Sunday, July 22, 2007

Beautiful Batiks and their History!

Batik prints are among the most popular fabrics in the United States today--indeed, throughout the world. And it's easy to see why. Batiks come in an astonishing array of lovely colors and pleasing motifs: from beautiful plants and flowers awash in a warm sea of reds and purples to graceful butterflies, birds, and fish slipping through the cooler shades of greens and blues. The desire to capture these beautiful colors and designs in our own projects can be practically irresistible. In the act of admiring a brightly colored batik print, we often found ourselves wondering how these lovely types of fabric came into being. Here is the Batik Story.

Batik prints (pronounced BAH-teek), as they are known today, are generally acknowledged as being developed centuries ago in Java, now part of modern-day Indonesia. In the past, batiks had been worn as sarongs and head-coverings as public markers of identity that could sometimes tell the story of a person's social rank, economic class or even ethnicity. The word "batik" derives from two other Javanese words, "amba" and "titik," words which signify "drawing" and "writing" respectively.

Perhaps one can see the relationship between drawing and writing since, in order to make a batik by hand, one must draw or write on a piece of fabric with hot wax pen in a process called "canting." Next, paint is applied over and between the wax design. And finally, the fabric is re-waxed, dyed, and boiled. Since the wax resists the variously applied paints and dyes, when it is removed the intended design is seen in the final overall piece.

Although traditional methods for making Batiks by hand are still used today, most modern Batiks are made in the factory using roughly the same process. In 1850, the first method for making Batiks in a factory was developed to meet the then burgeoning European fashion market. In this first factory method, a metal stamp (called a "cap") was heated and dipped in hot wax, and the design was literally stamped into the fabric. The fabric was then laid out and hand painted, and ultimately re-waxed with black to prevent the background colors from penetrating the new pattern. The cloth was then dyed to produce the brilliant colors and boiled to remove the excess wax.

In the late 19th century, Europeans were fascinated by Batik prints and some even had individual pieces framed as works of Art. Batiks were commonly seen as interesting pieces most suitable for home decor. The hand-made craft element of Batiks also appealed to the Europeans because they resisted the mass-produced home decorations then available and, in this sense, partially allayed their anxieties about the increasing pressures of the relatively new Industrial Revolution.

Today, Batiks play an invaluable role in our various quilting and fabric projects. You can see batiks in everything from beautiful batik butterflies in decorative wall-hangings, to colorful blocks in a large bedroom quilt or even to a fun summer tote-bag. If you're inspired, be sure to check out our lovely selection of batiks in their stunning array of colors and designs. Batiks can make a special project even that much more special!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And fun too! I got the book online from you and enjoyed making the tablerunner for a dear friend. I buy batik fats every quilt store I visit. Right now I am visiting Vancouver, BC your neighbour from the North and hope to get to a few quilt shops tomorrow
keep up the great work!!
Bev Pfalzgraf