied decoration. If this is unconventional or naturalistic a crackled or broken line is appropriate. If the design is formal or abstract a clear and distinct line should be used. It is then that great care must be taken with the temperature of the wax resist. Very hot beeswax flows quickly through the spout of the tjanting and spreads unless carefully guided. Then drops of wax are apt to form at the end of the tube and unless watched will fall off, and spot the fabric.

For backgrounds on silk where a crackled effect is desired, a mixture of half beeswax and paraffin should be used and a little rosin added. Sometimes a purposely crackled background can be effectively combined with spots and figures which have no detail.

On fabrics of the nature of heavy linen and on cotton or velvet, beeswax should be used very hot for beginner's experiments. Until the possibilities of the wax-resist process are more perfectly understood, it is always safe to use clear beeswax for it ensures with less skill a more even line.

After the wax resist has been applied to the material, it is left to dry and harden. It can be then removed by one of two processes. If the reserve has been made on silk it is removed by dipping in a bath of benzine. Benzine dissolves paraffin, beeswax and rosin, and what-ever remains can be pressed out of the silk with a moderately hot iron over blotting paper. On velvets the nap must be raised. If it is in small pieces, this can be done over the tea-kettle, but if in larger pieces, it had best be taken to the commercial dyer. Boiling with hot water and laundry soap will remove resist from linen and cotton.

The treatment for leather is the same as for other surfaces except that in general, a broader and freer line may be used. On leather the crackle of the batik is most effective. Great freedom too, may be used in the matter of de-sign, especially for screens and wall hangings where more or less naturalistic motif may be decoratively treated, and where textures may be reproduced.


Probably the most satisfactory colors for dyeing batik on linen and cotton are those dyes among the natural and artificial pigments which are set by oxidation. The advantage of these dyes is that they can be used in a cold dye bath which does not destroy the wax resist.

Among the natural pigments indigo comes first of all and is most important. The vat method for cotton, linen and silk, is recommended in chapter on knitted rug.

Iron buff in chapter on needle-woven rug is a permanent and beautiful yellow dye.

Iron gray another oxide is recommended in chapter on crocheted rug. There are two good browns: permanganate of potash, a mineral dye chapter on needle-woven rugs and catechu in chapter on crocheted rug.

Among the artificial dyes are the artificial indigos. These are not very satisfactory as they are rather difficult and expensive. Their one advantage is that they are the only series of artificial dye products which produce a permanent red dye on silk, linen, and wool.

The most satisfactory of all the artificial dye products are known as the sulphur dyes. Of these the blacks, grays and yellows, are the most satisfactory. The blues and browns can be used but are somewhat crude in tone.*

The methods for procuring more than one color on cotton and linen with batik are limited but the results interesting, when obtained. With indigo for instance one may get a blue and white reserve. From this a green and yellow combination may be developed by greening over the indigo with the vegetable dye, quercitron. The wax must be entirely re-moved. The batik mordanted with the proper mordant and then boiled in the quercitron bath. Indigo with the white reserve may be success-fully redyed in catechu giving reserves of blue and brown or with blue, white and brown. Blue with yellow by first dyeing the white re-serve, may be obtained with indigo and iron buff. The worker will discover many interesting combinations, as soon as the work begins to progress.

By the method of floating in acid dyes on silk, any number of colors may be produced in one design. This is a practical method for making pattern on lampshades, scarves and gowns.

The chiffon scarf is made by this method and it has five colors. Orange, red, blue, green and black. Begin this process by transferring the design on white or raw silk.

Take a piece of rather thick window glass, fourteen by twenty is a convenient size, and rub lightly over the surface with a piece of hard soap. The soap will prevent the resist from sticking to the glass. Now lay the silk down on the glass and cover all the line of the design with the wax line. If a stencil is used its out-line may be followed by keeping the tube of the tjanting close to the edges of the cuts. Do not fill up any portion of the design except the out-line. Each design should be outlined first so that when the glass is put in the larger masses cannot spread between the outlines. The cold wax of the outline holds in the hot wax, and keeps it from running over the edges into the other spaces of the design.

After a design is outlined, fill in all the spaces of it with hot wax using a small brush for this purpose. If the design is very fine, the spaces may be filled in with the tjanting.

Dip the silk in the dye bath of the color required for the background of the design. After the background is dyed, clean off the wax resist with benzine and redraw the outlines with the tjanting all around and between all the forms of the design. This reserves a white outline all around the spots of different color in the de-sign and also separates them from the back-ground.

Wet the silk in warm water, and mix small amounts of dry acid dye with acetic acid. Float in each color in the spaces or the design, where it has been planned to appear. Let the colors dry and then remove the wax with benzine. After removing the wax, press the silk carefully, then wash in boiling water to remove any particle of wax or color which may remain. Then dip in a dye bath of boiling water with a small amount of acetic acid. This last bath sets the colors, and if all loose particles of dye have been removed before this final boiling, the colors in the design will keep their original tone. Boiling silk in acetic acid also renews the dressing, or as it is technically called "scoop."

The treatment for batik on leather much resembles the treatment on silk, though there may be far greater freedom in the treatment of the wax drawing. Acid dyes can be used but another commercial dye product called basic dye is more practical, because more permanent.

Basic dyes can be floated in by the same method as .the acid dye, after being dissolved with water and acetic acid. All the particles of dry dye must be thoroughly dissolved else they are apt to spot the leather.

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